Seeing Your Way Of Seeing | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Seeing Your Way Of Seeing


A while back, I had a client—I’ll call her Jane—who, like many people I work with, was interested in a career change.  Jane had several great ideas in mind.  Unfortunately, she was also great at coming up with reasons why they wouldn’t work, and when she came to see me she was feeling pretty despondent.

We talked a bit about the possibilities Jane had considered, and why she was convinced none of them would pan out.  She couldn’t be an artist, she said, because she wasn’t talented enough.  She couldn’t be a therapist, because she didn’t want to spend all that time and money getting a degree.  She couldn’t start a new business because the economy is in a downturn.  And so on.

The more we talked, the more I started to wonder:  could anything work out for Jane, or was everything impossible?  And eventually I asked her:  “does anything look possible for you at all?”

Jane thought for a little while.  “No,” she finally said.  Oddly, although she’d just realized how bleak and hopeless the world looked to her, she gave a slight smile.  “Actually, that’s kind of silly.”

What Is A Lens?

In that moment, Jane caught a glimpse of what I call the lens through which she was seeing the world—the set of deep-seated assumptions she was making about her capabilities and the way other people are.  I call it a lens because, just as our glasses or contact lenses are so close to our faces we often forget they’re there, the lens we see the world through has often been around so long that we’ve come to mistake it for reality.

Jane came to me thinking her specific career ideas were unrealistic, but in fact those ideas weren’t the problem.  The problem was that she saw the whole world as a hopeless and inhospitable place.  With this worldview, of course nothing seemed possible to her.

In becoming aware of the lens she was using to see the world, Jane had a reaction I’ve seen in several other people—she started taking it less seriously.  She also realized she might even be resourceful enough to make her career ideas work out, and she’s been pursuing a new direction.

It seems that, just by becoming conscious of the assumptions we’ve been making about life that have limited us, we can start letting go of them and opening ourselves to new possibilities.  Awareness is the first and, I think, the most important step in personal growth.

Locating Your Lens

How do we become aware of the deep-seated ideas about the world that are holding us back?  I’ll share an exercise I use to help people think about this issue.

To do this, take a moment and think about a task you don’t believe you can accomplish.  Maybe, for example, you have a business idea you’d like to pursue but it sounds too tough to pull off, or you’re interested in taking an aerobics class but you don’t think you have the time or energy.

Now, try completing this sentence:  “I can’t do it because the world is ________________.”  Perhaps, for instance, the world is uncaring, stingy, dangerous, stupid, or something else.  Say whatever comes to mind, without censoring or judging what you think of.

Spending a little while playing with this exercise, I’ve found, can help people get in touch with deep-rooted beliefs that influence their decisions and the results they’re getting all over their lives.  When they notice and let go of these beliefs, amazing new possibilities seem to suddenly open up.

Link Love: Evita Ochel runs a beautifully designed series of sites featuring her photography, writing, book reviews, wellness information and more.  I was honored to be interviewed by her recently about my personal journey and future plans.

30 thoughts on
Seeing Your Way Of Seeing

  1. Jay Schryer

    This is a really great idea. Sometimes, we can sound so smart and “right” to ourselves, but when other people hear us, we just sound plain silly. For me, I have this lens of not being good enough for whatever it is I want to do. Not smart enough, not strong enough, not skilled enough…just not enough. Trying to overcome that is a slow and laborious process, but I’m starting to see the rewards.

    As always, thanks for such an amazing and insightful article!

  2. Evita

    Hi Chris,

    Very good points you made here about how we see the world. I have started to really become aware of this fact for a few years now, where I realized something really profound: “we don’t all see life the same way” – Not only that but one can even say we really have over 6 billion worlds on this planet, as each of us sees this world through their own lens, they in turn create their own world. Some are of course great and beautiful, while others are painful and hopeless.

