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You May Need a Different Lens


"While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside of us."

-Benjamin Franklin


I'm on the bus heading home. I just left a happy hour with a good friend of mine. We had not seen each other in a while so we were there longer than we thought. We could have stayed longer, too, if we didn't both have to get home.

When buses pick you up downtown they make you get on as quickly as possible. And since paying eats up too much time, you pay when you get off. It's an express bus, meaning that it only travels from downtown to a station near my house. Everyone gets off at that station. Having to sit in the back and wait for everyone to pay can easily add five minutes to my commute; ugh...who wants that? I am lucky, though; I get a seat right up front - the first one off the bus. It's a good thing, too, because I'm hungry and my wife has dinner ready!

The buses are nice. They have comfortable seats. They're dark. They are quiet. They make it very easy to fall asleep. I fall asleep.

The bus stops. Uh oh! We're at the station, I'm in seat one, and I'm not prepared. I have to gather my stuff, get my payment ready, and get off the bus; there are dozens of people waiting for me. My payment card is in my wallet and the electronic reader can read my card through the wallet. So luckily all I have to do is take my wallet out and touch it to the reader as I leave.

In my hurried state, I grab my wallet out of my pocket and try to touch it to the reader as I'm throwing my computer bag over my shoulder and walking down the stairs. The wallet slips out of my hands. In a desperate attempt to catch it I lose my balance. I fall down all four steps and bounce on the cement.

Now I'm embarrassed, I don't know where my wallet is, and as I get up to look for it I see a bus full of people staring at me. I find my wallet resting on the guardrail, and as I try to walk away I realize something's not right; I can't walk. I didn't realize it hurt when I was embarrassed looking for my wallet, but now I can feel it. My ankle is the size of a softball. When I tried to catch myself on a lower stair my foot didn't land fully on the stair; it partially landed on the stair and the momentum of the fall twisted and broke my ankle.

This sucks! Now, since I can't walk normally, I have to pretend to make a phone call while every single other person on the bus - whom I held up - walks by and looks at me with their judging eyes. I hobble back to my car after they've all left. I have to spend the evening in the ER. I have to wear a boot for months. And I never did get that dinner! The universe hates me!

how do you react

How You View the World

We all view the world differently and have different mindsets and viewpoints. The two we've all heard of are pessimism and optimism. Do you see the glass as being already half-empty with nowhere to go but down? Pessimists tend to have a mindset that looks for the negative in everything. In Minnesota, where I live, we have a lot of pessimist sports fans. Here is a common phrase I hear, "Sure, we made the playoffs but it doesn't matter because we're going to lose in the first round. We got so lucky this year."

Alternatively, you may see the glass as half-full, with room for more. You may have heard the phrase "viewing the world through rose-colored glasses." It's a way to describe someone who sees the good in everything. This is an optimist. The optimistic Minnesota sports fan (I've heard that one or two of them actually exist), says, "It doesn't matter that we lost in the playoffs this year because it was a fun season and we got to see some really great games!"

You may hear them as mindsets, but like the rose-colored glasses that optimists look through, I call it looking through different lenses.

Passive Lens

The passive lens, or passive mindset, is a way of viewing things that happen as not being your fault. It's someone else's fault. The person viewing the world through a passive lens says they were late because traffic was bad and people forget how to drive in the winter. It wasn't their fault they lost money in that investment; it was their uncle who gave them the tip. And it's the company's fault they were fired; they should have trained better and the boss had it out for them from the beginning.

It's not always bad events people view through a passive lens. Some people don't want attention, even if it's good attention. Perhaps you've heard people say "I just got lucky," "I was in the right place at the right time," or "I couldn't have done it without my team." Modesty is a form of viewing the world through a passive lens.

Active Lens

The opposite of viewing the world through a passive lens is viewing it through an active lens - or adopting an active mindset. People who use an active lens accept responsibility for the things that happen to them. They forgot to account for traffic and weather during their commute, they shouldn't have trusted their uncle's tip and should have done some research, and they got fired because they didn't make themselves indispensable. They also accept responsibility for the good things in their life that have happened. It's still okay to acknowledge luck, but the active lens shows that you took advantage of that luck.