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You do not see things as they are, you see them as you are

Published on January 6, 2016 12:00 AM EST
You do not see things as they are, you see them as you are

Imagine that you are on the way to a Broadway play with a pair of tickets that cost one hundred dollars, and you discover you have lost the tickets. Would you pay another one hundred dollars? Now imagine another scenario when you are on your way to the theater to buy tickets. Upon arrival, you realize you have lost one hundred dollars in cash. Would you now buy tickets to the play? Clearly, on an objec­tive basis, the two situations are identical because in both you are one hundred dollars in the hole.

You do not see things as they are, you see them as you are

Nevertheless, most people report that they would be more likely to buy tickets if they had lost the money than if they had lost the tickets. The same loss is looked at differently from two different perspectives. The loss of the cash has comparatively little effect on whether one buys tickets. On the other hand, the cost of the lost tickets is viewed as “attending the theater,” and one is loath to accept the doubling of the cost of the play.

You do not see things as they are, you see them as you are

Our perceptual positions determine how we view things. The actress Shelley Winters was once quoted as saying, “I think on-stage nudity is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But if I were twenty-two with a great body, it would be artistic, taste­ful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience.”

A small shift in perspective – seeing ‘it’ as someone else might

One way to shift perception is to try and look at the subject from someone else’s perspective. Soren Kierkegaard, a nineteenth-century Danish philosopher, called this kind of thinking the “rotation method.” He was thinking of crops while simultaneously thinking about perspective. You can’t grow corn indefinitely in the same field; at some point, to refresh the soil, you have to plant hay. Similarly, to grow a dif­ferent perspective, it’s helpful to adopt a different role to expand your creative consciousness.

What we can learn from Picasso

All of us, with a little thought, can come up with easy ways to change our perspectives by adopting different roles. One gym owner was trying to come up with innovative ways to market his gym. He adopted different roles, including those of a judge, Rosie O’Donnell, a comic, and Pablo Picasso. Picasso got him thinking about artists and their work, which inspired his idea. He hired a freelance carica­ture artist to sit in front of his gym with a sign offering “free carica­tures in five minutes.” The artist drew caricatures of the person in a well-developed body, with the gym displayed prominently in the background. The person also got a brochure and business card. His business increased substantially almost overnight.

See what’s working for other people

Dr. Peter Pronovost, a critical care specialist at the Johns Hopkins medical center in Baltimore, took the perspective of an airline pilot. He borrowed the concept of the checklist that pilots go through before they take off. In an experiment, Dr. Pronovost used the checklist strategy to attack just one common problem in the intensive care unit: infections in patients with central intravenous lines. The checklist listed the obvi­ous steps that should be taken but were often forgotten.

Check. Check. Check!

The checklist was given to nurses in the intensive care unit, and, with the support of the hospital administrators, Pronovost asked the nurses to check off each item when a doctor inserted a central line — and to call out any doctor who cut corners. If doctors didn’t fol­low every step, the nurses had permission from the administration to intervene. The nurses were strict, the doctors toed the line, and within one year the central-line infection rate in the Johns Hopkins intensive care unit had dropped from ii percent to zero.

Imagine three artists who have nothing in common with each other, but who are painting a picture of the same dog. Each picture is painted in a different perspective and style, yet each captures cer­tain things about the essence of a dog. When you synthesize the three paintings, you feel a new consciousness and a deeper understanding of dogs.

You do not see things as they are, you see them as you are
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