5 Research-Backed Ways to Gain a New Perspective and Fix Your Problems
These simple methods can help you through all types of situations.
No matter the circumstances, you are always creating new problems to solve. If you get into a loving relationship, you need to solve the problem of seeing each other and keeping things fresh. If you fail your exams, you need to figure out how to retake them and the revision required. Every time change happens, big or small, a new perspective is needed.
Even if the road ahead is seemingly lit up, there will be a new problem around the corner. As the writer Joshua Cambell once said:
“If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”
I don’t say this to be all doom and gloom, but rather to highlight how having problems to solve is a good thing. They give life meaning. Sometimes, you need a bit of guidance; a new way of thinking. Here’s how to achieve that.
Don’t Focus on What’s Wrong About You
When life isn’t going your way, you can be quick to blame yourself. When I struggled to get a graduate job after I finished my degree, it didn’t take long for me to doubt the course I took and how hard I worked. Sure, there were aspects I could’ve done better, but thinking like that did not help me at the time.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, author Daniel Goleman highlights how harmful that thought process can be:
“That line of thinking shuts us down, puts us on the defensive, and narrows our possibilities to rescue operations.”
You’re getting in your way. To move forward and gain a new perspective, you need to begin thinking about your trajectory instead. Instead, Richard Boyatzis, a professor at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western and a friend of Goleman’s, suggests asking yourself a question:
“If everything worked out perfectly in your life, what would you be doing in ten years?”
During his research, Boyatzis found this line of thinking can open you up to new possibilities, instead of shutting you down. Moreover, by looking at your future trajectory, you can see the action you need to take to get there. Constant self-criticism will lead you further down the pessimistic rabbit hole.
- You don’t want to be blindly optimistic. A balance between negativity and positivity is beneficial, as you’re able to see where you went wrong without blaming yourself too much.
- When faced with a new problem, write down the goal before you go to bed. Then, write the steps you’re going to take to achieve it tomorrow. Now you can worry about how to fix your problem rather than wallowing in self-pity.
Don’t Feel Guilty for Taking a Break
When I was in my first year of university, things weren’t going particularly well. For some reason, a few of my flat-mates and I didn’t get on. Frankly, it felt like a well-furnished prison I was paying for. By Christmas of that year, I contemplated quitting. I went home, and the realisation hit me. I didn’t want to leave, and I returned with a new-found vigour.
Happily, the next two years were much more enjoyable, and I finished the degree. In retrospect, that Christmas break was vital in gaining a new perspective. Moreover, it doesn’t only apply to life-changing scenarios, either. According to the Harvard Business Review, it can help in everyday life:
“When you work on a task continuously, it’s easy to lose focus and get lost in the weeds. In contrast, following a brief intermission, picking up where you left off forces you to take a few seconds to think globally about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve.”
Taking a break, whether it be five minutes or five weeks, can help you gain a new perspective. You may be writing an article for hours on end and forget why you’re doing it. A break helps you realise why. Moreover, the University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras says: “Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused.”
Shockingly, a study by Staples found that although 66% of office workers spend more than eight hours at work, more than a quarter don’t take a break other than lunch. One in five put this down to guilt. You may think you’re too busy for a break, but you’re not. By not taking one, you’re getting in your own way.
- For the smaller, work-related problems, try the Pomodoro technique. Work for 25 minutes with no distractions, then take a 5-minute break. Repeat that four times before taking a more extensive 30-minute break. I’ve been using it lately, and it works a treat.
- For the more complicated issues, go on holiday. A week of relaxing in a foreign country is an excellent way to reset your mind.
Surround Yourself With Good Company
Your friends influence your behaviour heavily, as you pick up the same social norms as your group. You share an identity. When I was finding my feet in school, I became close to some boys over our mutual love of sports. We featured in nearly all of the school’s teams and bonded quickly. Now, as we have grown, we don’t see each other as much. When we have a good chat over a pint, the new perspectives hit me left, right, and centre. When I leave, my previous concerns are more optimistic.
A study from researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of California found that those who associated themselves with happier people were more cheerful and experienced better well-being. A good friend will open your mind up to brighter ideas and new ways of looking at things.
Gaining a new perspective isn’t exclusive to school friends, for instance. You may find yourself thinking differently after reading a self-help book or attending a seminar. Writing on Forbes, Jennifer Cohen suggests consuming the artist’s media and making them “friends in your head.” You can soak up new lines of thinking whenever you please, and you don’t need to wait for a heart to heart conversation.
- It’s simple. If your friends ask you to go out, say yes. Not only will it be a welcome break, but you can ask for their opinions.
- Have a combination of non-fiction and fiction books at your disposal. With the former, you can read genuine advice, and it feels like your conversing with someone who is trying to help. With the latter, you can get lost in the story, and perhaps find a friend in the main character.
Spend Time Alone
Yes, spending time with a cheerful group of friends can certainly help offer new perspectives on all sorts of situations. However, researchers from Harvard have found that when lots of people surround us, it’s harder to gain perspective and understanding other’s feelings. Moreover, a study they did explained how spending time alone could create empathy towards others.
Once you remove yourself from the bubble of others, you’re stepping into a new, independent headspace, as author and psychotherapist Amy Morin explains:
“When you spend time with a certain circle of friends or your co-workers, you develop a ‘we vs. them’ mentality. Spending time alone helps you develop more compassion for people who may not fit into your ‘inner circle.’”
By spending more time alone, you’re decluttering your head from the influence of other people’s thoughts and opinions. Moreover, according to Morin, the more time you spend alone, the more resilience you can build. “Without outside influences,” you can make choices for yourself because sometimes, it is other people who are in your way, not you.
- Even when you’re alone, you try not to be. According to research by RescueTime, people spend an average of three hours and fifteen minutes on their phones every day. To be truly alone and trigger new perspectives, put the phone down. Disengage by watching something you’ve seen before and see where your mind goes.
Do Something Fun
To get gain a new perspective of life, you need to change your doom and gloom mindset. Often, even a small amount of fun can help alleviate stress, as research has found that people who laughed less had more negative emotions when compared to those who laughed more.
Life isn’t always fun, but that is what makes the fun parts all the more impactful. Writing on Oprah, Martina Beck suggests determining the difference between real and “faux fun.” According to Beck, psychologists define real fun as “renewable pleasures.” Essentially, they’re enjoyable no matter how many times you do them. Whereas these will allow you to tackle your problems by seeing them in a new light, “faux fun” hides them.
Remember — gaining a new perspective isn’t about hiding your problems; it’s about seeing them in a new light.
- If you don’t enjoy doing something, then don’t do it. That way, you’re being honest with yourself and not having “faux fun.”
- Write down things that you consider fun. Whether it be biting your nails, eating your favourite meal or jet skiing in the Bahamas, it doesn’t matter. Make a mental note of the one that makes you “spontaneously smile,” according to Beck. Then, do one of those things today.
When you get out of your way and gain a new perspective, you will create new problems for yourself. It’s inevitable. But, it’s a step in the right direction. A new perspective can help you overcome any mental obstacle, small or large. Whenever I’ve been stuck on a video game level, it’s the time spent away from the game that helps me pass it the next time. When I wasn’t sure what to do after university, the people around me helped me assess my options. Find what method suits you and remember: your situation won’t always remain the same.