From time to time, we all want a fresh start. That’s why so many of us still set New Year’s resolutions at the end of each year, even if we’ve been jaded by the results of our previous resolutions.
A big part of “changing” things, or “turning over a new leaf,” is really changing your perspective on life in some major ways that can then open the door to new opportunities, and new modes of doing things.
Famous psychological experiments have demonstrated pretty clearly that when people are focusing on a particular thing, they can inadvertently end up filtering out every other feature of their environment and surroundings – even things as blatant as a man in a gorilla costume walking around.
So, in order to really shake things up, you’ve got to introduce yourself to new ways of seeing things.
Here are a few things to try, in order to completely change your perspective on life.
- Significantly cut down your tech use and web presence
It’s impossible to overestimate just how powerful the Internet and our modern digital technologies are, and how much these tools now permeate every single aspect of our lives.
For many people, their daily interactions with the World Wide Web and high-tech gadgets begins within seconds of waking up, and continues throughout the day until seconds before going to bed – seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Of course, the Internet is an incredible tool, and so is your computer. With these devices, you can do all sorts of things ranging from staying in touch with your relatives on the other side of the planet, to working remotely while seeing the world.
When you are too permanently plugged into the Internet and are too dependent on your digital tools, however, various negative consequences result.
Perhaps first and foremost, the Internet is just filled with an endless barrage of information, opinions, rants, and perspectives, frequently offered in the most discourteous possible forms. And this matrix of factors is bound to have a major impact on how you view things, in general.
There’s research showing that people who spend more time on social media are more depressed and anxious than their peers who spend less time on social media. And there’s been plenty said about the “echo chamber” effect online, and the way in which the communication medium itself can degrade discourse.
But even if you don’t feel inundated with negativity from the web, the simple fact that it has you constantly being bombarded with shallow snippets of information all day means that you will be less able to focus on what’s actually right in front of you in the here and now, and will be much less able to actually relax and take a deep breath, and to get a new perspective on things.
At least, that’s the insight of writers such as Nicholas Carr and Adam Alter, authors of “The Shallows” And “Irresistible,” respectively.
Significantly cutting down your tech use and web presence massively alters your perspective on things, in a hurry. In fact, it may be one of the most effective things you can do when it comes to altering your perspective.
Suddenly, the pace of life will change dramatically, and you will be more interested in what’s happening in front of you, and less interested in what the online denizens “like” or “think.”
- Going traveling for an extended period of time
Going traveling for an extended period of time – at least a month, for example – is an excellent way of dramatically shifting your perspective on things in a variety of ways, and for a variety of different reasons.
Perhaps first and foremost, going traveling removes you from your familiar everyday context and environment, and therefore makes it much easier for you to look at the patterns that dominate your everyday life from a much more objective and impartial standpoint. It puts you in the position of someone “on the outside looking in.”
At the same time, going traveling also naturally tends to confront you with new situations, new environments, and new people to interact with. All of this can contribute to a shift in your perspectives both directly, but also in a more roundabout way.
Finally, if you happen to be walking around a lot when you are on your travels, you’ll likely find out why so many thinkers and writers of the past commented that walking was the key to insight.
Thoughts just flow more freely and easily, and inspiration comes in a more tangible way when you are physically on the move.
Combined with all the other factors, your trip can have a real impact on how you look at things.
To deepen and emphasize these effects, though, do a bit of active reflection on the trip. Take a pen and some paper and jot down your thoughts, your goals, and your plans for the future. Treat this as an ongoing exercise to perform throughout the trip, and you may have some pretty deep insights to make use of by the time you return home.
- Really commit to doing only one thing at a time
Have you ever found that you’ve got to the end of the day and barely have any distinct memories of what exactly you were doing?
There could be many reasons for this kind, but one of the most common reasons is the simple fact that so many of us are into “multitasking,” either out of a desire to be more productive, or out of a simple sense of boredom and unease at doing just one thing at a time.
Unfortunately, researchers have found that “multitasking” is unhealthy for the brain, leads to stress and anxiety, and also makes you less efficient at the tasks you are trying to do.
Ultimately, as well, multitasking just means that you are less consciously engaged with any one task that you are busy working on, which means that many of the interesting and uplifting details will be lost, too.
And, if you are in the habit of constantly looking for distraction regardless of whatever it is you’re doing, you may find that life, as a whole, seems far more shallow, and less interesting, than it should.
Try taking the opposite approach, instead: really commit to doing only one thing at a time, and resist the urge to have the TV on in the background, or to check your phone every 30 seconds.
After doing this for a while, you’ll begin to become quite comfortable with it, and you can expect to find that your perspective changes in all sorts of ways both big and small. Not least of all, you’ll probably begin to find far more meaning in things that you had previously been overlooking.
- Totally organize and overhaul your home
The state of your home will always have a major impact on your perspective because any environment where you spend such a huge proportion of your time automatically color your thoughts, influence your moods, and even affects your health.
Of course, one of the interesting things about your home and the way it’s decorated and maintained is that it will be both a product of your current mindset and also an influencing factor of it. If you are feeling down, for example, there’s a good chance that you will let your home become more cluttered and disordered. But then, that cluttered and disordered setting will only tend to contribute to making you feel worse.
To radically shift your perspective, and to “turn over a new leaf” if that’s what you’re after, you should make a concerted effort to totally organize and overhaul your home.
Clear away any mess and clutter that’s present and consider going the Marie Kondo route and chucking out those belongings of yours which you don’t feel good about, and which aren’t particularly useful.
Then, add features to your home that do uplift you in one sense or another, and that match the new mood and perspective you are trying to create and reinforce. That might mean nylon and polyester beanbag chairs or an antique oak bookcase.
- Take up regular hiking
In the recent past, the vast majority of people lived in rural environments. Today, especially in the developed world, the majority tend to live in and around urban centers instead.
One effect of this has been that our perspectives are now increasingly shaped by features of the human cultural environment, without the counterbalancing effect of nature – that weird, frightening, and wonderful aspect of reality that we didn’t create.
In order to help break you out of your existing perspectives and thought loops, taking up regular hiking and wandering into the great outdoors can really help to give you a fresh insight into things.
The physical exertion of the walking will naturally stimulate your thoughts, and will put you into a reflective frame of mind that can lead to serious shifts in understanding (at least, if you’re not distracting yourself with podcasts and social media, courtesy of your smartphone).
At the same time, the natural setting, in and of itself, will automatically work to move you into a different frame of mind and state of consciousness.