For a while I’ve been worried about the summer of 2016. I don’t have a solid job lined up yet and the thought that I’m missing out on opportunities has been plaguing me for a while. Everyone my age wants to get a head start on their career, push themselves farther, faster. Whenever these thoughts cross my mind, I try to replace it with a different idea.
When I’m 50, I will never look back and say “I wish I had worked more”
Perspective changes everything. It’s an often parroted quote that “attitude and effort are everything”, however few completely buy into this philosophy. Too often we’re caught up in tiny social eddies, effectively ignoring the flow of the river. Tiny imperfections distract from the gorgeous tapestry that is being spun. At the end of the day it’s all about perspective.
Nothing is inherantly good, or evil: events take on these qualities during our interpretation of them through the lens of our perspective that has been crafted as a product of our environment. This is why some distopian fiction can shake us to our very core. The society that unfolds in this ficticious world usually contains practices to which our knee-jerk reaction is utter disgust. A culture that ritualistically murders a member of it’s community every year by random selection? Disgusting. However it’s not the knee-jerk reaction that creates the feeling of uneasiness, its the rational analysis that that unsettles the back of your mind. Why would anyone go through with that? Why don’t people rebel? Questions beget questions and it usually turns into an analysis of one’s own culture, questioning common practices which until that point you took for granted. What customs do we have that would shock an individual raised with a different set of cultural norms.
What I’m trying to illustrate is that everyone’s perspective on the world is through a lens that has been crafted by their environment. Every event that has ever involved an individual, shapes their lens to some degree, either further focusing it or bringing dissonance that causes a refocusing. Even though your perspective is being shaped subconsciously, you still have control. It’s possible to completely change your feelings towards something simply by changing your perspective on the issue.
A classic example would be the relatable story. Usually these are shared to create the feeling that one’s situation isn’t as bad as you think. We’ve all heard them from our parents, “back in my day, we had to walk up-hill to school, both ways”. These stories cause us to readjust our expectations and view our current situation from a new perspective. This is a quasi-extension of A Quantum State of Expectation as these ideas are continuing to be mulled over.
This technique of reshaping my own perspective is an idea that I’ve been attempting to put into practice more and more. When I was younger, I frequently thought about how my peers saw me. The feeling that others are judging you sucks. The paranoia and overanalysis of what I did or said took up way too much of my time. I’m happy that things have changed. It’s not that I don’t care anymore about what others think about me, I still do. It’s more that I’ve changed my perspective on the topic. I no longer worry if people are gossiping about me. If they are, there’s nothing I can do. If it’s out of my control, it’s out of my mind. There’s no use trying to mould yourself into what others want, because no matter what: it’s going to feel uncomfortable.
This switch in my perception of my environment did wonders for my life. I was happier, more motivated, carefree and a bit more outgoing. I subsequantly started to try and adjust my perspective regarding a variety of other aspects in my life. Instead of going for an isolated issue, I tackled a larger overarching buzzword: stress.
There’s no such thing as stress. Only perceived stress.
This nugget of wisdom came from the Head Coach of the Varsity Blues Men’s Volleyball Program, John Barrett. In the sport of volleyball, there’s technically zero stress. Your life’s not at risk, your performance doesn’t compromise your safety: all the stress that an athlete is experiencing is perceieved stress. I decided to take this idea and apply it to the rest of my life. The stress of writing an exam? Just perception. Stress of a first date? Perception. Stress from a job interview? Perception.
I often think about my future self and what I’ll be able to recall. I began this blog post with a quote that I’ve recounted to myself daily these past two months, while unsuccessfully attempting to find a job for the summer. My desire to push myself and fill my time with meaningful events has caused me to committ to two courses of Summer School at UofT and a Work-Study position developing software for the Strength & Condition Program at UofT. However, I know what my capacity is and I want to do more. Realistically I would be able to comfortablly manage another part-time job ontop of my prior commitments. Something may or may not be coming down the line in the next couple weeks, but I’m not pulling my hair out over it. Even if nothing more gets added to my plate for the summer, I will be content with the opportunities that I’ve currently lined up for myself. The stress of conforming to societal norms of getting a full time internship or summer job is perceieved stress. It doesn’t exist. I will never look back and say “I wish I had worked more during the summer of 2016”.
At the same time, worrying about what-ifs in the past in another thing I’m trying to change with a shift in perception. I am a product of every single moment that has occured prior to this one, right now. I’m happy with myself, therefore I must be happy with everything that shaped me to be this way. I often use this idea to create a sense of calm and confidence prior to an exam. I tell myself that everything that I’ve done to prepare myself for this examination is the exact right amount of material, at the exact right time in the perfect method. Since I am unable to alter the preparation I’ve done, there’s no use thinking that I should’ve studied more. After the evaluation is over I’ll allow myself to reflect on my preparation, and then evaluate it in the context of the completed exam for it’s possible merit or flaws. You can only really do this if you have somewhat prepared and you have a confidence in your own ability.
Perception is everything.
Perception is everything has been on my mind for months. It’s an idea that I continue to unshelve, disassemble, inspect, reassemble and test repetitively. This article contains the ruminations of perhaps half on hour of thought. My continuous examination and train of analysis is far too fleeting to remember and capture with characters on a page. The interesting tidbits get stuck and continue to spawn fresh ideas until they become an expressable thought or fade from memory.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I continue to return to this for months to come. Until next time, reevaluate your perspective and enjoy something small and insignificant that you previously took for granted.