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Scheme of Things

Growing Perspective
By Nan S. Russell
Jun 4, 2012 - 11:50:13 AM

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There are piles of rocks on the hillsides of Scotland. Cairns, they're called, created centuries ago by men leaving for battle. When passing the trailhead, each man put a rock on the pile, to be collected by him when he returned home. Thousands of rocks remain in piles, unclaimed, dotting the hillsides with a perspective on sacrifice not captured in the history books.

Sometimes, I wish all of life's understandings were as clear as these. Some days, I can't seem to differentiate the small things from the not so small. Everything seems important as I struggle for understanding from collected bits and pieces.

Like the story of the blind men trying to picture what an elephant looks like, finding the tail and thinking it's like a rope, or finding a leg and thinking it's like a tree, what I think I see and understand is but a partial view.

These are the days I lack perspective. I overreact, only learning facts later that put something in context; or I resist the new, only to discover a great experience; or get righteous or angry about an issue, only later to forget why I even thought it important. These are the days I ignore the rear-view mirror warning that objects are closer than they appear, and I can't see "the elephant."

Still, there are days when I do. They are wonderful days. On these days, perspective keeps me from digging-in, thinking I'm right, over-reacting, being afraid, staying resistant or angry, feeling like a victim, or calling it quits. On these days, perspective helps me keep my bearings and differentiate what really matters.

Certainly life experience offers me perspective, and I've found different lenses at each age. Time can enhance our big picture awareness and offer life context. Still, I don't like waiting for new life-lenses. I want more days where I'm able to step back and see the elephant, keep my grounding, find the bigger picture, and gain understanding.

So I have a choice. I can wait for that experience or time passing to gain perspective, or I can grow it. Like an architect taught to design by looking at something within a narrow context first, and then viewing it from wider and wider angles, I can view my life situations from different and wider vantage points, growing "new eyes" as I ask myself, "Am I seeing the elephant yet?"; "In the scheme of things, does this really matter?"

Growing my perspective enables me to let go of small issues that don't matter, find the important ones in my life that do, and embrace a larger world. In the scheme of things, as twentieth-century novelist Marcel Proust put it, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." I'm working on growing mine.

(c) 2012 Nan S. Russell. All Rights Reserved.

Nan S. Russell is the award-winning author of "Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way." Her third book, "The Titleless Leader," was published May 2012. More about Nan and her work can be found at  Sign up to receive Nan's free monthly eColumn at:

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