Everything You See is a Perspective

Written by on May 27, 2014 in Self Awareness with 17 Comments

Everything we hear is an opinion not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. ~Marcus Aurelius

Everything You See is a PerspectiveA lot is written about attitudes, how they affect us, how to change them, and particularly the importance of forming and maintaining positive ones. But have you ever considered how your attitudes are formed in the first place?

Your perspective on life shapes your thoughts, attitudes, decisions and ultimately your actions. What this means is that more often than not you are viewing things not as they actually are, but as you perceive them to be based on the perspective you have formed about life.

The scientific term for this process is selective perception, and simply put it means that to save time and energy we create filters that allow us to choose what we hear and see of the world around us and then respond based on what manages to get through those filters.

Some people see the glass half full; others see the glass half empty. The enlightened are simply grateful to have a glass. ~Mark Desvaux

Understanding this process is important because whenever you are faced with an unexpected obstacle or change, your initial (think knee jerk) reaction will inevitably be based on the attitudes that have been formed by your perspective. If your attitudes are grounded in rigidity, then even if you eventually see a better way to handle your response to whatever challenge you may be facing, you’ll very likely only arrive at that point after experiencing unnecessary stress and loss of valuable recovery time.

But if you are able to remain flexible and open to looking at things from different perspectives, you will not only recover faster, you have the opportunity to create a far more favorable outcome because you’ll be better able to see all of the possibilities.

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Perspectives on the Dandelion

I intentionally selected an image of dandelions for this article because they beautifully illustrate the value of looking at something from different perspectives.

Many consider the dandelion a pesky weed which is little more than an annoying blight to their law; while to others dandelions represent true beauty, inside and out and are rich in symbolism.

Probably the best known parable has to do with blowing the seeds off a dandelion globe to make a wish. If you’re a history buff, you might like to take some time to look into the fascinating array of Native American legends about dandelions. Then there’s the more practical symbolism that recognizes its ability to thrive under the most adverse conditions, teaching us persistence and survival.

Another perspective is held by those who see dandelions for their health benefits. Dandelions are full of vitamins as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc and the leaves are used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches and teas. The roots are used in some specialty coffees and the flowers to make wine.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. ~Henry David Thoreau

Your perspective may create the lens through which you view your experiences in life, but once formed it does not have to remain inflexible. By cultivating self awareness and adaptability you can learn to understand and change your perspective to better serve you.

Selective Perception in Action

Not surprisingly a great deal of research and numerous experiments have been conducted to develop greater understanding of the process of selective perception. To learn more about these studies we are normally limited to reading the associated published papers and articles, but one such experiment has actually been made available on YouTube.

In 1999, psychologist Daniel Simons recorded what he called “The Invisible Gorilla Test” which revealed how people can be so concentrated on one stimulus or situation and that they become “blind” to an incoming or unexpected event. This effect was termed as “inattentional blindness”. I encourage you to invest the two minutes required to take this test because it’s not only eye-opening, but pretty darn entertaining. Here’s the link to The Invisible Gorilla Test. I’ve set this up to open in a separate window and hope that you will return and share your thoughts on the experiment.

Your Turn. Do you take the time to view challenges from different perspectives? How adaptable are you to unexpected change and do you have a preferred way of coping with associated stress?

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.


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17 Reader Comments

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  1. Yes, I saw the gorilla and beat his chest. That is what made me miss count with those in white? It took my attention of count out of the equation. I missed it by 4 count.

    I understand about perception. Yet, we all must be careful on making our choices without due diligence. You can be shown lots of ways to meet each milestone. To plow through daily challenges. In the end, you alone will suffer or not by that choice you made. So, take time to complete you due diligence and weigh your inner voice and not those of people who have not achieved what must be done.

    It is like someone telling me how to raise my children. They, never had the experience. I do not believe that could teach me much about real time hands one support. That is after I have raised two of my five? There perception on parenting is not something worth much to me?It is all theory.

    Thank you for bring me this entertaining article. Love the test!
    William Amis recently posted…Establish, Look and Be A Company!My Profile

  2. I.B. Nosey

    Ha ha, I totally missed the gorilla! LOL And I tried so hard to get the basketball toss correct and missed by two. Sheesh, I perceive that I need to get “on the ball” !

    Fun post, thanks!
    I.B. Nosey recently posted…Weave a Woven Tale with I.B. NoseyMy Profile

  3. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty Wowsy I took the Gorilla test counted all 15 and NO DID not see Him!! Amazing HEHE !
    Thanks for sharing.. Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Helping Others On Their Journey To SuccessMy Profile

  4. Hi Marquita. I especially enjoyed the example of the dandelion. I love them. They are usually the first ground flower to bloom here. They are such a cheerful yellow, and they tell me spring is here. And have you ever taken a close look at one just before it’s ready to ‘puff’? It’s a thing of incredible beauty. But most people I know hate them because they mess up their lawns.

