Perspective is everything!

How you think about something, how you interpret an event or set of circumstances will essentially determine how you feel and how you behave.  The Greek philosopher, Epictetus, wrote, “Men are disturbed NOT by things, but by the view which they take of them.” Abraham Lincoln said, “We can complain because the bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”  More recently, Wayne W. Dyer, American philosopher and author, said, “loving people live in a loving world, hostile people live in a hostile world, same world.”  And Alain de Botton, the Swiss philosopher said, “The difference between hope and despair is a different way of telling stories from the same facts.”  This is basically the cornerstone of cognitive behavior therapy.

Consider for a moment the following events/circumstances:  

•    On June 6, 1944, on the beaches of Normandy, France, 4413 soldiers, sailors, and airmen died in the D-day invasion.  Obviously, we grieve the deaths these brave men, but General George Patton suggested we express external thanks that these men lived.  Notice the difference between grieving and being thankful.  

•    Tears flowed in Rio last summer as Michael Phelps finished his final Olympic swim.  Were those tears of sadness or joy?  Are we sad that we will not be able to watch such a gifted athlete compete ever again or are we joyful to have witnessed such an amazing Olympic career at all?

•    South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk won the 400 meter race in the 2016 Olympics in record setting time from lane 8.  That is enough of a story, but his mother was also a runner with world-class potential and her story is a powerful one.  She was not allowed to participate in competition outside her country due to South Africa’s apartheid policies.  When asked about her feelings of not being allowed to compete, Odessa van Niekerk expressed no anger or hostility, but commented on her role as the mother of a very talented young athlete.  Sure she has ever right to feel bitterness at being denied her chance to compete, but would that make her feel better?  Absolutely not.  She has chosen to focus on the more positive things in her life and as a result she certainly comes across as a very happy and content woman.  

There are very few certainties in the world, but one certainty is that you will never change someone else.  Each of us needs to control how we think about our circumstances and the things around us.  If you do not like the way you feel, commit yourself to changing.  Make a commit to look at how you perceive the world around you and the things that happen to you and, more importantly, make a commitment to see things in a more positive light.  Find the positive and you will be on your way to finding greater happiness and contentment.      

--- Dr. Noles, a licensed clinical and sports psychologist, has been working with adolescent and adult clients for over 30 years.  In all aspects of his practice, the focus is on performance enhancement.  He currently has an active private practice, is a staff member of the University of Richmond counseling center, and serves as the Learning Disability Consultant at Hampden - Sydney College. He began as a US Navy Staff Psychologist.      

Steven W. Noles, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist & Certified Sports Psychologist