As many of you know, a central theme in my Lenses of Leadership program is the concept of a lens. Unlike the lenses you may use to correct your eyesight (e.g. glasses or contacts), the lenses I’m referring to allow us to formulate thoughts and images through the use of a much different eye; our mind’s eye. Simply put, your mind’s eye is not what you see, but rather how you see it.
In my book, Seriously, Dad?, I introduce the idea that your mind is like a machine. In other words, your mind’s eye is constantly at work, making sense of the world around you. Over time, the interpretations you assign to various events (e.g. rude people) become habitual, or part of the machinery. Therefore, each time you encounter a rude person, you simply write them off as rude. There isn’t a whole lot of thought involved in this process, because the mental machine has already been programmed to write them off. Your lens is firmly entrenched.
It is my belief that the single most effective way to create positive change in your life is not by changing the people or things around you, but rather by changing the lens through which you see those things or people. This process requires two critical steps: self-awareness and self-management.
Self-awareness essentially means that you tune into the machine, or your inner dialogue. Sadly, most people don’t spend much time thinking about the quality (and effectiveness) of their thinking. Only when you are aware of the machinery, can you change it.
Self-management is learning to change your lens in the event that your current perspective isn’t serving you. I mentioned earlier that your mind is a machine. Well, you happen to be the mechanic and therefore have the power to change the machinery.
Below is a story which outlines the importance of these two skills and the subsequent results if we don’t use them.
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs a better laundry soap.” Her husband looks on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?” The husband replies, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.” And so it is with life… What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which you look.
It’s clear that the woman in this story was making an assumption that the laundry was dirty. There was no presence of self-awareness as she relied solely on her mental machinery, which is very good at making assumptions, by the way. Only when her husband chose to clean the windows was she able to see the laundry in a new way. This is precisely what happens when we choose to change our lens.
The person we’ve written off as rude is now seen as an individual who just wants someone to pay attention to him.
The person who lashes out at you in anger is now seen as someone who is deeply hurt and doesn’t know how to express her emotions.
The bully at your child’s school is now seen as a boy or girl who simply needs a heavy dose of kindness.
I invite you to take an introspective look at your own life and ask a simple, yet powerful question…
Which areas of my life could benefit from a lens change, or a window washing?