Happy Wednesday friends!
I recently got glasses about a month or two ago. I remember going to try on pair after pair of Warby Parkers in a cute little boutique off 12th Avenue. I settled for a pair that makes me look trés sophistiqué, no? Anyways, I remember singing a favorite JT song of mine while finding the perfect pair (no, it wasn’t our SGA campaign song) that actually got me doing some thinking.
“I got that tunnel vision, for ya…Tunnel vision, I only see you…”
Let’s talk about the problem with tunnel vision.
I’m not talking about Justin Timberlake’s hit (how could JT every make anybody unhappy?)
According to the dictionary, tunnel vision is a medical condition that prevents one from seeing anything properly unless it’s in the center of their field of view. Informally, a person is known to have “tunnel vision” if they are fixed on a single and limited point of view.
Sound familiar at all?
I like to consider myself as someone who is open-minded. I love learning about different people and cultures, hearing people’s stories, and being inspired by new perspectives on life. When it comes to hearing other people’s issues, I like to hear all sides of the story before passing judgement.
However, that perspective quickly turns narrow whenever something negative is affecting me. Suddenly, my realistic-with-a-hint-of-optimistic perspective on life turns into a singular focus on the problem ahead. It’s like I can’t even think about anything else other than how unfair this issue is, how out of control I feel in the situation, and how big the impact of this problem is going to be on the rest of my life.
That kind of singular focus would be great, say, if I was training for a marathon and could think of nothing else but finishing. Or if I had a pile of things to finish and stayed on task the entire time. But when we get tunnel vision because of our problems, it is nothing short of debilitating.
So how do we deal with tunnel vision when it comes to our problems? I believe it comes with two shifts in perspective.
1. Look at your problems deeper. So often when we are faced with a problem, we are incredibly nearsighted. We only focus on one or two key details and repeat those over and over in our head until we have built up enough anger to nearly explode. Those objects of focus are dangerous when we beat ourselves up after we make a mistake, but they can be deadly when the object of our focus is another person. Harboring unforgiveness and hatred does as much damage to us as it does to the other person.
In one of my leadership classes about conflict, we learned about something called the Fundamental Attribution Error. Basically, whenever we do something wrong, we look at our environment and other variables to help explain what influenced our actions (I was late to work today because the car wouldn’t start and my room mate needed help with something before I left and…). But when it comes to someone else hurting us, all we focus on is their lack of character or their personal shortcomings (You’re late to work? You must not care anything about this job, you irresponsible and lazy human being!)
Yes, people are cruel sometimes, and there are times when we shouldn’t make excuses for behavior. But 95% of our problems could be reduced in proportion if we stopped and considered the circumstances surrounding the issues that affect other people as much as they do our own lives. Looking at these other factors, at least in my case, helps reduce anger and causes me to remember that, yes, life is complicated.
2. Look at your problems further. Another thing that we need to keep in mind is that all problems have their place. They can go from occupying an hour to a day to our entire lifetimes, if we want them to. But that’s the thing: our problems occupy our vision for as long as we allow them to. Now, I’m not saying that we should simply turn our heads aside when something comes up in our lives (pretending that dishes are not in the sink will not magically make them clean). But when we do have problems, we need to deal with them accordingly. Be hurt, be angry, have your bad minute or day or whatever you need.
But then you have to ask yourself the question: where do I go from here?
I think a lot of people allow their problems to hurt them for much longer than they should simply because they don’t have an outcome. Create a list of demands for your problem. What do you want to come out of this? What is it going to take for you to get them? What things are you going to have to work for, and what things are you going to have to accept?
This process is not instant, and could take months, years. But the day that you decide that your problem is no longer going to sit in your life without a purpose is the day that you find freedom. Trust me—nothing is more comforting than knowing that there is a plan in the pain, that maybe one day you will find yourself stronger than before because you no longer let your problems have the final say.
To end, I wanted to share with you some words of wisdom from Pastor Charles Swindoll:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
Let’s make the decision to no longer look at our problems narrow-mindedly, but rather examine them from different angles. And let’s especially put our problems in perspective by looking at the outcomes of the situation and deciding for ourselves what our attitude is going to be.