I was stretching out after my morning run, and the chirping of a bird caught my attention. I looked around, and then looked up, and discovered the bird perched on the very tip top of my pine tree. I thought, wow, now that really is a bird’s-eye view!
Have you ever found yourself mired in some situation, feeling stuck, lost, overwhelmed…and no matter what you do, you can’t seem to figure it out or find your way through? Frustrating, isn’t it? And the harder you work at it, the worse it seems to get.
Sometimes you need a different perspective.
In coaching, when a person is considering an issue and seems stuck or locked into one solution, a helpful exercise is to have them stand up and ask them to place the question in the center of a circle; the person then stands on the outside of the circle and describes what they see, then moves to a different spot on the circle and offers another interpretation or possible option, and then moves to yet another place on the circle and considers the issue from that angle. The idea is to explore at each spot what the new vantage point adds and which new elements it helps them to see.
Just the physical act of moving to look at things from different angles, with a coach who encourages them with open-ended questions, tends to unlock our thinking and helps us see possibilities we had not previously considered.
When I work with churches, I often find that they are telling a particular story about events that have happened or about why they are in their current situation. They have been telling the story for so long, they often don’t consider that there might be another interpretation, another way to look at things—and that perhaps there might be an even more helpful story they could tell about those same events that leads them to life instead of frustration and futility. Using that coaching exercise, what would it look like, when dealing with a particularly thorny issue, to step back and consider it from different angles? What would the perspective be of those who have no history or experience with the church? What would our perspective be if we were looking at this issue 10 years from now? What would God’s perspective be? What would the perspective be of our wisest saints?
In taking time to explore these questions, we open ourselves up to creativity and possibilities. We don’t get caught up in feeling like we have to fix the issue right now and that there is only one right answer.
In our work with congregations through the Healthy Church Initiative and Missional Journey, we show the video “Celebrate What’s Right with the World” with DeWitt Jones (the video is well worth watching at a leadership team meeting, and you can either check out a physical copy from the Resource Center for Churches or watch online by clicking here and entering your e-mail address).
In the video, Jones says we think we need to see something in order to believe it. The problem is, we often don’t see it because we are so focused on what we think we should be seeing. But he has learned that it is when you believe it, when you believe the possibilities are there, when you can see it.
Once, he had planned to photograph a field of dandelions but didn’t get to it that day, and by the next day, the yellow dandelions had turned to puff balls. He thought he had missed it, that there was nothing worth seeing there. But he stopped and reminded himself to look again. He looked at the dandelions from all sorts of different angles and captured some great pictures. He didn’t get the photo he planned; but instead, he got what was perhaps an even better one. If you believe it, then you can see it.
So the next time you find yourself stuck, I invite you to get a little perspective. Stand up, walk around, and look at things from a variety of angles. Personally, I am off to Italy for a vacation because immersing yourself in another culture is a great way to open yourself up to new possibilities and see things from a different vantage point.
An abundant life is what God gives us, so don’t limit what might be possible. We are people of the resurrection, after all.
Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church