Have you ever noticed how we humans tend to pay more attention to the negative than the positive?
It makes evolutionary sense, after all. If we stay alert for potential threats, we’re less likely to get blindsided and fall in a sinkhole or get eaten by a bear.
But the threats of our modern world can feel relentless. Ten minutes of watching the news or doomscrolling can make you feel like the world is falling apart around us.
Then we hear messages about gratitude and positivity and we think “And just how the heck are we supposed to do that with all this”—gestures to the evening news—”going on?”
Let’s face it: there’s a lot wrong with the world. And this can be especially troubling around the holidays when everyone’s talking about gratitude.
How can you feel grateful when there’s so much going wrong? How can you change the lens with which you see the world from one of despair to one of celebration and gratitude?
Dewitt Jones was a photographer for National Geographic for many years, and in his Ted Talk he shares how photographing people and places all over the world helped him to reshape his vision and perspective.
- You can choose your lens and your perspective.
- Celebrating what’s right with the world is a much more pleasant and productive way to live.
- Beauty and possibility are endless.
- There are infinite “right answers” and solutions.
- The difference between good and great is very small.
Change Your Lens: How to Celebrate What’s Right
Celebrating what’s right with the world is a much more pleasant and productive way to live
Think about it: do you have more energy and motivation when you’re inspired, or when you’re upset? Are you more creative and open to solutions when you’re curious, or when you’re afraid?
We often rely on fear, anger, and outrage to get things done. Yes, these emotions are powerful and motivating in the short term, but you can’t keep those up for long without burning out and damaging your mental health. (You’re also less insightful, creative, and helpful in this mindset. Just sayin’.)
Focusing on what’s right with the world not only makes us happy, but gives us long-term energy that we can put toward nurturing that goodness and also fixing what’s wrong with the world.
This is similar to what we teach about our 3 Circles. One of those circles is about what fills your cup. If you’re doing something that is helpful and that you’re wired for but that doesn’t fill your cup, you’ll burn out before long. Keeping your cup full allows you to be helpful for longer, because you feel fulfilled while you’re doing it. Seeing and celebrating what’s right is one way to fill your cup.
And nothing drains your cup faster than focusing on what’s wrong.
But when you celebrate what’s right, you’re signing up for endless inspiration, creativity, and openness that can drive you to make contributions that matter.
You can choose your lens and your perspective
“Our vision controls our perception, and our perception controls our reality.” - Dewitt Jones
This might sound like we’re telling you to just suck it up, turn that frown upside down, and be happy. But if it were that simple, you would have done it already, right?
Changing your perspective is a process that takes time and a lot of effort. While we can’t just snap our fingers and have a shiny new outlook on life (usually), we can choose to notice what we’re paying attention to, and consciously shift our attention to something else. It’s not always easy, but pausing and consciously looking for something to celebrate can make all the difference.
It’s not ignoring what’s wrong in the world. This is about challenging yourself to find what’s right.
The simplest way to start is to ask yourself “What is there to celebrate here?”
Dewitt tells the story of when he was planning to photograph a field of dandelions in British Columbia. But when he got there, he just wasn’t feeling it. The light wasn’t right, he didn’t feel inspired, and he didn’t dig too deep to find anything interesting to shoot. So he packed up and left, thinking he’d come back the next day and try again.
Spoiler alert: he did not go back the next day.
In fact, by the time he did make it back, there were no dandelions. Instead, he was now looking at a field of puffballs.
But instead of giving up, this time, he decided to engage and celebrate what was right.
So he started taking pictures of puffballs from every possible angle until he got this amazing shot.
If he hadn’t chosen to find beauty in the puffballs (when he’d actually wanted dandelions), he never would have taken this picture.
So, when life gives you puffballs, challenge yourself to find a different perspective and celebrate what’s right.
And because you’re human and not a Superman-unicorn-Pollyanna robot, you’ll never be perfect at it. There will be times when it’s REALLY hard to find something to celebrate. But the more you practice, the better you’ll be at finding something to celebrate even in the crappiest of circumstances. Even on those days when you’re behind on work projects, your kids are throwing up, and the mail carrier hands you a jury duty summons, there’s always SOMETHING to celebrate. The better you get at finding it, the fuller your cup will be!
Beauty and possibility are endless
“If I had to choose between a world based on scarcity and fear and one based on possibility, then man, I was choosing possibility.” - Dewitt Jones
You’ve probably heard of abundance mentality vs scarcity mentality.
The basic idea is that when we believe in abundance, we will experience abundance. And when we believe in scarcity, we will experience scarcity.
We can’t experience abundance if we don’t see abundance. And if all we see is scarcity, we’ll only experience scarcity.
One of Dewitt’s greatest lessons from his time with National Geographic was learning that beauty and possibility are endless.
Dewitt approaches each shoot with an abundance mentality. He knows that there’s so much to celebrate. The possibilities are endless: endless angles, endless details, and so many ways to play with light and perspective.
This mindset allows him to get lots of great shots!
The more you challenge yourself to celebrate what’s right, the more you’ll notice just how MUCH is right, and the more right answers you’ll find.
What do we mean by right answers?
There are infinite right answers
“Nature says ‘How many cards you got, Dewitt? Bring it on! I’ll fill em up!’” -Dewitt Jones
Right answers are possibilities and ways to approach a challenge. They’re answers to the question “What is there to celebrate here?”
When Dewitt shows up to photograph a person or a site, he doesn’t just search for one perfect shot and call it a day. He takes tons of pictures and from those, finds lots of good ones.
These are all right answers.
This requires us to let go of perfectionism, rigidity, and “shoulds.” When we know there are infinite right answers, we can be more creative and open to possibility because there’s no risk of getting it “wrong.” You can free yourself from the pressure of having to find that one perfect right answer every time, because there are so many.
There’s no limit to how many good pictures you can take or solutions you can find.
The difference between good and great is very small
Dewitt learned that sometimes the difference between a good photo and a great one was just moving thirty feet away, waiting fifteen minutes, or crouching down to get a closer look. Tiny adjustments can yield a big impact.
This is true of everything. We often settle for good because we think that greatness requires a massive effort, but that’s usually not the case.
Often, greatness just requires us to pay attention and make a few tweaks.
Remember, there are lots of right answers. So what else can you try? What haven’t you thought of yet? What are the possibilities?
Maybe you take the time to really listen on a phone call with a customer so you can understand what they need. Maybe you take the two minutes at the end of the day to tidy up your work area so that it feels welcoming the next morning. Maybe you let a finished project simmer for a few days so you can give it a final look-over with fresh eyes (or ask someone else to), and make those tweaks that will take it from good to great.
What Is There to Celebrate?
Changing your lens takes effort, but those efforts pay off big. As soon as you ask yourself “What is there here to celebrate?” and look for those right answers, you’ll immediately reap the benefits. You’ll start to see the world differently and over time, your entire perspective will change.
So look around you. Right now. What is there to celebrate?