    I’ve been studying about the conscience and subconscious minds and the filters we used. We have to filter, or we’d be so bombarded with input that we couldn’t function. However, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally examine our perceptions, particularly if they aren’t serving us or others.

    The hypnotist I’m listening to now tells me that I am not my thoughts – that I am separate from them and I can accept or reject what my brain thinks. That was kind of a revolutionary concept for me, but it’s true. We all need to live an examined life. Thanks for this post.

    All the best,
    Leslie Denning recently posted…Day 4: Define Your Pull GoalMy Profile

  5. Sue Bride

    I first saw the Gorilla Test on TV a few years ago so on watching again I spotted it. Awareness is so important in all areas of our life. Awareness of what is happening to us internally with our thinking and how we feel, and external signals.

    I love what you say here Marquita. I did some cognitive behavior classes a few years back and each week we were asked how we were feeling. At first we would come up with answers like “I felt happy/sad/stressed/ angry” etc but this did not explain what was really going on inside us. We were taught to become aware of the causes and how these affected our thinking, actions and internal physical responses.

    From this understanding we learned to alter any faulty perceptions and deal with habitual thinking patterns that were not serving us well.

    Being aware of what might cause stress, and then recognizing the very first symptoms, helps to deal with it effectively. Everyone has stressors in life but they don’t have to make us stressed.
    Sue Bride recently posted…Why Do I Need To Use Hashtags?My Profile

  6. nick catricala

    interesting as life present to us.. I was on my daily walk and chose to listen to a recording from one of my teachers in regard to (you guessed :-) Perception haha :-)

    I must admit that I was not 100% certain what perception was for many years but since I have listened to that recordin.. I tended to get a great understanding and recognized that for years I had a totally perception of things and people… as you put it, I had a “selective perception”

    Your detailed (as always) description and explanation between perception and habit is something new.. but since I have been working on it.. it was a pleasure to read your way of explaining…

    THANKS so much for educating us with your wisdom in so many topics.

    nick catricala recently posted…Happy Mother’s DayMy Profile

  7. Hi Marquita,

    The invisible gorilla test is remarkable! You know what…I didn’t actually count the passing of the ball, I was just looking for surprises and so very well could see the gorilla roaming in between to distract!!

    When I look back, I can confidently say that my perspective has been changing, whether it is about people, close friends and even my own children. Life itself makes us as flexible as that. My attitudes too have been evolving constantly and I believe that anything that becomes stagnant starts smelling.

    This is a good reminder that even unexpected changes should be welcomed as we have to accept them in the end, after all that hue and cry but we are not so trained to do so. Slowly, this kind of prudence sinks in and we learn.

    Thanks for sharing another wonderful article.
    Balroop Singh recently posted…Have you felt the Emotional and Therapeutic Appeal of Music?My Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Hey Balroop, you know that gorilla test has been a hit with readers and several members of our ERL community have sent me emails about it. As always, cherish your valuable insight and continued support.

  8. Dave

    Well, I did see the gorilla, but I did not see him beating his chest 😉 This article reminds me of a situation that used to happen quite frequently in our house. My wife and I both wear eyeglasses and both pairs looked quite similar.

    On several occasions, I would pick up her pair and bring them to my eyes. Talk about a different perspective 😉 We each have our own prescription and filter on life. We tend to only see clearly through our own lenses. It’s when we take off those lenses and attempt to see the world from different perspectives that we really enable the most profound personal growth opportunities.

    The quote you provided by Thoreau is one of my favorites. The difference between looking and seeing seems subtle, but provides significantly different results. Thank you for sharing, wonderful article once again Marty!
    Dave recently posted…Cookie crumbsMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Hi Dave, glad you took time to check out the gorilla :-) and I really like your analogy about perspective talking about switching glasses with your wife. So happy you found the article worthwhile and appreciate your taking time to contribute to the conversation.

  9. donna merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    I took the Gorilla test and was so amazed! Thanks for sharing that one.

    I love this topic especially how you illustrated how we all selectively perceive the example of dandelions. Many will spray toxic chemicals to rid them from their lawn. I, on the other hand welcome them to my yard because they are great to eat!

    We all perceive things differently and do need to be aware of that. It sure comes in handy when we are perceiving things that causes stress in our lives.

    For me, whenever stress comes up in my life, I was fortunate to be trained how to deal with it. I stop and look at what is the causation of stress. Sit back and not react to it. Then by using different modalities, I do need to take my own perspective out, and deal with it rationally. Usually by writing things down.

    I learned all this by going to DBT therapy. I went twice in order to apply this to my life. That’s how I handle it.

    donna merrill recently posted…Entrepreneurs Have Holidays TooMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Thanks so much for sharing a bit about your experience with DBT therapy. I’ve heard you talk about it before and it definitely sounds like an effective process. I’m with you when it comes to working out issues by writing – journaling is a daily activity for me and has been SO helpful over the years I can’t imagine not having it to work with!

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