The picture you see doesn’t capture what the human eye can see. Or does it? When we walked up to the edge of a terrace in front of a grey 1,000-year-old building in Porto, Portugal, we looked down and saw this burst of color. Bright colored doors. Buildings in different hues. Drying laundry in vibrant shades. We were so tickled by the scene that we all snapped photos.
Later that evening, I culled through all of my pictures from the day. I deleted the blurries and eliminated the duplicates. As I looked at this photo, I was struck by its beautiful colors. And then it hit me that if I’d been back home, anywhere in the United States, I never would have taken a photo of row housing with laundry hanging from lines.
In the U.S., we have homeowners associations (HOAs) that govern how many objects – if any – can be placed on balconies. Some even specify what type and what color of objects are allowed. None, of course, allow laundry lines. Condo associations dictate exterior colors, and there’s no way you’d be allowed to have chipping, flaking paint on your doors or windows. If you grew up in a home with clotheslines (before the days that it was hip and environmentally conscious to “line dry” your apparel), you might have been told by your parents that you should work hard in school to get an education so that you could live in a “good” neighborhood and be able to afford a dryer.
And yet a slew of us thought that a run-down row of apartments with clotheslines was artistic and beautiful – so much so that we all took photos of it. Why is that?
It’s quite simple. Our perspectives were shifted. We were in a different country. Some people’s brains told them to run for their lives because they were in a third-world neighborhood in a foreign country and most likely weren’t safe. Other people’s brains (like all of us who took the photo) told them that this was such a beautiful, simple way of life. Our intake mechanisms and filters changed long enough for our brains to allow us to see the world differently.
How many times have you thought the grass was greener because you were with a “new” person, in a “new” location, or experiencing a “new” situation?
How many times have you used the same filter to examine similar situations and not thought of other possible perspectives or angles?
How many times have you been “stuck” and couldn’t find an answer?
While the background knowledge and history you’ve amassed over the last few decades of your life are critical pieces that you need to consider and learn from, we must also be open to new perspectives in order to find solutions to challenges, negotiate with others, and continuously improve.
When will you wear a completely different pair of lenses to examine a situation?