The Power of Perspective

You know that feeling you get when you’ve got so much to do that you don’t even know where to start? Of course you do. We all know the feeling. A little more intimately than we’d like to admit, I’m sure.

I experienced it recently. It was one of those weeks where I had promised too many people, too many things. It was painfully obvious that there just wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done, and yet the reality of that fact never seemed to sink in. My list was endless: I had work to do for a consulting firm, I had workshops to prepare for, an AGM for the Rotary club and a piano test ON TOP of my day-to-day life. As if that weren’t enough I had also decided to make some substantial changes to my diet to help alleviate some physical ailments.

And yet, despite already having SO much going on, I just kept taking more on. My to-do list kept getting bigger, longer and more daunting, and as it grew, my capacity to function grew smaller and smaller.

The following week I did my piano exam and it was like I was having an out of body experience; I could see my fingers dancing over the keys, but it was as if somebody else was playing. That same night I had to give a speech, and although I haven’t been nervous for a speech for years, I was anxious and my hands were shaking before I hit the stage. Again, it was my mouth delivering the words I had chosen, but it was as if I was possessed.

The following morning I had a session with my coach. Luckily, I already knew the importance of transparency and authenticity in a coaching session, so when she asked how I was, I responded immediately with “overwhelmed,” and proceeded to share everything that was going on. Of course, she knew that I was also a coach, so she asked me I would say to a client in this situation. The first words out of my mouth were, “What do you need?”

This is a question I ask myself often. When things get tough, instead of letting myself spiral downwards, I usually take a deep breath and ask myself what I need. Then I listen to my intuition for the answer. But for whatever reason, I had been forgetting to take my own advice.

My coach and I talked through my feelings for another moment, and then it came to me; that question was incomplete. In this situation, the question should have been, “What do you need to let go of?”  And suddenly the answer was clear.

There was something obvious that I was trying to do that didn’t actually have a deadline at all; the changes I was trying to impose on my diet all at once. You see, I absolutely love baking. For me it is a form of meditation. I have a few recipes that I make so regularly, that they are now a rote activity, meaning that my brain can get quiet while I am still moving. So I was suddenly denying myself the peace that comes with carefully measuring out a list of ingredients. While I did want to get a handle on my dietary needs, I had already gone 38 years eating the same diet. One more day wasn’t going to send me careening off course forever.

After I made that decision, it was as if something shifted. I looked at my list more closely I realize there were a couple of other things I could let go of as well. And with every item I crossed off and filed away for later, my back got straighter, my tension softened.

This is a lesson I’ve had to learn and relearn over and over again. The way we look at things carries a lot of power, so how we choose to look at a situation will affect how we show up. If we take a step back, and allow ourselves the opportunity to gain some perspective, we’re able to see the forest for the trees.