I was reminded again today of the power of changing my perspective. As my flight instructor and I were preparing to get in the airplane for multiple touch and go landings, she asked me about my seat height. Suddenly, I was taken back to our very first flight, when she suggested cranking it as high as it would go. Given that the Cessna 172 has a very high nose, it seemed like a good idea to give me a little more of a sight line to whatever is in front of me. Somehow, over the last several flights, I had forgotten about the value of taking this one extra step before flying.
As I cranked the seat all the way up, we discussed our plans to help me get more comfortable in completing the approach and landing. During the pre-flight briefing prior to going out to the aircraft, I had mentioned to her that I felt very comfortable until the last few feet. You know, that moment where moving object somehow falls out of the sky to meet solid ground. I told her I just didn’t have a good sense of where the airplane was relative to the ground so that I could time the flare and touchdown. Once I sat in the newly elevated seat, I surmised out loud, “We may have found our problem. I have a much better sense of the airplane already.”
Sure enough, as we went through almost a dozen landings, I rapidly gained confidence thanks to my new perspective. I could now see much better down the runway. Interestingly, the difference in my seat height was probably no more than 1 or 2 inches. However, that slight change in angle, especially when the ability to see down the runway is so important, made a measurable difference – far greater than a mere one or two inches.
It got me thinking about the many places where I might have a stale perspective. I had to laugh at myself when I got in my car. I have a one inch pad on the driver’s seat. Clearly, at one point or another, I realized that I like driving with a little higher perspective. And when that pad is missing, I feel like my point of view is like sitting in a hole. Of course, it helps to be higher in the airplane as well!
The same stale perspective can hinder me in many areas of my life. When I want a fresh approach to my art, I’ve learned to first organize my studio and clear some shelves. Being able to see cleared physical space tends to clear mental space as well.
Perhaps the most powerful change in perspective is when I see someone I know well through new eyes. Moving my focus metaphorically one inch to see everything they do well instead of everything they are doing wrong makes them seem like a whole new person.
One of the core principles in my book Dancing the Tightrope is about making such a shift – from diving into my old patterns when I feel like I’ve made a mistake to asking, “what’s next?” instead. Just that simple shift helps chart a path out of self doubt and self criticism and into a path of solving the problem in front of me. It’s a tiny correction with a huge impact.
Where can you move your point of view by one inch? What have you forgotten that you know works for you? Where can you refresh your perspective?