09/29/2015 05:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017



Change the way you look at things
And the things you look at change
- Wayne W. Dyer


Ron, my 12-year-old neighbor said cheerily, "I love your yard. I think spiders probably love your yard, too. Can I take a look?" "Sure," I answered, noticing that he had a spider catcher in one hand. "Lots of wolf spiders. Wolf spiders rock!" he narrated. I was less thrilled than he was. "But today I'm looking for jumping spiders. They have a funnel web instead of a platform web." Ron was delighted to find one on my deck. Beaming, he showed it to me in the container. I saw something decidedly less charming than he did. Ron opened my mailbox and declared, "You are lucky! A wolf spider lives in your mailbox. All these spiders eat bugs and keep your yard beautiful." I had thought I kept it beautiful.

Several things were clear to me in this exchange:
• I choose to be blind to my spider paradise.
• Ron loves spiders and sees them everywhere.
• I want to see as few spiders as possible and I do.
• Ron treasures spiders and wants to know all about them.
• I shun spiders and want to know as little as possible.
• Ron credits the spiders for my lovely yard.
• I give the spiders no credit at all.
• Ron thinks I'm lucky to have a wolf spider living in my mailbox.
• I want to squish the mailbox squatter and now feel bad because I like Ron so much.

Why does what we see matter? Because what we think, feel, and do come right on the heels of what we see. The surprise is that we don't usually experience ourselves CHOOSING what to see. We assume looking out of our eyes, we see reality. But, of course, we know that isn't true, because people see the same things so differently. Think of Donald Trump, tattoos, modern art.

Many things color our seeing, including culture, life experience, age, and interests. This is the reason it's so refreshing to visit another culture. Our limited view is exploded; possibilities open up. Toddlers in Norwegian daycare thrive outside all day, even in the bitterest cold. Chefs in Mexico compete to make the best mole meat sauce, one surprise ingredient of which is chocolate!

Here is the power in realizing that we choose what we see: We have options. We can choose to see people or situations differently. And when we change our view of people or situations, what we think, feel, and do changes too.

Early on in a course I teach, Mary kept interrupting and asking questions. She dominated the course conversation. Annoyed, I saw her as obnoxious. I tried cutting her off without being rude, but we were escalating. I needed to see her in a new way! Quickly I switched to seeing her as a brilliant spirit, eagerly starting a new journey. It changed my response to her. My heart softened. I was no longer irritated. Interestingly, when I stopped judging her, she relaxed and became a valuable group participant.

Yvonne considered her 2-year-old daughter Anna a real problem. Anna wanted to do everything her 4-year-old brother did. Yvonne kept telling her "no" and yelling at her to stop trying things she couldn't do. Friends helped Yvonne see Anna as a normal, spunky little girl, who naturally wanted to be like her brother. Yvonne relaxed. She stopped yelling. She let Anna try new things and stopped her only when it was unsafe, explaining things calmly. Their relationship was transformed. Instead of getting tense when it was time to pick Anna up from daycare, she looked forward to their being together.

This is the good news. We can change what we see. We can learn to refresh our own seeing with practice. The practice involves
1. Noticing when we have a fixed, narrow way of seeing a person or situation, then
2. Choosing to see with fresh eyes

I'm seeing spiders in my yard these days. I acknowledge that we live here together. I'm not ready to love them like Ron does, but seeing through his eyes has opened my heart to them slightly. Last night I found myself thanking them for keeping the bug population down. And when I picked up the mail today, I said, "Hi Arnold," to the wolf spider living inside.

1. What situation do you feel you see more clearly than others do?
2. What's another way to see it?
3. Name a person who irritates you.
4. How might you see her/him with fresh eyes?