As you go throughout your day, how do you think of your personal life? Are you a spontaneous person, a worrier, an introvert, an extrovert, selfish, selfless? I've found that most people tend to naturally fall into one of three different narratives, and typically stick with that narrative for most of their daily actions. These are either first, second, or third person perspectives, and I'll describe each one below.
I'll be using the analogy of driving a car that is your life, with you as the driver.
Description: The first person perspective is from the eyes of the driver. You look to see what is directly in front of you. You live your life in the moment, and avoid the negative obstacles in your way. You fully immerse yourself in the emotions of the moment. You look at what's in directly front of you and make the best short term decision for yourself.
Pros: With this perspective, you do not shirk from any painful or joyful emotions. You can appreciate the subtle beauty of your every day interactions. You spend very little time worrying about the future. You experience a deeper sense of the everyday experience. You are, for lack of a better word, "present".
Cons: There are a few cons with living perpetually in this perspective. You may end up simply following what seems best in the moment, not considering future consequences or long term goals. In addition, if you look behind you through the rear view mirror, you may experience past pain with the same intensity as if you were still in that previous painful moment. You see the good and bad right in front of you but don't take into account the bigger picture. Furthermore, while your joyful feelings are exaggerated, so are the painful feelings such as anger or sadness, with which some may be ill-equipped to deal. Finally, you are spending your time focused on the outside world, and become externally, rather than internally, validated. You may become outcome dependent and too much of an extrovert in this perspective.
Description: The second perspective perspective is from the eyes of the passenger. You are focused 100% on the driver, and the world flows behind the driver seen in the driver's side window. In this perspective, you are constantly focused on self-improvement at the expense of everything else. Think of a gym rat, focusing completely on physical improvement, damned be the external world. An introvert.
Pros: There are actually a lot of pros to this perspective, and it's one that many people don't spend enough time considering. No matter what the world throws at you, you are focused on what's best for you. You are focused on making sure that the driver is in the best physical and mental shape at all times. That he is spending every free minute learning about the world around him, reading, thinking, and improving his skills. That she is carefully considering whether that slice of pizza she puts into her body is hurting or helping her self improvement.
Cons: This perspective can be seen as selfish and may shirk selfless acts. When you constantly focus just on your own self-interest, others may be unintentionally hurt by your actions. It may also be ill equipped to deal with every day emotions. It can be seen as "hiding" from emotions, which means that the range of emotional responses may be limited (both positive and negative). If some emotion crashes into the car, a lack of experience dealing with the present emotions means this person may either snap (having a disproportionate emotional response), or completely hide from the world, regressing back into oneself. In addition, the person who spends all his time in the second person perspective may be considered by others to be more selfish, and not hold relationships as long as others since he will be less compromising. Finally, staying in this perspective perpetually may result in giving up current pleasurable experiences under the guise of self-improvement.
Description: The third person perspective is an aerial view of the car. It is always considering the long timeline of life. Looking for patterns in the past, and planning goals in the future. Looking for all the future obstacles which may come up in the road and directing the car away from them, towards long term goals. Think of someone constantly anxious about the future. Think of someone constantly ambitious and dreaming about the future. Think of someone constantly stuck in their high school mentality long after their peers have moved on.
Pros: This perspective lends itself nicely to long term thinking and sacrificing. This perspective will motivate you to contribute more to your retirement. To give up a little now for a lot later. To dream and be ambitious. This person will likely have a better future than her peers, but at the expense of cumulative happiness.
Cons: Being too much in the third person perspective leads to constant worrying. Constantly trying to avoid future obstacles in the road which may not be there by the time the car gets there. Putting all his efforts into the future at the expense of the present. Or spending all day in a depression looking at the past and upset the car is not on the path you had previously laid out. Not appreciating the current moment, and focusing too much on external goals rather than self-improvement.
Most people switch between perspectives subconsciously, depending on their current situation or even time of day. But without being aware of these different perspectives, such a person may tend to live in one perspective more than others at the expense of personal happiness.
The goal should be able to consciously switch between these perspectives. To enter a first person perspective and not hide from the present, the emotions or thoughts or sensory pleasures of the moment. But to take some time throughout the day to switch to the third person perspective and think about long term goals and consequences, and try to find patterns in one's past. To enter a second person perspective and let the world wash over us and focus on making sure you are improving yourself at every moment in an antifragile sense.
Once you are aware of these different ways to view your life, and how you spend most of your mental energy, that awareness will naturally lead you to start making more conscious choices regarding which perspective you live your life at every moment.
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