The Power of Perspective

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Jake Buganski
A young man smiling and wearing sunglasses with expansive view of an historic town behind him.

When it comes to making big decisions, it can be easy to get caught up in the things we want to happen, rather than considering what we want to avoid. As I have progressed through my college career, I have started to notice how this common trap can lead me and others to miss out on valuable opportunities or to make poor choices. But what if there was a way to make better decisions by focusing on what we don’t want to have happen? Psychologists have proven that when an individual makes decisions based on what they most want to avoid happening, they are much more motivated to act in a proper manner than when making decisions based on what they want to have happen. This is using the power of perspective.

Proactive vs Reactive

This mindset helps you push through fear by acting as a motivating force behind you. It also allows you to be proactive, rather than reactive, to life situations. When you're focused on what you want to happen, you're often in a state of chasing after goals or trying to create situations. This can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety, as you're constantly trying to control the outcome. On the other hand, when you focus on what you don't want to happen, you're able to see things from a more positive angle as you’re able to recognize potential problems ahead of time and take necessary steps to mitigate the chances of those negative outcomes from occurring.

Think Like a Business Manager

Think of yourself as a business you’re invested in or a community of people you care about. In starting a new business, you meticulously think ahead and plan for everything that you don't want to have happen, such as going bankrupt or losing customers. Thinking in this perspective motivates the company to minimize those risks as ahead of time as much as possible and keep its business afloat.

If that seems to weird or abstract to you, think of yourself as your family and friends would. Surely you want the best outcome for yourself just as you would want the best for them. So, if someone you cared about was afraid of pursuing of a valuable opportunity, would you not encourage them to reach their fullest potential despite the fear of doing so? Thinking of yourself as a community of people you love (such as your family or friends) and wanting the best for them allows you to focus less hard on yourself and make more motivated decisions.

Choose Your Path

Herein lies the “aha!” moment. It's going to be hard both ways so you can actually pick your own path! You don’t have to let life have its course with you – you’re actually in control of your own destiny. Additionally, this approach can help you to avoid the pitfalls of being overly optimistic or overly pessimistic, and instead, make well-informed decisions that are right for you.

Once you realize that either option is going to be hard no matter what, it frees up your mind to make the best choice. Psychologists have shown time and time again that people are more motivated by fear than by desire, so by mapping out your own personal worst nightmare, you’ll actually have something tangible to run away from rather than run towards.

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