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you cannot see what you cannot see

October 23, 2012

I went for swim recently. The first of the spring.

It wasn’t a particularly long one. I managed 600 m in the local public pool before deciding that was enough.

It felt good to be in the water but I was breathing pretty hard by the end and my eyes were starting to hurt. That was no surprise. The same thing happens every spring. I get in the pool and try to go too far without goggles. My eyes do not enjoy the chlorine.

The drive home was blurrier than usual. I couldn’t see as far as clearly as I usually could. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend once.

Standing out the front of his new home on the hill I commented that you could see all the way to the mountains almost 100 km away. He said that is what he had been told but as he couldn’t make out anything much past the end of the street he couldn’t be sure.

Cooking dinner that night I couldn’t make out the instructions in the recipe. The same one I had read many times before. I started to feel frustrated that I couldn’t see.

The ability to see something is not just a function of how well your eyes are working though.

Looking down past jeans at a pair of feet in sandshoes

A colleague was asked what he thought of the new safety initiative – a TV screen above the entrance to his workplace. It had been in place for a couple of weeks but he said he couldn’t comment as he simply had not seen it there. It was what he said to me next that really resonated:

That was when I realised that when I come in to work lately I have my head down and I am looking at my feet…

Negative moods limit our future possibilities in ways we are often blind to.

The negative mood my colleague was experiencing as he walked into his work meant that he was literally unable to see something that was clear to others. His eyes worked just fine but all he could see was his feet.

A mood of resignation or despair arises as a result of a belief that there is nothing that we can do to change the future. If we are living or working somewhere that those moods prevail it is likely that we will not be able to hear suggestions from others that are directed towards creating a better future. If we believe there is nothing that can be done then what is the point in listening?

But all is not lost!

Becoming aware that you are looking at your shoes is the first step to shifting your mood and opening your eyes to new possibilities – as long as you are ready to commit to exploring your mood and the possibility of shifting it.

Make that choice and then ask yourself what (or who) is this mood about? What is the story you are telling yourself while you are in this mood?

Is it possible that you might have some of the ‘facts’ in your story wrong? Might you have gotten some of your ‘assumptions’ wrong?

Can you ask for help or maybe a second opinion? Find a way to prove or disprove your assumptions? Do you need to apologise or maybe make a complaint? Sometimes even just sharing what you are feeling with someone else can be a powerful beginning to shifting your perspective.

If you can create a space to look for what might be missing, you can create a space to take action that may shift your mood and create a new, brighter future. It may even open your eyes and help you to see what you could not previously see. You see?


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5 Comments leave one →
  1. meganbtw permalink
    October 23, 2012 9:27 am

    My 6 year old daughter has a cataract. We had no indication that he had any visual impairment until we took her to the optometrist for a routine check and he told us that her right eye has very limited function. She knew though. She just got on with it – it was normal for her. But what I could now see, in becoming aware of her impairment, was what an amazing person she is, and how amazing the brain is, and how dependant we are on having two perfectly functional eyes, and how prejudiced we sometimes are about people’s level of ability just because something about them is not part of what we have experienced as ‘normal’.

    So yes, I agree, mood has a bearing on our ability to ‘see’, but so does our perception of what is reasonable and normal and acceptable according to our personal experience and our expectations.

    • October 23, 2012 12:27 pm

      What your post highlighted for me Megan was the way we assume that everyone sees things just the way we do – with both their eyes and their mind. And how we take for granted the capacity we have to see – in both senses.

      One of the most powerful things I have seen happen in a Samurai Game occurred with a group of 12 year olds. They were beginning their final year of primary school when they participated and at a point in the game one girl lost her sight (she was blindfolded). The rest of her team assumed that she could no longer contribute and sidelined her. As the game progressed and team numbers dwindled she was reluctantly sent into battle. As she won one battle after another she became in her team’s eyes what she had always been – an incredible asset.

      As you point out it has everything to do with our assumptions/perceptions around what we expect. Those assessment create our mood (“We are doomed…”) but if we can take the time to look at our perceptions and expectations we might find there are different futures available to us.

  2. Barbara Bugeja permalink
    October 26, 2012 5:05 pm

    Well said! This got me thinking…I just got my eyes checked recently and realised just how blurry my eyesight was becoming after trying on glasses that improved things considerably! Highlighted for me the importance of daring to try something new. Particularly in my business, where after being challenged to start looking for an associate by a colleague, I have realised how much I sit in the back seat of my business (the proverbial rut), when I can really push myself and challenge myself with the payoff of a better life and a better business. Not to mention how great it is to help another be the best they can be……

    • November 1, 2012 11:44 am

      I know that I find myself getting comfortable in ruts far more frequently than I should. I like the metaphor of the rut – something that goes on and on but not necessarily towards your destination. When you get into it at the beginning it seems to help. The going is a little easier and you can even let the rut steer your wagon! But then it takes extra effort to take control and get out of it. If you can’t summon the energy that is needed to do it you can end up somewhere you were never meant to be. As you say, the payoff for making that effort is a better life and the knowledge that you are in control!

  3. Phillip Crockford permalink
    November 4, 2012 11:08 am

    Love the post Paul, particularly as I am wrestling with needing to wear glasses for computer work and reading. My moods about this oscillate between denial, resentment. self-pity and resignation — not much positive there. In fact I felt a twinge of shame after reading about Megan’s daughter and the blindfolded girl in your school Samurai game. Re-reading your post and opening a space to look at what may be missing for me, the action to take is perhaps to notice and appreciate the stimulation and pleasure I get from being able to read more easily again, from being able to spend time with my reading in a less frustrating way.

    It prompted a further reflection about mood: I am not sure if the mood arises from the belief. Sometimes for me I think it’s vice versa: the mood is a kind of “neurochemical opinion” that makes it easier for me to (rapidly) construct negative beliefs. Maybe it isn’t chicken – egg, it’s perhaps more the buddhist “interdependent co-arising” thing. Maturana says “mood and language are braided together”, so your post is provoking me to reconsider my relationship to my reading glasses and to my moods.

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