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A Matter of Perspective

by on April 16, 2018 5:00 AM


In the past few months, I’ve been dealing with some minor health issues. My doctors have been amazing but it has been frustrating. Tests. More tests. Waiting for an appointment for the specialist. Trials of medication. In the meantime, I haven’t been feeling 100 percent. I admit to feeling sorry for myself at times and making it more of a focus than my healthy self ever would have.

But then I remember my friend who just finished another round of chemotherapy in a third bout of cancer.

Perspective. From the Latin root word “spect.” To see. Perspective is the lens through which we see the world. Our perspective comes from our families, our experience, our biology, our education, the environment in which we live and the good and bad things that have happened to us.

The amazing thing about perspective is that we can change it. We can change how we see the world.

It’s like those pictures in which some people see one thing and others something entirely different. I used to use one in a leadership class to talk about perspective. Some students saw a young woman with a hat and a choke collar necklace. Other students saw a profile of an older woman wearing a bandana. The cool thing about those “optical illusion” pictures is that once someone points out the other perspective, most people can actually flip back and forth between the views.

I was feeling sorry for myself because of this minor health bump but then changed my perspective by thinking of someone who has really suffered. It was like someone pointing out the other figure in the picture.

When we are able to “get perspective” it often means that the stress or negativity in our lives suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

If you’ve ever parented teenagers, you know that perspective is a tool for managing the sturm und drang of adolescence. “Everyone else is allowed to do it, why can’t I? …  No one likes me... This one bad grade is the end of the world... My life is over because this embarrassing thing happened.” It’s the parent’s job to help their kids to try to see the other view or the other perspective.

It’s like those friends who aren’t afraid  to tell you that you may be viewing a situation with emotion and may be losing perspective. I value the go-to people at work who offer suggestions and perspective when I’m questioning or unsure.

Getting perspective means changing how we see things.

There could not be a better example of perspective than the varied cable news networks, each with its own agenda and reporting the “news” through their lens. In some respects, the opposing view or other channel offers perspective on most of the breaking news stories. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

I’ve been making an effort to fill my gratitude jar. My jar is an antique mason jar that I fill each day with at least one piece of paper on which I write something for which I am grateful on that day. In the time that I’ve been filling my jar, some days I repeat the things that fill my life and my heart. Family. Friends.  Co-workers. Things I like about myself or for which I am proud. My health. Even my dogs. It’s a great way to get perspective. There is always something for which to be thankful.

Changing our perspective – our lens – to look at the world as a glass half-full is said to impact our body as well as our mind and our spirit.  It’s amazing how much better I felt when I decided to feel better.



Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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