“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” – George Bernard Shaw
Staying at home, staring at screens. Television screens. Laptop Screens. Smartphone screens.
Our daily intake of news and opinions through cable networks, social media and messages between friends. There may be an unlimited number of choices, but we have a limited amount of time and attention. Either intentionally or subconsciously, we’ve either narrowed our channels or expanded our viewpoints.
The sources we choose to gather information is important. If we limit ourselves to a single news outlet, then we limit the opportunity to hear a different point of view. Like listening to various types of music, we should expand the sources of our news content.
Just as important are the lenses through which we view the world. Not the screen attached to some device, nor even our eyes. Our internal lens – our perspective about the world – impacts everything we see.
Our outlook on life colors our perception of events and stories. Optimists tend to focus on the positive aspects of a story, while pessimists will point out the negative consequences. Similarly, trusting people will believe known sources while cynics are wary of what anyone says – even people they like. People with extreme political bents – well, their minds are often made up before receiving new information.
Of course, very few people are that binary. I’ve defined myself as a pessimistic optimist. I’ll trust people, as long as they provide evidence to support their conclusions. My political views aren’t pure enough for either the far left or the far right. And I don’t think I’m alone.
Perspectives based on values are both strengths and weaknesses. Our principles guide us through murky content, separating the wheat from the chaff. But our certainty can blind us to truths we don’t want to face.
How do we remain true to ourselves, while continuing to expand our vision?
There’s no universal answer to that question. The beliefs that provide us guidance may be based on profound principles that define who we are. Then again, it’s important that we question why we believe what we do. In other words, we can’t even take ourselves for granted.
This is the process that has worked for me: I seek out opinions and information from people with whom I don’t agree. My reading list includes authors that express ideas on leadership and life that are the exact opposite of my values. My longest and closest friends constantly challenge me and make me defend my stances on everything from politics to religion to running.
I don’t do any of these things to give myself a dose of frustration and aggravation. Instead, these practices help remind me that I may be wrong. Of course, most of the time, they only reinforce my original position. As a result, my personal growth is slow.
But with little steps, we can learn to have a broader and clearer vision of the world.