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Perception vs Perspective (vs Position)

Many years ago (and continuing to this day), the media was filled with stories of house prices and how unaffordable these had become. Being first home buyers, there was a complete sense of inability to be able to act within the market and that led to a somewhat stagnant approach to our search. This continued for a period of time until someone close to us suggested a potential solution that we could investigate. This required us talking to someone about finances to better understand where we sat. As we met, it became increasingly clearer that our perspective of the situation was not accurate to the reality. We were in fact in a reasonably good position (due to our diligence in the years prior to this) and suddenly our perception of the market changed. Yes, housing affordability had changed but we weren't in the dire position that we had earlier thought. Within six months, we had purchased our first house and the journey as home owners began. Without the intervention, it would be hard to predict how long it would have taken for us to reach this point.

There is a lot that can be said about this topic, and it is one that potentially has one the largest influences on our ability to reach our learning and progression of goals that takes place along the way. What has become evident, is that an understanding of these terms is important to being able to navigate the challenging realities that exist. Perception is our interaction with the world, what we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel that guides us. Perspective is the values, experience and point of view that you provide to this. Our perceptions are filtered through this veil of perspective, often rooting us to this one position in our views. So what are we to do with perception vs perspective vs position?

The challenge in all of this that we often aren't as aware of our perspective as we think we are. And the longer we are in a certain position, the more this is rooted to further reinforcing our point of view. In essence, it is very easy to see how an echo chamber can be created when our perception is tuned into identifying specific aspects that align with what we know. The danger of this is that we miss opportunities. These opportunities might come in the form of learning, advances and progressions in careers or relationships, or simply failing to understand the choices that sit before us. Our filter that interprets the world around us consistently gives us the feedback that determines where we stand on a matter. Essentially, the knowledge we gain (or reject) can be altered through the perspective that we take on the matter.

This can also be linked to a range of biases and fallacies that work against us such as:

  • The Spotlight Effect - our perspective determines that there is greater scrutiny on our motives and actions than exists in reality. This can be particularly crippling in the sense that we are unwilling to step our of a place of "safety" to take up opportunities that we feel have an element of risk to them and how this will be perceived by others.

  • Naive Realism - a belief that our perception is objective and unbiased, meaning we overlook the influence of our own experiences and perspective. It is easy to give advice to others based on the idea that our perception of the situation is matched to a supposed similarity of our own.

  • Confirmation Bias - our perception reinforces our perspective through this confirmation, leading to a rejection of contradicting evidence or view points that can be deemed relevant. We are unable to gain the knowledge that would allow us to grow or progress due to this.

  • Dunning-Kruger Effect - we overestimate our own skill through our perspective of our own competence. This lack of competence affects our perception where we are unable to recognise the reality of this situation. An over-confidence in our perspective can see us make amateur level mistakes without perceiving that we are doing so.

What to do from here?

As perception is the way that we interact with the world, it is unlikely that there is a lot that we need to change with this. In the future, we might find that there is additional information that we are able to glean through technology to consider. In the present, for anyone who has ever temporarily or permanently lost the use of a sense will know understand how perception can be altered. Perspective is our best bet for change, but this is highly ingrained into us and challenging our perspective also means that there is a high chance of disruption to this. Transformative Learning Theory would certainly argue that perspective is the most effective change agent, and the one that we have the most to gain from. This also links to our own self-awareness and how cognisant we are of this. An understanding of this provides an essential foundation for learning and acquiring knowledge. This can also link to ideas such as growth mindset vs fixed mindset where we are able to adopt other perspectives to examine how our own sits in relation to this. Quite simply, a growth mindset is open to the idea of learning and recognising that there is more to be gained from this perspective. Our fixed mindset will determine that we know all we need to know, therefore our perspective will be harder to shift as it lacks a willingness to engage into new perspectives to see what benefits these might bring.

And that brings us to position.

Position can bring about a new perspective, purely through changing the role that we primarily exist within and changing the dynamics in which our perception allows us to view the world. These often exist in the form of roles and the ability to determine other roles that exist can allow for direct understanding of how perspectives can be managed. There are a number of straight forward examples that we can consider that demonstrate how a different position will produce a different perspective:

  • Teacher and Student - The teacher is responsible for all of the students in the class to balance the learning approach whereas the student is responsible for their own learning.

  • Coach and Players - The coach has a responsibility to develop a cohesive team whereas the players will be more focused on their own personal develop and individual contribution to the team.

  • Employer and Employee - The employer will be looking to seek the ongoing validity of the business concern whereas the employee will have a more specific role on which they will be focused within the business.

  • Parent and Child - The parent will have a longer term viewpoint of the wellbeing and development of the child whereas the child will be more focused on a short term day to day (or now to now) approach.

Whilst the last one is more of a one way shift, a shift either way in position changes the observance of each of these roles and can provide insight to each. Often the roles might not be quite so simple and explicit, or we know that there is more nuance to each of these depending on our position. Which is exactly the point. For each of the above (apart from returning to a child like state), we can clearly define the role and how the perspective will be different in each of these. For us personally, we are more likely to find:

  • Knowing vs Understanding - Our ability to know about a topic, profess a viewpoint but lack the full understanding and relative implications of this. We perceive that we have knowledge on the topic and would be able to apply this if required.

  • Doing vs Mastery - We understand the principles of the application but lack the deeper knowledge that provides us with the appropriate feedback to produce a higher quality result. We perceive our relative ability to be higher or more consistent than what is the reality due to not having the appropriate markers to reflect on.

  • Observing vs Being Observed - We make judgements based on perception without having the opportunity for that same scrutiny to be placed on ourselves. The values or judgements we make assume that we hold more knowledge due to our relative position without understanding the context of what we perceive to be happening.

  • To Do or Not To Do - We make a decision based judgement that provides an appropriate course of action. We need to consider the two states that exist in this, and ultimately a change in perspective when we move from one to the other. The perspective gained through working towards a particular goal, achievement or outcome can only come through taking the action towards it.

Essentially, recognising the position that you are operating from will determine much of the perspective that you hold. The ability to manoeuvre into a new position (role) will provide a gain of perspective that links directly to understanding choice and determining the success of your particular endeavour. These are key principles, as a fixed perspective will provide limited choice for a participant due to a limited ability to perceive anything different. Determinants of success will also be limited as they are solely prescribed in relation to this perspective. The ability to expand the perspective will highlight better how other choices exist that are in fact more relevant to your position (even if they come from a different position) as we understand another change that takes place through this learning process. Most simply put, the position you are in after taking on a new or deepening endeavour will be different to the one you were in previously. You have gained something from this, be it knowledge, skill, or perspective. The positional change is before and after.

Your perception is guided through your perspective. If you can understand a way to provide yourself a shift in position, then the ability to provide more and richer opportunities will emerge. Start simple, see how small shifts can have a profound effect and link these back to your before and after. You will see progress.


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