I got my first pair of glasses in eighth grade. “Oh great,” I remember thinking, “Now I’m going to be one of those people.” I figured the least I could do was select a style that would be cool.
For some reason, I thought big, brown frames with lenses the size of dinnerplates fit the bill.
Since then, I’ve gone through quite a few frames, including the horrible clear plastic cheapos that were the best I could find in an emergency late-night mall trip. I busted lots of frames early on. At the time, I blamed my aggressive, living- on-the-edge lifestyle, but it probably had more to do with the awkwardness of puberty (good times). In a cruel twist of fate, the nasty clear plastic ones lasted the longest (good riddance, sophomore year).
I even went through a contact lens phase before ultimately deciding that glasses were easier and I got comfortable with the idea of being “one of those people.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is that I’m still near-sighted. Things far away get blurry—fast. It seems to me that glasses or no, most people are either near- sighted or far-sighted. But I’m not talking about traditional eyesight anymore.
Near-sighted people can see objects close up very clearly. Sometimes too clearly. They focus on the here and now—and all of the problems, troubles, and daily distractions that go with it—while the objects far away get fuzzy. They miss the big picture and have a difficult time dreaming big. They’re the kinds of people who, when asked, have a hard time verbalizing where they see themselves in five years. They might say something like, “I’m just trying to get through the day!”
Far-sighted people, on the other hand, spend most of their time gazing into the distance. They’re consumed by the next big thing: the big promotion, the larger house, the fancier car, the upcoming extravagant vacation, the next rung up on the corporate ladder. Those goals they can see clearly. Unfortunately, the little things—the wonderful, small but amazing joys right under their noses—are completely missed. These are the people Dale Carnegie was talking about when he said, “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
I think all kids start out with 20/20 vision. Kids don’t let the bumps and bruises that happen in life keep them from dreaming big. But they also don’t get so preoccupied with future plans that they miss the neat little surprises, like a penny on the sidewalk or a ladybug crawling up a blade of grass.
We all had pretty good vision as kids. Unfortunately, most of us grew up to become “those people.” But our vision can be corrected. We just need to look at life through some new glasses (preferably not the clear plastic ones that make you look like your face is protected by a wall of bulletproof glass).
Please keep in mind that changing your outlook will take practice.
A few years ago, it was time for new glasses (again). Besides being over four years old, my frames were one kid-bump away from total obliteration. Kim and I went to a contemporary place on State Street in Madison. I was confident I’d be able to find something unique. Two minutes into our exploration, I was not so sure. Styles change quite a bit in four years, and none of the fifteen frames the dude named Matt recommended impressed me. I hated most of them. I swear that this place got some of the styles directly from 1992. The clear plastic bus-windshield frames were not cool when I was a sophomore in high school, and no trendy designer is going to convince me that they’re cool today.
I was prepared to walk out of there with no glasses, resolved to make friends with duct tape if my current pair bit the dust. I didn’t think I was asking for too much. I merely wanted something similar to what I already had, but different.
It’s kind of like how some people prefer their change: I’ll take a little bit, but not too much.
Matt told me that my plight was a common one: You get so used to seeing your face in a particular style of glasses that everything else just looks wrong. He assured me I’d eventually find something.
After about thirty minutes of trying on over two dozen pairs of frames, I saw that he was right. I was able to narrow the field down to seven contenders. Then, after my eye exam, I picked one pair that I really liked. It’s quite a departure from my old frames, but still me. And not clear plastic.
A large portion of our happiness is determined by how we decide to see things. Every once in a while, we need to change our glasses.
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” – G. K. Chesterton
Most unpleasant circumstances that happen in our lives are truly inconveniences. Whether we view them as full-blown tragedies or unplanned adventures depends largely on what kind of glasses we are wearing.
This new perspective feels awkward and contrived when you first adopt it. After all, your old way of seeing has gotten comfortable. It feels funky at first, trying to convince yourself that losing your job or getting dumped by the person you thought was The One is a good thing. You might try that perspective on for a bit, but it just seems “off.”
That’s because you’re used to seeing things the old way.
Don’t give up; give it time.
Eventually, you’ll get used to this new pair of glasses, and you’ll wonder how you ever got along with those old ones.
This is an excerpt from A Chance of Awesome: How Changing the Way You See Changes Everything. It’s about making everything in your life better by strengthening the habit of shifting your perspective. It’s filled with Jason’s colorful artwork and witty anecdotes. Get your copy here.