The other day I was speaking with my sister-in-law Amber, and she gave me a great method for practicing perspective.
When you find yourself stressed, do the zoom out. If you're in a situation where you can close your eyes to do this exercise, great. If you're not (e.g., driving a vehicle or teaching a class) you can still use this method with your eyes open.
Step 1: Picture yourself from the perspective of someone hovering just a few feet away and above you. Where I'm typing this right now, I picture myself sitting in the chair I'm in and at the desk I'm at from the vantage point of the light in the ceiling just above me.
Step 2: Now zoom out further so that you are picturing the building that you are in. (If I'm driving, I picture the road I'm driving on.)
Step 3: Now go further — picture the neighborhood you're in or the surrounding countryside. Keep the building you're in as the focal point of your imagined perspective. Try to keep aware of that first scene you created, too — that within this neighborhood there is a building and within that building there is a room and within that room there is a guy typing these words on a computer.
Step 4: Zoom out further. Picture your county or your region of the state you're in. And as you're doing it, keep trying to remind yourself of that person at the desk.
Step 5: Zoom out further, to the region of the country you're in.
Step 6: Zoom out further. Now I'm seeing North America, and I can barely make out the Great Lakes that surround Michigan, and I have to really try to recollect that between those lakes there is a town where there's a building where there's a room where there's a guy typing on a computer.
Step 7: Zoom out further. You should see the world now. Add the clouds that swirl around. Maybe add the International Space Station zipping around, some satellites. Notice how quiet it is. Think about how many people you are looking at right now on that globe. Think about how one of them — just one of them — is you.
Step 8 and beyond: Keep going as far as your imagination can take you. Imagination is the key word. You're exercising a capacity — your imagination — just as a push-up would exercise a capacity — your upper body strength.
Amber recommended that I try doing this daily for at least a few weeks. She also advised working up to where I could do it for ten minutes.
I am not up to the ten minutes yet, but I do find myself feeling calmer about the frustrations of life. It is easier to be disrespected or to forgive or to go to bed at night — at least for me — when I use this little exercise to remind myself that there's a lot more going on around here than just me.
Best to you, colleague,