There are people in this world who have the ability to see things differently. They look at the same landscape, the same data, the same challenge as those around them, and yet they see it in a completely different light. Many of us consistently look at things in the same way…and why not, we’ve been successful with this approach. But what about when the situation requires something new, a different lens through which to look at it, or a different approach to solve it? I’ve recently taken up photography, and it has me thinking about how I approach things in other areas of my life. Photography has provided a number of insights on how we see and address situations in work and at home.
Photography gives me an excuse to slow down. I’ve had the opportunity to traverse some spectacular landscapes, but most of the time I’ve been racing or training. I’ve been focused on navigation, sound footing, or just moving one foot in front of the other. I even chided a friend once when she told me how much she was enjoying the scenery by saying, “This isn’t the time to look around,” or something to that effect. Going out to take pictures lets me see the terrain I’m covering in a new, deeper way. There are days that are still solely for training for upcoming events or competing, but now I specifically take time to get out to cool places with my camera. I travel at slower speeds and am willing to stop if something grabs my attention.
Photography encourages me to look for details. I, like many of the clients I work with, am naturally focused on the big picture and results. We take in enough information to make a good decision, trust our experience and training, and move forward. We try not to get bogged down or suffer from paralysis by analysis, and again in many situations this serves us well. But, there are other times when the details matter, and moving too quickly can have serious consequences. Photography has been a good reminder to look for details and to pay attention to the little things that can make a big difference.
Photography requires me to be mindful and look for beauty. In our workshop Endurance Leadership, I talk about the importance of finding beauty in difficult situations. It’s sometimes challenging to do in our daily lives, but people who can are more capable of handling stress and even more likely to survive in a life and death situation. In Mawson’s Will, maybe the most epic survival memoir ever written, Sir Douglas Mawson finds beauty in a simple thing after his Antarctic expedition has gone horribly wrong. Both of his companions have died, he is near starvation, he has frostbite on multiple places and the skin on his feet is sloughing off among other things, but he takes time to soak up the sunlight and benefit from the energy it provides him.
“So glorious was it to feel the sun on one’s skin after being without it for so long that I next removed most of my clothing and bathed my body in the rays until my flesh fairly tingled–a wonderful sensation which spread throughout my whole person, and made me feel stronger and happier.”
Photography pushes me to find different approaches to a situation. I’ve been generally successful by looking at challenges, assessing them and taking them on directly. If I’m not intentional, that’s what my photos look like too. Head on, object in the middle, clearly in focus. Mission accomplished. But then I vaguely remember instructions from my high school journalism teacher–depth of field, rule of thirds, and changing location or height to get a unique view–and the perspective, if not the quality of the photo, improves. (Thanks, Ms. Pieper, for these and so many other life-long lessons.) When we are focused, and open to new perspectives, we learn, we grow, and we achieve greater outcomes.
What can you do to encourage yourself to see situations differently? What reminders are available to you to be certain you are gathering enough detail or finding the beauty, even in challenging situations? How can you commit to taking unique and creative approaches that might yield better results for your organization?
True North Consultants is a leadership and team development company that delivers trainings, keynotes, and client support services.