Being that Arete is a standard of excellence according to the Greek military code– perspective played a huge role in their every day lives. Perspective isn’t necessarily always seeing the green grass in a a field of dirt, rather having the discipline and emotional intelligence to know the difference.
Pericles, the Athenian Naval General
Imagine this: you’re an Athenian Navy soldier and you are embarking on a mission during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) in the middle of the ocean. Unbeknownst to you (and the rest of the world at this time) a solar eclipse occurs and your fleet of 150 ships falls dark in the middle of the day. What do you do? You’re most likely assuming that this is the end of the world as you know it and the battle will be lost. You’ll never see your family again and you’ll likely die at sea due to an environmental event you have no control over. However, you are lead by Pericles, the Athenian Naval General at this time, who not only is stays calm, yet uses this as a teaching moment on perspective to his entire fleet. Pericles calmly collects himself, walks over to his steersman, removes his cloak, and covers the steersman’s eyes. He asked the man, who was clearly shaken, “are you scared of what you see now?” The steersman replies, “of course not.” Pericles, clever and a fearless leader answers, “so what does it matter when the cause of darkness differs?” Perspective isn’t allowing your cognitive response to control your emotions, as we all so often let happen. You reevaluate, check out the task or issue at hand from a different angle, and carry on.
Understand that having perspective isn’t about not being fearful– we are all fearful of the unknown. Fear hurts. It can alter every part of your mood. It can control you (if you let it). Not to mention, it’s incredibly exhausting. However, perspective allows you to push this fear aside because at the end of the day, you control how you look at something. That being said, most things that happen to us that cause fear are out of our control, yet with perspective, you have the power to see things for what they are and even better, have a better view on the issue as a whole.
Many of us (including myself!) want to be married to our problems. This isn’t anything groundbreaking, it’s a natural human instinct to make something more than it actually is, or even worse– make something less than it actually is. We become consumed by these problems because we have a bad perspective on the matter. Emotionally attached to the issue, we decide it’s easier to bite the bullet rather then reevaluate and make a non-biased, unemotional decision on how to fix it.
How do you counter this emotional response? As I’ve mentioned before, don’t get it twisted– it’s not just seeing the good in something. There are certain situations in which there simply isn’t a positive aspect. However, with perspective, you don’t allow these obstacles to control you. Did you know that there are two definitions to perspective?
- Context: sensing the larger picture of the world, not just what is right in front of us.
- Framing: a subjective view of the world and the way we interpret it.
Context being that you understand that you are one of multiple multiple millions of people in the world on a planet that spins around the sun all while living in a galaxy that supersedes anyone’s imagination. Framing being that because of your past experiences, where you grew up, how you’ve lived your life to this point, and what your interests are (to name a few) shapes how you see the situation at hand. Of course, every situation is different and every perspective is subjective, but I digress.
And finally… of course you remember the old saying “what you see is what you get.” This is only partly true… When you have the right perspective, your head will follow your body. Your body will turn your thoughts into action. Your action will match your intent.
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