How to Gain Perspective

Black Sand Sundrise-Reynisfjara-Vik-Iceland-wmlamont_5aPB100223.jpg

Getting Away from it All

Reynisfjara Beach, Vik, Iceland

In 2005 and six I decided to say yes more often. Yes, it allowed me to get out of New Zealand and see the world, but it also allowed me to get out of my own bubble and see things from a new perspective.

Often we fail to notice when we've become stuck in a rut. We start repeating the same tasks each day, going to the same place for lunch, having the same conversations with the same people - mindlessly repeating the patterns of our lives, without being reflective and asking ourselves if the things we do each day are effective or helpful in getting us to realise our goals.

Now, I'm not saying that when something is difficult we should immediately stop and change to something else. That's the actual problem behind the so-called millennial generation: this idea of "when something becomes hard, quit." I think that's terrible advice that I myself have followed too often. I've also gone in the other direction, braining myself by bashing my head on a brick-wall of a problem. This isn't good either. The key is striking a balance between these things. When to persist, and when to pivot.

How do we find the balance between staying on the path, and making a new one?

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland [2006]

Tying that into the topic at hand, the only way we can tell when to pivot, or when to knuckle down, is by gaining perspective. You see, when we're too close to a problem we literally can't see it. It's like trying to find the bad smell in the room by looking around everywhere when actually you brought it in on your shoes.

The best way to gain perspective is by creating space between you and the problem. Even if you don't know what the problem is, or even if there is one, by physically removing yourself from your typical environment you will come to recognise; what is important to you, what is tying you down, and you will start to discover just who you are. Travel is, above all, the quickest and most effective way to create space, and gain perspective.

Yes, you can use meditation, introspection, journaling and other forms of mental distancing to achieve nearly the same results. However, if you've never physically travelled outside of your own habitat, your mind simply lacks the breadth to make full use of these other reflective techniques. By starting with travel, you can later re-visit these places in your mind and recall the feeling you had at that time. This is another reason I love photography, and capturing those moments. Of course, the digital representation does no justice to the moment, but it can help us recall the sensory experience of the place - the smells, sounds and textures we encountered there.

Vik Black Sand Beach-Iceland-wmlamont_6aPB100217.jpg

Going it alone

Reynisdragnar, Vik, Iceland [2006]

So first you must travel, BUT! For the full effect, you should do it by yourself.

By bringing along a friend or family member, one or the other of you will take the role of the controlling party, and the experience will just not be the same; either you're being controlled by someone, or you're doing the controlling. Both of those situations are based on NO, and we're trying to say YES more. Plus when you're by yourself you're forced to make difficult decisions, and live with the consequences. With someone else there taking the reins, they also take the glory or the blame for the way your holiday plays out. Of course, you can still travel with family, but I recommend doing it either after you've left high-school, or after you've started a family of your own, and have travelled on your own.

Now before you raise the objection of "I'm a female/minority/(insert favourite excuse of the day here), please stop reinforcing that negative narrative that someone else has laid on you. My mother, the second youngest of 4 siblings, struck out on her OE in the early 70s. She travelled to the UK, Europe, and the United States. Apparently, there was a boyfriend who went with her, but he abandoned her once they got to Europe. On the main, she was alone as she travelled. While she was in London, the IRA bombed the tube stations multiple times.  She hitchhiked through France, had her bag snatched in Italy, and stayed with a family on a Greek island for a time. The only language besides English she spoke was French - poorly. She arranged, paid for, and carried out this trip all on her own.

Landakot Church-Reykjavik-Iceland-wmlamont_PB080177.jpg

Determine your own path, let no one push you off of it.

Landakotskirkja Cathedral, Reykjavik, Iceland [2006]

When you want something bad enough, you won't let people get in your way.

So once we've travelled, does that allow us to think in a broader way, and never again get stuck in a rut? I wish! The straight-up answer is no. Though the initial experience sticks with us for quite a while, and we find ourselves being more forgiving of others and tougher on ourselves - it doesn't last. This is where an introspective practice comes in. It lengthens the effect of the travel and allows you to find ways and means to create the space in your life that is essential for a healthy relationship with yourself, other people, and the world.

After high-school, I felt I had to conform and do what everyone else was doing in NZ, from finding the right kind of job to thinking that MORE EDUCATION is always the answer - when in the real world, actually going out and doing what I wanted to do and just working enough on the side to pay the bills was the real answer. And although that ship has sailed for me, I hope that someone else who is young will get the message before they think they have to get a full-time job with no end goal.

That was my main problem, to be honest - I lacked a goal that I was working towards. All I knew was that I had to have money this week to pay the bills I had racked up by having a full-time job... Without a goal, money didn't get saved, it disappeared in the typical way that money does when you're young. If you have a definite main goal that you're working towards, suddenly you can save a heck of a lot of money in a relatively short amount of time.

Crossing the ocean is far easier if you know why you're doing it.

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland [2006]

Let's address the other elephant in the room. Education is great at getting you where you need to go, and levelling up your skills so you can tackle what is out there in the world. But education does not only mean received knowledge which is passed down to you from on high. Far from it.

If we accept that the goal of education is to get you to understand something enough to play with it, and make it part of who you are, then we will see that the form of education has to change to meet that intended goal. How you get to that point of your ability, it really just becomes play. And if this is different for each subject and each person, why is the answer always "get good grades, graduate, go to university, graduate, no job available so why not go back to uni and get better grades and graduate again..."

Even if there was a job waiting for you after uni, the received knowledge you gained is already out of date, you don't get paid enough to pay back your vast loans, and it will be years before you can have enough freedom to really enjoy your life and passions, but by that time your body is too old to take it.

So enter education with a definite main goal as well. And as with everything, that should also be just a stepping stone toward your bigger plan.

In the end, without a goal, you will get bogged down into thinking that your goal is simply to work for money. You will take courses and borrow money for education that really has no end state because you will never be qualified for those jobs you want with more education; only with more experience of true life will you be able to know what you want your life to look like. Gain perspective, experience the world, and then set your next goal.

Sentinel-Reykjanes-Ring Road-Iceland-wmlamont_PB110231.jpg

Thank you

I hope this is helpful to you, dear reader, and if you've made it this far please comment below to win quantities of internet points. Bless bless!