I was on a group call the other day and the facilitator asked us to turn away from our computers and for the next minute, notice all the items in the room that were black.
The fireplace screen, the picture frames, my shoes on the floor, I made a mental note of everything I could find in the family room in one minute. When we turned back around she said to us, “okay, now tell me everything you saw in the room that was……BLUE". The reactions from the participants were everything from laughter to dismay. “What! I only looked for items that were black, I didn’t look for the blue items – you didn’t tell me to do that”.
And, with that one-minute exercise, she beautifully demonstrated how our perspective influences what we notice, what we DON’T notice, and ultimately, has an effect on the choices we make.
Our perspective, our “lens”, is influenced by our beliefs, our interpretations and our assumptions from our collective experiences. For example, if we touch a hot stove and get burned, we know not to do that again. But most experiences we have aren’t so clearly right or wrong or good or bad. And these are the opportunities to learn and grow and open up our perspective to include a broader view.
I was recently talking with a student about including community college as one of his pathways and he wouldn’t even consider it. His belief was that students who go to community college have no other option. They were the students who don’t work hard or care about their future. I shared with him how I’ve been privileged to work with so many bright and hard-working students who began their college career at a community college and who are now attending or have graduated from colleges like UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and USC, to name a few recent examples. Their wide-angle lens saw community college as the ideal pathway to achieve their goals.
Upon hearing this new “interpretation” and combining that with viewing it through the perspective of his values, he was able to open his lens a little wider to include this new “pathway”, which lessened his overall stress and helped him perform better throughout high school and in completing his applications.
There are so many examples of how our beliefs, assumptions and interpretations can limit our choices when it comes to college planning – from relying solely on rankings by U.S. News and World Report to not choosing a certain class or activity based on past experience.
The opportunity is to not let one experience become the “lens” with which we view all other events. Failing a class, not making a team, missing out on the lead in the school play – all of these are opportunities to use the experience as feedback for how you want to approach the situation differently next time. One event, or a few people need not form our beliefs, interpretations and assumptions. By expanding what we are looking for, and using a wide-angle lens, we are able to see ALL of the items in the family room – not just the ones someone tells us to look for.