Back in October I wrote about perspective in a blog post titled, An Onion Perspective. For those of you who did not read it (tisk, tisk…), it was about taking a step back and applying gratefulness and perspective to situations that seem troublesome, at least in the moment. Obviously, this practice is easier said than done. How can we learn to apply perspective, especially in sh***y situations? Is this teachable, or, is it only the rare, patient few that have the ability to refrain from frustration? Let’s read on.
Now I know this sounds obvious, but there are a great deal of characters throughout books. Fiction and non-fiction alike have personas and stories interwoven throughout. We can learn a tremendous amount from their perspective, their journeys, their thoughts and emotions, and how and why they act the way they do. What I find myself constantly doing while reading is daydreaming about myself, as if I were in the story, living their journey. How would I act?
Living vicariously through others gives us the tremendous power to build relationships via a method called bridging – the idea of connecting with others and understanding their differing beliefs. If you really think about all of the stories from the books you read, about all those beloved personalities, there quickly comes the realization that you have gained a great deal of second-hand experience that can be leveraged should a certain event arise that must be dealt with by you, first-hand. Now, I could go off on a million different tangents here, but I’ll stick to perspective. Simply feeling what someone went through (even if the circumstances are fictional) and applying a little bit of empathy can do wonders for you when you find yourself in a sticky situation, or when it seems as if the world is ending because of [insert problem here].
This is exactly why I read. It equips me with the tools I need to learn. To adapt to evolving, nuanced situations. To apply perspective. How did people throughout history act during stressful times? I can lean on the answer to better serve my response to adversity. Every time I read, I am, in some way, shape, or form, learning. It may not be education in the form of principles, facts, or anything else the author might deem as useful, but rather education acquired simply by way of looking at something from a different point of view. This, to me, is fascinating. It’s why I am naturally drawn to books written by Malcolm Gladwell, for example. He uses a variety of unique anecdotes to help explain the message he is trying to convey and allows the reader to understand said message on their time, through the lens of real, identifiable characters.
While you may already be excited to enhance your reading education in the way I've outlined above, I'd venture to say that many of us may not even realize that we were already doing so - perhaps unwittingly! A lot of us, if we take the time to revisit what we've read, can tap into a tremendous amount of knowledge gathered over the years - knowledge that only grows book by book.
Being equipped with perspective and choosing to actively and consistently learn from the people and stories that surround us in our literature allows us to be nimble, overcome the negatives that can demoralize us in the near- and long-term, and stay focused on the big picture. But, we must remember that simply reading is not enough. The knowledge we amass must be used. Viktor Frankl said it best, “the fact of being is always more pivotal than the word.” In other words, actions speak louder than words.
Why I read, is to act. To act with perspective and with informed intention, allowing me to foster greater ideas, solutions, relationships, etc...all which give me the opportunity to make a positive impact on that which is around me. Why do you read?