See things differently

Duck-RabbitWhat do you see?

Sometimes we fall into a routine and don’t realize it. If it works, then everything is great. But if it doesn’t work, we often continue to do the same thing every day, and wonder why things don’t change – until someone asks us to look at things in a different way – to see things from a different angle.

During his 1961 inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy urged Americans “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

In 1997, Apple Computer challenged us to “Think Different” with an iconic ad campaign that featured prominent historical figures in print and a stunning “1984” television commercial.

More recently, in the animated movie “Big Hero 6” (2014), Tadashi Hamada challenges his younger brother Hiro: “Shake things up! Use that big brain of yours to think your way out. Look for a new angle!”

From politics, advertising, movies, and books, these ideas came together, like looking at an optical illusion and seeing the hidden image. Here are just three things we can look at differently and change our thinking:

* See personal health differently: Instead of losing weight, commit to gaining health. “Americans by nature don’t want to lose but to win,” Mike Huckabee wrote in “A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don’t)” (2011). A book on politics may be an odd place to find suggestions about healthy living, but maybe that’s why his idea stuck with me. We need to change our mindsets to gaining health and winning a healthy weight.

After college, the healthiest that I’ve been in the past few years was when I was pregnant. Though it is hard to change my eating habits and lifestyle for myself, I was able to do it for my baby (and then I slid back into my old habits). It is a continual struggle to change my outlook and gain health for myself

* See cleaning differently: Instead of throwing things away, choose what you want to keep. Most of us don’t like doing housework or chores. It’s easier to set things aside and decide what to do with them later, which can lead to a messy home and a cluttered workplace. “Choose what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of,” advises Marie Kondo in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (2014).

A few months ago, I sorted through all of the “stuff” that was cluttering up my life, and chose what to keep. I actually felt happy discarding things, because most of the things that I keep today come with memories or meaning (or are required by law, like tax returns; or peace of mind, like statements and receipts).

* See education differently: Instead of improving the world, start by improving your children. “The goal isn’t to leave a better world for your kids, it’s to leave better kids for the world,” Salman Khan said (I’m not sure if he actually said it, but someone credited him with it, and why not the founder of the Khan Academy?).  The goal is the same – living in a better world. But the focus shifts from making the world better for future generations as a gift, to teaching future generations to make the world better as a responsibility.

In every generation, children and youth have the most to gain and the least to lose by changing the world. My 9-year old son comes home from school with reminders to recycle, to save electricity, to wear our seatbelts, to drive the speed limit. We can make the world better one person at a time.

What can you look at differently in your life? How can you change your thinking?

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