The Power of Perspective

Julie - coquitlam, Canada
Entered on February 24, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: purpose
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe life is totally based on perspective. It can be hard or easy. It can disappoint me or please me. Nothing is totally set. But no matter what happens, my life is moldable by my perspective of it. The quality of my life is in my hands, depending on how I view it. Life is nothing more than how one sees it and what they make of it.

My realization of the power of perspective came from experience. I experience approximately month-long states of depression, about once or twice a year. During these times, I cry and whine and complain about all the horrible things in my life and how unlucky I am. But eventually, I came to see that I only had a crummy life because I thought so. Over the years, I read articles about cancer patients who have so much hope and brightness. I’ve had friends who lost loved ones, but put it in a positive light, telling me that everything happens for a reason. Every day I see in the news a courageous and hard-working individual raised in dismal conditions, yet they took advantage of what little they had to make life work for them. But on the flip side, I personally knew many kids that had so much; a supportive family, a stable financial situation, clean clothes, and many luxuries such as laptops, jewelry, and cars. But they were miserable. So many unlucky souls have such a positive take on life, but others that had so much and lost so little, like me at the time, were downright pissed off. Why is this?

That is when I came to realize that even though we are all dealt different cards in life, this poker game is not about what hands I receive, but how I use those hands to obtain more chips. And even then, the stack I end up with is irrelevant. When I walk away at the end of the day, even if I have gambled away all my chips, at least I had the experience. At least the game was fun. No one can argue with me if I say, “I had fun.” Who can bring me down if I raise myself up so high?

When asked to guess the difference between the happiest person in the world and the most miserable one, I realize it all comes down to the mindset. The glass of water will always be half full and half empty at the same time. If I see it as half full, no one can stop me from loving my life. Negative circumstances would not affect me nearly as much due to my ability to appreciate the water I do have in their glass. Meanwhile, on the flip side, if I notice the absence in my glass of life more, I would be more likely to be negative and miserable. Seeing the good things in life leads to happiness, and taking them for granted will not take anyone anywhere.

An excellent example of this is a story I once heard of two women. One day a man asked the first women what her favourite season was. She replied in a bitter tone, “I hate all the seasons. None of my gorgeous, exotic sports cars run in the winter. In the spring, all the birds chirping and the children yelling drive me insane. The summer is so hot that my housekeepers and chauffeurs get lazy. The fall is too chilly for me to enjoy my private outdoor 50-metre Olympic swimming pool. I hate all the seasons.” But the second woman’s response was quite different, “I cannot pick just one favourite. The spring is so bright and cheery, and all the flowers are in bloom. Also, it is warm enough that my children’s daily 3 kilometer walk to and from school doesn’t seem so bad. Even if I have to work through the summer just to get by, it’s such a beautiful season, and the children love spraying each other with the hose. The autumn is even more beautiful still, with all the leaves changing colour, and I almost forget that my husband and eldest son were murdered by inner city hoodlums exactly three autumns before. And the winter snow is so delicate and pure, and I feel nothing but appreciation and elation as my children sled down the slopes on squares of cardboard.” From this example, I inferred that the first woman had an extremely negative attitude of life and therefore was not very happy. She was blind to the countless luxuries at her disposal. But the second woman, despite not having as many blessings, never took anything for granted. She appreciated what she had. And she decided to be happy. On paper, she should have been much unhappier than the first. But her attitude turned everything around. If she chooses to be happy, no one can say, “No! I order you to be depressed!” If she chooses to be unhappy, no one can say, “Smile! I will force you love everything!”

And so, I know that my life is only what I make of it. Nothing less, nothing more. I can choose to highlight the cheery passages of life, or the dreary ones. The highs and lows will always be there, but only the ones that are read out matter. Only the lines that are spoken make life what it is. Only what is seen counts. See the beauty of life. Live, laugh, and love. Because life is a matter of perspective.

This I believe.