A Choice of Perspective

March 18, 2014

Positive perspective is less an inborn trait than it is a skill. Like any skill, it can be learned, practiced, and mastered. And it’s not something that requires you to go up on a mountaintop or into a deep retreat and struggle with it for weeks or months before you emerge a transformed person.

It’s something you develop in small bites, every day. Something you build, like a muscle, by exercising it moderately and consistently.

How? By the choices you make in how you see the everyday events around you.

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them. It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.”

So said the Greek philosopher Epictetus. So, what views do you take? What reactions to you have? That’s what positive perspective is: a choice.

Or more accurately: a long series of little tiny choices.

Late in life my father traveled to Omaha to attend a music conference, where he not only gave lectures on Bach’s Passion According to St. Matthew but also conducted a performance of this magnificent masterwork.

At the time, this was a rare thing for him. He had been an active conductor for many decades in his earlier years. Now in his seventies, he worked almost exclusively as a scholar and teacher, and he seldom performed.

It was a glorious trip, and he returned home flush with triumph from his week of being revered as the grand old master of Bach. He was, however, soon returned to earth, when my mother, her trademark wry wit tweaked by some trivial household task or other that he had managed to bungle, remarked, “Oh, Alfred, don’t be an asshole!”

He nodded serenely and said, “You know, that’s exactly what they called me in Omaha. Only there they pronounced it, Maestro.”

My mother of course was utterly charmed (as always). So was I. And why not? What a wonderful way to demonstrate the sly superpowers granted when you adopt a positive perspective.

A rule for living: You get to choose how you see things. (And hear them, too.)


  1. Todd Weaver

    Thank you for another great look. I’ve been called “Maestro” many, many times.

  2. Ana

    Lovely as always my dear…. you are a maestro of words and I am not attaching that other meaning! 🙂

  3. Derek

    Thank you, John… I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog entries and I’m thrilled to find these postings again…they’re always exactly the “fix” that I need.

  4. Linda Sztanko

    What a great story. I love the Quote: “People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them. It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.” We all get the choice to Choose how we receive information. I am a work in progress and always strive to find the positive in everything delivered my way!
    Thanks John for a great piece on info to keep me moving in the positive direction!


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