When you find yourself in a problematic situation you can adopt one of two views – a narrow view or a wider view.
I want to tell you a little story which will help you to identify which one will work best for you.

I had to do a little shopping in a nearby town last week.

As I do not drive, I had to use the local bus service. Being in small town Ireland, the buses are not every few minutes. Instead, there is a return service every 3 hours.

To kill time before shopping, I like to go for a coffee and have a read of an informative book (currently it is ‘The Liberated Mind’ by Steven Hayes)

Having enjoyed my coffee and read, I made my way to the supermarket to pick up my groceries. But I was running late as I had been enjoying the book.

I knew what I wanted so, I picked up my items quickly and walked straight to the checkout.

There was one woman ahead of me at the checkout so, I was not expecting to be long.

However, when it came time to pay, she was not ready. She started talking to the lady at the checkout and showing her several vouchers which were on her phone.

At this point, I was starting to get frustrated. I knew I was running late and, if she did not hurry up, I was going to be late for my bus and potentially must wait another 3 hours.

After what seemed like an eternity (probably less than 5 minutes) she used her vouchers to pay; paid the balance and moved on.

As she walked away, I noticed that I had not yet taken my groceries out of the trolley and placed them on the conveyor belt. I had been so caught up in what she was doing that I failed to focus on what I needed to do. This made me laugh at how ridiculous I had been behaving.

When issues arise, we may find ourselves narrowing in on what we think is the problem – in this case I was focused on the fact that the lady in front of me was not moving as fast as I wanted. I was blaming her for me potentially missing the bus.

What we really need to do here is to take a broader view of what is going on. For example:

  • If I were to miss the bus, it would not be her fault. It was my own fault for not leaving the coffee shop in time.
  • While I was focusing on her delays, I was not doing what I needed to do to speed things up i.e., unload my shopping trolley

The wider view allows us to see a more accurate picture of what is going on so that we can think more clearly. Our mind is constantly trying to solve problems but sometimes it makes insufficient efforts to understand the problem first.

Problems cannot be fully understood when taking a narrow view. Proper understanding requires that you see as much of the problem as possible – to take a wider view.

One of the best ways to do this is to ask yourself questions. For example, in my scenario, I could have asked myself:

  • Is this person the reason I am running late?
  • What else is contributing to the fact that I am running late?
  • Have I ever behaved as this woman is behaving?
  • Am I doing everything within my control to ensure I get through the checkout as quick as possible?

There are many other questions I could have asked myself, but even the questions above would have given me a much better perspective on what was really happening, and it would have eased my frustration. It would also ensure that I learned from the situation to ensure I do not place myself in the same situation again.

I have used a remarkably simple scenario here to highlight the importance of a wider view. However, a wider view will help you in any problematic situation you experience.

So, when you find yourself in a problematic situation; start asking yourself questions which allow you to develop a wider view of the situation.


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