I find that most people, including myself, struggle with perspective. What I mean is that while most of us know what’s most important in life and have a general sense of thankfulness, we often stray from those grounding principles for one reason or another.
Or as Paul Simon once sang, “Time passes. A mind wonders. It seems mindless, but it does.”
Mind you, there are a variety of ways to keep that stream of consciousness flowing in a generally happy and serene direction, both at work and at play. For me, it usually comes from diving deep into the meaning and general theme of songs like the Grateful Dead’s “Black Peter” or an obvious personal favorite like Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Going Away”:
There’s also a quasi-mathematical process that I often engage in – particularly within the bounds of my marketing work – that seems to pay huge dividends in terms of keeping my perspective set to the right angle. It basically entails stepping out from the moment as if it where a point on a three-dimensional graph, and pulling up and out a few orders of magnitude so that I can peer into the situation I’m facing from the standpoint of a month, year, or even decade.
I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me from snapping on a colleague, creating a fire drill for direct reports, making a rash decision without enough data or strategic thinking, or even walking away from a generally fantastic gig based on what amounts to a few hours of stress or uncertainty.
And while each of these approaches to serenity work well for me – as well as various others such as trading in superstition in exchange for skepticism – I’m fairly sure that by far the best technique is to simply give to others.
Give your work mates a compliment or a gift (or even just a round of beers). Give your loved ones a hug and an “I love you.” Give an underprivileged kid a guitar.
Just give. It’s like a compass for your perspective.