Perspective is a particular attitude that you have towards something, a particular point of view. It’s not just your attitude in general, the way you approach things in a big picture sense. It’s intentional, the way you choose to look at something after reflection.
The best players, the best coaches, the most successful people that I have ever been around, have great perspective. To me, perspective is a great indicator of your ability to be a high-achiever. Certainly those with elite talent may not have it and may not need it. But most of us aren’t in that category. For us, when you have the right perspective, it leads to balance in your approach. You can care a great deal and work really hard at something, and still not achieve your goal. You have to deal with setbacks, and you have to bounce back. Without the right perspective, can you really find the energy and approach necessary to fight your way back? That brutal loss to your big rival in a key conference game where you didn’t play well is really tough to handle. But ultimately you are getting the experience of playing college basketball and you have great teammates who you can count on. Big picture, should that loss have a significant impact on you? It depends on your perspective.
When I was the head coach at RIC I used to get together with a great friend of mine and our fathers around the 4th of July to play golf. It was usually right before we went on the road for the live period. His father was older, in his 70s, and had trouble getting his ball around. It was always hot and we’d be looking for his Dad’s (and my Dad’s) golf ball most of the day. At one point he just looked at me and smiled and said, “Luckily, I’ve realized it’s not about the golf. My Dad is getting up there, and I’m not sure how many more days like this I’ll have with him.”
Tremendous perspective. I’ll never forget that. Here I was, admittedly, a little frustrated, wishing we could just keep the round moving, trying to find a better rhythm. From that day forward, I really thought about it differently. It’s not about playing golf, going to a game or hanging out at the beach, as much as it is about who you are with – and valuing that time with your family. My father died of a heart attack a few years later, but I never took for granted any of the time I got to spend with him after that day.
The best players, the most mature players, have great perspective. They take the game very seriously and it matters a great deal to them, but they understand it’s not life and death. Their teammates, their family, the time they spend with them, the journey – that is what really matters to them. It allows them to find a balance that is a foundation for their success. So many of the things that make you great – handling adversity, being a great teammate, dedication to your craft, a great work ethic – are enhanced by having great perspective.
So how do you enhance your perspective? How do you make it intentional, where you really recognize what is important rather than being obsessive over things that may turn out to be trivial? The first thing you can do is get out of your comfort zone as much as possible. Put yourself in different situations, get to know different people, learn as much about a different way of doing things. Do you ever go into the cafeteria and sit down with someone you don’t know, who doesn’t really look like you do, and introduce yourself? Or do you always find a table with your teammates or the other athletes? Look at the people around you. Are they pretty similar to you, with the same likes, dislikes, and aspirations? That’s certainly comfortable and those may be your closest friends. But that’s not enhancing your perspective, it’s repeating it.
Take a different class and learn about a subject you don’t know anything about. Talk to the lady in the cafeteria or the guy who cleans the locker rooms at night, ask them where they are from and get to know them. Join the math club. Go to an open mic night. Be intentional about filling your life with different opportunities. Understand how lucky you are to be a part of a team and the advantages that go with it. What would you do if you didn’t have basketball or team sports? How would you fill your time, and who would you hang out with?
Once you start to fill your life with different experiences your world view will broaden. Your perspective will start to change. You will see things slight differently, and that is okay. It’s actually great. It will really help you down the road. You’ll start to realize that only playing 12 minutes in your last game isn’t the end of the world, that maybe you need to get better. You’ll find a balance in your life and a maturity that will impress the people around you. You’ll be able to handle the difficult things that come your way with more clarity.
I want to be around people who have great perspective. It leads to balance, gives you more clarity on your purpose and sets a path towards high achievement. Ordinary people who accomplish big things start with great perspective.