The Strategist

Viewpoint: How your point of view affects your business

08/28/2020 - 10:01

During the Peloponnesian Wars, the Athenian general Pericles was preparing to sail, but suddenly darkness covered his 150-ship fleet when a solar eclipse happened. Panic broke out among the crews, but Pericles remained cool. He went up to the pilot, took off his cloak and wrapped the sailor's head. "Do you see this as a sign of misfortune or misfortune?" - the commander asked. The helmsman replied no. "But that darkness differs from this only in that, - continued Pericles, - its cause is greater than a cloak."

Behind Pericles' phrase there is an understanding that encompasses not only Stoic philosophy, but also cognitive psychology: it's all about point of view. Let's look at how our attitude towards a difficult situation influences our decisions.

The Greeks understood that we often choose an ominous explanation to our detriment, and it is not always the simplest one. We are afraid of obstacles due to the erroneous point of view, but just changing it can completely change our reaction. As Pericles showed, the task was not to ignore fear, but to explain what was happening. When fear arises, take what scares you and deal with it. Remember: we alone choose how to look at things. We retain the opportunity to study the situation from a different angle.

We cannot change the obstacle itself - that part of the equation is given to us - but a point of view can change how it looks.

How we approach the obstacle, how we see it and what we say to ourselves, determines how difficult it will be to overcome it. With the wrong point of view, you are engulfed and overwhelmed by something that in reality is quite insignificant. So why expose yourself to this?

The right perspective is a way to reduce the size of obstacles (and adversities). But for some reason, we tend to be selective. We gnaw at ourselves for breaking a deal or missing a meeting. If you look at the fact by itself, it's terrible: we just missed 100 percent of an opportunity.

But at the same time we forget, as billionaire Richard Branson likes to say, that "Business opportunities are like buses, there's always another one coming." One meeting is nothing among meetings, one deal is just one deal. Perhaps we actually escaped the danger. And the next opportunity will be even better.

The way we look at the world changes how we perceive it. Does our point of view give perspective or just cause problems? What we can do is change our point of view and become as cold-blooded and ready to solve the problem as possible. Think of this as selective editing - not to deceive others, but to orient yourself correctly.

Small adjustments can change what seemed unchanged. We suddenly become aware that we are strong where we have felt weak. We find a lever where there was none. There are two aspects to this.

1. Context: the feeling of a larger-scale picture of the world, and not just a fragment directly in front of us.

2. Framework: a person's own way of looking at the world, a way of interpreting events.

Both can be effectively used to change a situation that previously seemed daunting.

Our point of view, that is, our interpretation of events, is the basis for further reaction: will it follow at all or will we just lie there and endure. Where the head is, there is the body: perception precedes action, right action follows right point of view.

Based on "The Obstacle Is the Way. The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph" by Ryan Holiday

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