    So yes, until we become aware of what lens are we seeing our life through, we may very well be running around in circles, repeating the same thoughts, words and “mistakes” again and again.

    I am personally glad that my lens keeps on expanding and the more I look through it, the more beautiful and full of possibilities this world presents itself to be :) This is what I hope to inspire other people to see as well. Not because it is the “right” way or anything, but simply because it makes life so much more pleasant.

    P.S. A big thank you for the link love! It was such a pleasure to have your story featured on Evolving Beings, and learning more about you!

  3. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Jay — that sounds like powerful awareness, seeing that you’re taking that “I’m not good enough” idea wherever you go. That way, it sounds like, you know that the problem has nothing to do with the specific thing you’re doing, but it’s just an assumption about the world that’s been around a long time.

  4. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Evita — I like that way of putting it — that we may keep repeating the same situations over and over until we realize that it’s the assumptions we have about the world that are creating our results. I felt inspired when I read about the changes you’ve experienced in your own way of seeing.

  5. Giovanna Garcia

    Hi Chris,
    I wish Jane the best of luck. I believe that most time people know what they should do deep down inside, but than the part of them that are fill with fear kick in for protection. So that is when all of the reasons in the world why they shouldn’t do something comes up. That kind of self protection also, protect us from ever reaching greatness. So if we wish to be something more…we have to let go of being safe.
    Thanks for shaing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  6. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Giovanna — yes, it’s amazing how good we are at thinking up reasons why it won’t work when we’re afraid, and how great we are at “proving” we’ll succeed when we’re in a more optimistic frame of mind.

  7. Lori

    Hi Chris!
    I enjoyed this article very much!
    I felt sad when I read about “Jane’s” initial responses. Partly, because I can remember times where I have also had the same thoughts and feelings.
    She is lucky to have met you, Chris (and so am I)!.
    I also think the sentence you posited, to fill in the blank, could be a very powerful exercise. I think I might try that this week.
    Thanks for your insights here and enjoy your week.

  8. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Lori — thanks for the appreciation — I definitely have moments when I see everything as impossible as well, and this exercise helps me get out of those ruts. I look forward to hearing about what it does for you.

  9. Lance

    And like glasses or contacts, sometimes a new prescription can make all the difference in seeing things more clearly. And so too in life – when we make adjustments to how we’re seeing the world around us, we can completely change our own thought patterns and behaviors – and direct ourselves into new directions. Great thoughts!

  10. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Lance — I like that way of putting it — that our behavior and thinking is born out of our way of seeing the world, and so changing how we see the world can create profound results.

  11. Karl Staib - Work Happy Now

    Amen! I’ve struggled with my lens throughout my twenties and even into my thirties, but the more that I meditate the easier it becomes to choose my lens. It really is about how we choose to look at our lives.

    Don’t get me wrong I still get sad, but the pity party doesn’t last long. I keep switching my lenses until I have one that allows me to see the positive in a situation.

  12. Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord

    Hi, Chris!
    I used to have a very dingy lens that, even when other people showed up every once in a great while to clean off a spot or two, I still had a darkened view of life. It wasn’t until my world cracked and crashed around me and I was forced to crawl on the ground like Velma in Scooby Doo anytime she lost her glasses, absolutely blind as a bat, that I realized my old lens wouldn’t work. God gave me a new one, and my GOSH, things looked different. “You mean I’ve been responsible for bringing any awful events upon myself? And I have the ability to change things for the absolute better anytime I wish?” Oh yeah… And life is now a bowl a cherries!
    Great post, Chris!

  13. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Thanks Karl — that’s interesting, that meditation has given you more control over the way you see the events in your life — I know I’ve had experiences like that as well.

