Shifting Perspective

I often travel the same roads to reach the same destinations.  I mean this quite literally.  Sometimes, though, I drive my car and sometimes I ride my motorcycle on these routes.  Though the road is the same, the experiences are different.  The following quote comes from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig:


On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.

The difference in experience never escapes me and I must force myself to recognize that the road is the same one whether I am in the car or on the bike. The car is quiet, smooth and serves as a filter between the driver and the road.  The bike, as noted in the quote above, is very different and compels a unique sense of presence and awareness.  Neither is better but they are distinctly different and the journey is also distinctly different though it’s the same pavement and route. The important point is that each affords a different perspective on the same external reality. In fact, these perspectives are so disparate that they barely seem like they could derive from the same external reality.  This is the power of perspective.  A shift in perspective can make everything different.

A more subtle form of this phenomenon is practiced in coaching.  We often approach the different areas of our lives from familiar points-of-view and may find it difficult to recognize alternative, more empowering perspectives. For example, someone may be experiencing a sense of helplessness in charting the course to a new career.  He may view his life as comprising restricted options, financial constraints, repeating negative patterns and limiting beliefs.  The impasse is often expressed figuratively in body language while describing the situation: slumped shoulders, downward glance, despondent facial expression and limp limbs.

Remarkably, the adoption of a more “positive” body posture can lead to a different, enabling perspective.  By physically shifting one’s body to project a more powerful attitude or just moving about, the same options, constraints, patterns and beliefs can, upon reexamination, seem very different and may actually present themselves as unique opportunities. The physical shift is frequently sufficient to result in a powerful perceptual shift leading to new insight and ultimately, action. The facts of one’s existence remain the same; all that changes is one’s perspective. There is a growing body of research showing that altering one’s physical stance or position in space enhances creativity, problem solving and perspective. The research supports this life coaching practice. You can even try it at home!

(Other Thoughts and Essays)


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