Reality Check: The Value of Perspective

Madison is afraid. As she understands it, polar bears are drowning, cities are flooding, our food is killing us, and artificially-intelligent appliances will become our masters. The world can be a frightening place, especially for a young person.
Of course, some fear is useful. Fear can be effective as a deterrent against taking dangerous, foolhardy risks!
However, living with fear as our chief emotion has real downsides. For example, Madison reacts to her belief that the world is falling apart with hopelessness (there’s no point in planning for the future) and anger (it’s all somebody else’s fault.) These reactions aren’t helping her develop the conditions in her life she’ll need for a satisfying, productive adulthood.
For a thoughtful young person who has no personal history of overcoming challenges, and not enough understanding of the history of humankind to realize that challenges can be overcome, some of the predictions that she hears must be confidence-rattling, indeed.
Even if you’ve been around for a while, it’s not surprising that you may think that what’s happening now has never happened before!
Madison’s anxiety is her response to the current discussions around climate change, oil, wars, terrorism, basically the future of the human race. She believes that today is not like the olden days, when the air was clean, the birds sang, and everything was peace and sweetness.
Oh, wait.
You don’t have to be all that old to remember the threat of nuclear war, plane hijackings, skyrocketing oil prices, fears of overpopulation, and yes, dire predictions about the future of the human race.
Apocalyptic stories make news.
Certainly, there are current challenges that are different from past challenges. And I’m not advocating any “right” response to those challenges. You choose your response.
However, there is an important place for perspective and for rational, positive thinking. It’s difficult for a young person like Madison to get excited about growing up if she believes there is no future!
Perhaps you, like Madison, find yourself unduly discouraged or frightened and you don’t like living like that. What can help? Perspective, optimism, faith, and working on what you can control.
In his book, A Set of Directions for Putting and Keeping Yourself Together, Dr. Robert Wubbolding suggests that we can’t directly create positive, happier feelings. Rather, if we consistently engage in specific types of activities that we can directly control, happier feelings will result. Among his suggestions are, “regularly stand up for yourself, give of yourself to others, put the good and the beautiful into your mind, take care of the marvelous body wherein you reside…”
Developing and maintaining an optimistic outlook isn’t about fooling yourself. It’s about getting results.
Don’t believe me? There’s no need to. A fundamental choice theory premise is self-evaluation, so don’t believe anything just because “I say so.” Try Wubbolding’s suggestions and see whether they work for you.
Now is not the first time in history that humans have encountered challenges. When faced with a setback, my British colleague would smile and say, “This is nothing; I’ve been through the war.” That does bring a bit of perspective, doesn’t it?
How do you maintain perspective?

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