Here is some good news—we are all more resilient than we think! As a result, we can find ways to thrive over the next few months and well into 2021. That is not to say that there will not continue to be many changes that affect what we do, how we do it, and what meaning can be derived in doing so. However, successfully navigating these uncertainties will require a change in perspective to prove our own resilience.
In thinking about changing perspectives, I am reminded of a great book, Up is Not the Only Way by Beverly Kaye, Lindy Williams, and Lynn Cowart. While the book is about rethinking career “mobility” in a dynamic economy, there are many ideas that can help us deal with an uncertain future. These ideas can help us shift our perspective when life changes around us.
The book has a special challenge for the reader. It is to watch for your “I never thought of it that way before” moments. There are several such moments I found in the second chapter in the book, titled, “Telescope to Kaleidoscope.” It is my favorite chapter, because of its many powerful metaphors and it is useful for reflecting, refocusing, and revealing different options for the new year.
Here is how I interpreted the differences in telescopes and kaleidoscopes, the significance of each, and how to use both to become more resilient:
- Telescopes and Kaleidoscopes focus light to provide an image. The light used to convey these images is the same for everybody. In other words, we all have the same potential, just different telescopes and kaleidoscopes.
- Both have their uses. Telescopes are used to focus on specific things, while kaleidoscopes offer fun and ever shifting patterns. Yet, each view is important to consider when ordering our lives. The trick is to know when to alternate between the two.
- Different views emerge when you refocus the lens on both a telescope and kaleidoscope.
- Telescopes are focused on a single endpoint. Think of this as a career goal, a method of getting things done, or the ideal image of success. This image or goal you seek can be very far away or closer, depending on your vantage point “in life” at the current moment. The telescope helps you focus.
- Kaleidoscopes provide a dynamic view and have endless possibilities. Each view is based on having at least three different mirrors that can be adjusted. This was key for me in reading the chapter. Each of us have the same three mirrors that provide a reflection of who we are. These mirrors are 1) the skills we have, 2) the interests that drive us, and 3) the values we hold dear.
- Once you figure out the reflection in each of your mirrors, you can begin to appreciate new patterns as you adjust your kaleidoscope. These new patterns provide possibilities that are available to you. Once you decide on one, you can switch the view on your personal telescope to focus on that new image or goal.
If you asked me thirty years ago where I would be today versus how I would have answered twenty, ten, or even five years ago—the results would indicate more than just one kaleidoscope of opportunity. The main thing is that I needed to see myself from multiple points of view in order to be resilient and adapt throughout my military career.
(Aside: Having several mentors also helped me see these patterns.)
On the other hand, my telescope was always focused on a single career point. As such, I made great progress throughout my military career. There is nothing wrong in keeping your focus. However, when that ultimate point proved out of reach, my telescope needed to be refocused on a different path—and here I am today.
(Aside: A good set of mentors can also guide you to a better place.)
Looking back and as I look forward into next year; my advice is to focus on your personal mirrors and polish those first. Do not look at the future solely through your personal telescope. Pick up your kaleidoscope and imagine all the possibilities from multiple perspectives and a willingness to be flexible enough to re-adjust the aim of your telescope.