Do you see yourself as a victim? Or do you see opportunity even in hard times? Do you go through life blaming the world for your situation? Before I get into that, allow me to talk cinema for a bit.
If you’ve seen the 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel, you would’ve noticed the distinct visual style of its director, Wes Anderson. When I paid closer attention, I was amazed by how he managed to stage each scene and film straight on, directly from the front. It almost appears to be 2-D and you realise how surreal everything looks from this point of view.
I took the photo above in one of the bedrooms at the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Germany, with Anderson’s style in mind. I had to deliberately position myself right in the centre of the picture I wanted to take, ensure that the camera was at eye level, the composition was symmetrical and voilà.
From cinema to real life. But let me preface this part with a disclaimer. I acknowledge that I’m writing from a position of privilege—I have food to eat, a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in. I cannot begin to imagine what life without the basics is like, and I wouldn’t dare say “change your perspective” to someone who’s hungry or fleeing from war, for instance.
On the other hand, many of us who have way more than enough in life still complain as if it were the end of the world when things don’t go our way. Oftentimes, the solution to our worries is a shift in perspective—even just a tiny one. When I was younger, I’d tell myself this when things got difficult:
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
This is empowering for the optimist and annoying for those who’d rather pass the blame than be accountable for their decisions or those who go through life feeling entitled. Well, here’s a gentle reminder of truths we already know: nobody owes us anything and we are responsible for our decisions and actions. For instance, while our parents have likely played a huge role in, pardon the word, screwing us up, we can’t go through life blaming them for every bad decision we make. Think of it this way: you don’t want to repeat their mistakes, so take this as an opportunity to learn lessons they didn’t. Shift your perspective.
What about success? How do you define it? And does it define you? If you’re feeling like a complete failure because you’re making a lot less than your peers, look at it this way: you might be feeling inadequate because you spend your time looking at other people’s lives rather than finding ways to better yours.
Friends, a bit of tough love here: we have so much to be grateful for if only we tried a little harder to see what’s there rather than what’s not. The root of the problem might be in our heads. Try putting a little positivity into the equation and look for life lessons, opportunities, and things to be grateful for.
Try it. Move to the centre of the frame. Put the camera at eye level and create a symmetrical composition. Change your perspective, and it might very well change your life.