Wednesday, November 9, 2005

An Altered Perspective; A Wider View




Sometimes life teaches us lessons in ways we never expect.  And sometimes if we take what we learn too literally, we may not receive the full value of the lesson at all.  So many times as we careen through the corridors of daily existence our focus is so much on the task at hand that we don’t see the life lessons displayed before us – and if we do not sometimes take the time to step back and truly absorb what is around us, our lives are the poorer for the blinders we wear.


A few years back, the company for which I worked brought in a safety trainer in an effort to reduce the number of minor vehicle accidents in our fleet of cars for salespeople. I’ll share the instructor’s lesson with you here – try it the next time you drive and I think you’ll see it’s a simple and effective way to improve your awareness and overall safety (and I won’t even charge you $300 an hour!) – but also please take the time to read this entry to the end.


When we drive, we tend to focus – even fixate – on the vehicle in front of us.  We may think this is not necessarily a bad thing because we are alert to any sudden changes and will hopefully have time to react should an unexpected avoidance maneuver be required.  But the instructor asked everyone to look beyond what stared us in the face and to work to absorb the bigger picture.


He took a person at random and asked her to sit in a chair at the front of the room.  Then he asked her to stare into one of the corners of the room, near the ceiling.  When she did, he moved his hand partially into her field of vision.  Her eyes instinctively moved to follow his hand.  He then asked her what she saw and she replied that she saw his hand.  He asked if she also still saw the corner of the room and she truthfully replied ‘no’, because her gaze was fixated upon the closer object.  Then he asked her to shift her vision back to the corner of the room and not to allow her gaze to come back to his hand.  As she did, he began moving his hand back and forth slightly within her field of vision.  He then asked her what she saw and she replied that she saw the corner of the room, but still saw his hand moving near her.


The lesson here is that if we set our gaze at a far point down the road, we can see stopped traffic, a tight curve or other obstacles well in advance and have time to react to them – while still being able to see if the brake lights of the car in front of us come on in time for us to stop suddenly if necessary.  Conversely, if we focus simply on the vehicle in front we lose the big picture perspective and need to rely solely on our reflexes and constant attention to keep us safe.


It takes a little training to shift your gaze to the horizon – and it takes many internal reminders before this skill becomes second nature.  But the fender-bender accident rate for the people who took this course dropped over 30% in the first year after the class was held and frequent reminders were issued.



Now there are many things I’d ultimately like to convey in this journal, but driving tips really wasn’t at the top of the list - so I’ll ask you now to take this lesson and really learn from it.  While this simple shift in thinking works well in the context in which it was taught, it is also a metaphor and a lesson in how to live our lives.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day routines that we focus only on the next task.  Worse, when life turns in negative directions, our vision is almost always consumed by the challenge before us and we lose the perspective of the larger whole.  And it is exactly at those times that we need to stop and raise our eyes to the horizon, still seeing the task at hand, but keeping our vision fixed on the new dawn in front of us - and not on the clouds directly overhead.  Easy to do?  Not at all.  Effective in helping us cope with the down cycles of life?  You bet – try it for yourself and see. 


And while you’re at it, the next time you’re taught something - take the time to think of that lesson in a larger context as well.  Clear your head for a moment and look tothe horizon - you may well be surprised at what you’ve really learned…….


inafrnz247 said...

i love this.  thank you for being you.   love, me

mariebm56 said...

Wonderful lesson, my friend...Ü
I think that when we are in our twenties & thrities we get caught up in the day to day routines & only focus on what is necessary.  Then suddenly everything changes & before you know it, life passed you by.
I am going to have to make time to read your journal...& stop looking at the pictures!