It Depends on Where You Stand

“…what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you stand: it also depends a good deal on what sort of person you are.” –C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

Your experience of life is directly impacted by your perspective. How you see the world around you will affect your thoughts, decisions, and actions.

But sometimes what you’re seeing is only part of the story.

How often have you learned, after the fact, that the impressions you had of a person or situation were based on a skewed perspective? You thought you knew what was going on, or what their motivations were, but afterward you discovered you didn’t have all the facts.

I know I’ve experienced this. And this realization can serve as a powerful reminder to hold our conclusions about other people and situations loosely. Because there may be more to the story.

…and is shaped by who you are

It’s also valuable to realize that our perspective is additionally being affected by who we are. Our internal state can shape how we view the world around us. And because of this, our perspective on things can tell us a great deal about the kind of person we are, and who we are becoming.

If we’re suspicious of everything and everyone, and always assume the worst, what does that say about us? Or what does it say if we’re hopeful, looking for the good in all situations?

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted… nothing is pure.” –St. Paul, Letter to Titus

So, when you look around you, what do you see? Because the answer to that question may tell you as much about yourself as it does the state of the surrounding world.

Who we are will affect what, and how, we see everything around us. And it’s this perspective that will in turn directly impact how we experience life.

Let Us Read: Advice from George Washington

You can learn a lot from the people around you: your parents, teachers, neighbors, colleagues, friends. They can give you first-hand advice, and share insights from their own experience. Not to mention how their example can provides lessons about what, and what not, to do.

But what do you do when the people around you don’t have the experience to guide you in the areas you need help in? How do you move forward when you have no one nearby who can serve as a role model or coach or mentor?

George Washington’s Advice

George Washington had a similar experience early in life. In his military service, he soon found himself leading a group of men in the Virginia Regiment. Together, they were learning what it meant to be both officers and gentlemen, trying to acquire the skills and character needed for these roles.

The challenge was neither he nor his men had the benefit of growing up in the “right” family or social circles. They didn’t come from the socially elite or grow up in British military families. They didn’t have the right role models to watch or mentors to learn from.

And so they were going to have to take a different approach if they were going to grow into the type of men they wanted to become. Knowing this, here were Washington’s words to his men:

And as we now have no opportunities to improve from example; let us read… —George Washington’s Address to his Officers, January 8, 1756

He recognized the shortage of good examples to learn from, at least those they knew in person. But he also recognized that they could learn from others regardless of whether they had physically seen them or not.

For Washington, reading was the solution. Through reading, he and his men could go beyond their limited training, and learn from the best. They could learn about being better officers in the military, and about being honorable gentlemen in society. And these lessons could be gleaned from people of any time or any place. They weren’t limited to just those they knew at that moment in their lives.

A Broader World

Through reading, we can learn lessons from the lives and the teachings of those we may never cross paths with. And this includes the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest men and women who have ever lived.

Having good roles models is important. Learning from others is vital. But our teachers need not be limited to those we personally know.

Reading is an incredible way to expand the number of people we can learn from, including those we’ll never meet. Washington knew the power of this, and exhorted his men to read. We would do well to do the same.

Being Busy Isn’t Enough

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” —Thoreau

You’re probably busy. A lot of people are. But the real question is, what are you busy about? What is taking up your time, and—ultimately—is it worth it?

When you realize you’re busy, take a moment to consider what you’re busy about. Doing so can help in a couple ways. First, in those times when you’re busy doing something you find compelling, remembering the importance of what you’re doing can provide additional motivation to keep going.

And second, in those times where this isn’t the case, this realization can act as a prompt for you to clarify in your own mind why you’re so busy in the first place.

For instance, are you trying to do everything because of the fear of missing out? Are you unable to say no because you don’t want to disappoint anyone? Is your busyness an attempt—perhaps unconsciously—to justify your value to yourself and others?

We can all end up busy for a variety of reasons. But being busy in itself is not a badge of honor or a sign of significance. And in some ways it can be deceptive. It can easily keep us from attending to what’s important, all the while giving us a false sense of accomplishment along the way.

So if you find yourself busy, be sure to consider the object of your busyness. Are you busy about something that merits the time and energy you’re giving to it? Or is the busyness a symptom of something deeper that needs your attention?

What Remains When Seasons Change

Just like the weather, our lives are made up of seasons. And soon, whether you like it or not, you’ll be in a new chapter of life.

One season you’re single, and the next you’re married. One season you’ve got a baby, and another she’s out on her own. One season you’re hustling to get your career or business off the ground, and another you’re retired.

Each stage of life brings with it a set of changes. But in the midst of all the changes, there’s one thing that will continue on from season to season: the person you’re becoming.

When the last child moves out, you may be officially be in the ’empty-nester’ season of life, but the person you were before they moved out and the person you were after they moved out didn’t automatically change because of this shift in seasons.

When temporary becomes permanent

Even though the season of life you’re in is temporary, the kind of person you become in the midst of it will continue on after the season has changed. Which means, regardless of the season of life you’re in, it’s important to pay attention to the kind of person you’re becoming in the midst of it—because who you are will continue on into whatever comes next.

One reason this is important is because it’s possible for us to adopt certain practices or habits for the current stage of life, with the intention of doing so for just the current season. But if we’re not careful these habits can form our lives in ways that persist long after the season has ended.

For instance, I’ve heard numerous stories of those who work incessantly for a season to “get ahead.” But when they finally reach the place where they can slow down, it’s become almost impossible for them to do so. The busyness has becomes a way of life, although the pace was originally only suppose to be temporary. The kind of person they became in the long run wasn’t an intentional choice, but the byproduct of the habits and decisions they made along the way.

Practicing what you want to become

So, regardless of the season you’re in, one primary question to consider is, What kind of person do you want to become? Then, with that in mind, find ways to practice living that way now in the season of life you’re in.

Say you want to be a generous person. Let’s also say you’re in a season of life where you don’t have much. It may be tempting to delay being generous until you have more resources to give—until another season of life. But waiting won’t make it any easier in the future. Rather, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to change this pattern down the road. It’d be better to find small ways to practice being generous now, even if they seem insignificant. Because every time you practice now, the easier it will be to do the same the next time around.

The same holds true for any character trait you may want to develop. And once these traits are established, they’ll stick with you even when the season you’re in comes to an end.

What do you want to become? And how will you practice living that way today? These are great questions for us all to consider. Because what we choose to do today will have an impact on the kind of person we are in the seasons of life yet to come.

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This will be the final post of the year. More to come after the holidays.