  14. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Megan — I feel inspired hearing about the breakthrough you had — I’m curious about it and I’m sure I’ll find the details in one of your posts. I liked the Scooby Doo metaphor, and I think the show also gives us a great way to look at a lot of the things we’re afraid of — the ghosts and goblins we imagine usually turn out to be cantankerous old men who would’ve gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for us meddling kids. Or something like that. :)

  15. Amanda Linehan

    Hi Chris – I think when you notice your lens, that’s the moment when you see yourself objectively. Like stepping outside of your body and staring back at yourself. That perspective always makes us laugh a little, I find, because the things we are so sure of, don’t seem that sure from the outside. I really liked this topic.

  16. Jewel/Pink Ink

    My antidote to a dark lens is to talk to my husband. After indulging me for a few minutes, he tells me to buck up. And then I see that I sound a liitle silly (like your client) and life looks a little better.

    Good luck with your book launch!

  17. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Amanda — thanks, I think that’s a good way to put it — that it can be so liberating to recognize that all our ideas about the world really don’t have much of a foundation at all.

  18. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Jewel — that’s interesting, I haven’t tried the method of telling somebody to buck up, but it sounds like it’s worth a spin. Or maybe that only works with married couples. But anyway I’m glad it’s working for you.

  19. Mark

    Excellent post. Yes, our world view can be limiting or it can be the vision that enables us to fly. Thank-you for providing a practical way to help us see and understand our world view and how it impacts our moment to moment journey.

  20. Sara

    Chris — I liked the story of Jane and LOVED the analogy of the contact lens. It is perfect for describing that “lens” through which we see the world.

    I always made the assumption that my happiness would involve having a major career and making lots of money. It was an assumption I carried from my family. I learned pretty fast that this wasn’t gonna happen and then it took me years to be okay with it. Those old assumptions that we wear on our life eyes can be difficult to remove. But it can be done.

    I thank you for this post and reminding me, as well as others, to take a look at those “deep rooted assumptions” and then make a conscious choice.

    By the way, I loved your interview with Evita:~)

  21. Barbara Swafford

    Hi Chris,

    I love the story of Jane. It wasn’t until you asked the right question, Jane was put into a position to evaluate what she really wanted. I hope Jane is now on her way to great success.

    Your lens analogy is perfect. We all see the world differently and at times, maybe a little misconstrued. Although I’ve had times in my life where my lens was a little cloudy, I feel I’ve found my way and now look for and am grateful for all the goodness that surrounds me.

  22. Robin

    Hi Chris – I love the way you write about the lens – I think it is very powerful to observe our patterns, and you have described a great way to approach it. I know I have let go of a lot of rubbish doing it.

    Thanks for this excercise – I intend to try it out on some health stuff I have going on (just as soon as I’ve finished reading blogs – ha).

  23. Jocelyn at I TAKE OFF THE MASK

    My lens had been brought about by seeing the world through an auditor’s eye, full of risk! ;-) Seeing it that way, everything seemed to be dangerous then. But I’ve realized that the most dangerous thing at times is complacency and getting stuck where we don’t want to be. Life may present certain risks, but risks are there to be overcome, not to deter us from living happy fulfilled lives.

  24. Fannie Junster

    This totally ties into what I read over at Zeenat’s Positive Provocations blog yesterday, which was… “The winner says- It may be difficult, but its possible. The loser says- It may be possible, but its difficult.”

    Pretty good, huh? I think at times we all have a bit of “Jane” in us. We must believe in the possibility and do so with a very positive outlook.

  25. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Sara — thanks for the share — your story definitely illustrates how hard it is to let go of our assumptions about the world even when the facts persistently prove them wrong. I know I felt the same way about my legal career.

  26. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Jocelyn — good to see you again. Yes, it does seem like the human brain is biased toward staying where we are even if the position we’re in right now isn’t sustainable. It sounds like becoming aware of that has made life more fulfilling and interesting for you.

  27. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Funnie Janster — yes, I think we all have some limiting belief or probably a big bunch of beliefs about how the world is that we aren’t even aware of, and having someone else reflect back their sense of how we’re seeing the world can be life-changing.

Comments are closed.