The Power of Perspective is Motivation Enough

A recent exercise in changing perspective got me thinking about both the power in and the motivation for changing perspective. I sing in the Greater Harmony Chorus (, a member of Sweet Adelines International ( At my last chorus rehearsal, we were asked by the Director to use our cell phone to record ourselves as we sang one of our songs. When you are singing in an a cappella chorus, you mostly hear the chorus with your voice in the background. When you record yourself singing in the chorus and play back the recording, you mostly hear yourself with the chorus in the background. This may seem like a subtle change in perspective, but this change in perspective rocked my world!! Prior to the recording, I had felt confident with my ability to sing my harmony part and felt I was blending well with the chorus. However, the recording highlighted the problems with my performance. After listening to this recording, I was shocked by the difference between my perceived performance and my actual performance that I began to feel like I should quit the chorus. While the recording sounded pretty good, I noticed some troubling notes. When I sat down at the piano to troubleshoot my part, I realized how far off many of my notes were! Fortunately, going through this experience gave me an idea for a better way to practice that would fix the problems I was hearing so my next recording can rock!

This post was also inspired by the keynote I delivered at the National Biodiesel Board’s annual meeting last month. In this keynote I talked about changing perspective as one method to broaden thinking. This post will first describe the role of changing perspective in broadening thinking and then look at the power of perspective in your personal world, in the broader world, and in collaboration (

Any of you who have seen Dewitt Jones’ video called ‘Celebrate What’s Right with the World’ will recognize this ‘puffball’ picture ( Dewitt Jones was a photographer for National Geographic and tells the story in this video of wanting to get a picture of a field of flowers but the lighting wasn’t right. When he returned to the field it was full of these puffballs and he was really disappointed. But he decided to work with what he had and look at the field from all different perspectives. You can see that the result is spectacular!

Dewitt Jones Puffball Photo Facebook 17Nov2014

Changing perspective can lead to spectacular results because it is a way to broaden your thinking. There are all sorts of techniques for businesses to change perspective. One way to change perspective is to look at unrelated, adjacent industries to explore opportunities for synergy or innovation. A second way to change perspective is to force connections with other things like trends or mega challenges. Climate change is one mega challenge and others include water quality, water quantity, waste management, food waste, air quality, ecosystem health, land availability, land quality, and so on. A third way to change perspectives is to engage with subject-matter experts outside your industry.

One way perspective has the power to change our world is in learning. In his second edition 2011 book Teaching and Researching Motivation, Zoltan Dornyei explains that motivation is about why people decide to do something as well as how long and how hard they are willing to pursue this decision. Zoltan also explains the cyclical relationship that motivation has with learning. Specifically, good performance in learning is motivating while poor performance in learning is demotivating. Zoltan further points out that emotions can cause these cycles to be self-fulfilling. For example, your motivation is low which leads to low achievement which in turn lowers your motivation and so on. Similarly, your motivation is high which leads to high achievement which in turn increases your motivation and so on. Finally, Zoltan points out that cognitive processes can help break a negative cycle between motivation and learning. Therefore, a learner has the power to change their perspective with regard to self-perception and interpretation of a disappointing learning outcome which in turn can increase motivation and lead to an improved learning outcome!

A second way the power of perspective to change our world can be seen is in our social relationships. In a 2013 paper titled ‘The Relationship Between Social Support and Subjective Well-Being,’ Karen Siedlecki and co-authors ( studied how different types of social support impact overall well-being. They conclude that helpful tangible support from others, both emotional and informational, predicted satisfaction with life. In other words, help from others to change our perspective correlates with well-being.

A third way the power of perspective to change our world can be seen is addressing thoughts that cause suffering. One of the techniques that Wiki-How provides for changing perspective ( is Byron Katie’s method called ‘The Work.’ ‘The Work’ is described as follows (

a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, and to address the cause of your problems with clarity.

Byron Katie provides a worksheet and instructions for practicing ‘The Work.’ This technique provides a way to change perspective through the art of asking good questions as a way to address your problems.

Perspective not only has the power to change your world but also the power to change the world. Consider the story of The Wright Brothers. The Wright Brothers spent $2000 of their own money in 1903 for the first successful manned flight whereas Samuel Langley spent $70,000 of money from the government and other sources and failed the first attempt at manned flight. Langley was a renowned scientist in 1903 while the Wright Brothers did not have any degrees. The Wright Brothers ran a printing press and bicycle shop to fund their efforts. Langley and his team put their effort into extending the work from their successful unmanned flight by building a bigger motor for manned flight. The Wright Brothers pursued a different perspective. They thought that like a bicycle, it was important to get the balance and steering correct before worrying about the motor. The Wright brothers, well, right. Thanks to the fresh perspective of the Wright brothers, the aviation industry was born!


In his 2011 TED talk called ‘Perspective is Everything’ (, advertising executive Rory Sutherland provides several examples of how changing perception can help change the world. One of my favorites was his example of a new traffic light in Korea. This new traffic light has a visual count-down feature built into the red light. The new traffic light has been proven to reduce accidents. The theory is that the perception of how long you have to wait is reduced when you have an idea of how long the wait will be versus when you have no idea how long the wait will be. Therefore, accidents have been reduced because the impatience and rage that results when you feel you are waiting too long is reduced. The actual wait time has not been changed, just the perception of the wait time has been changed.

Korea Traffic Light Countdown Timer

Changing perspective is about seeing something through someone else’s eyes. To me, this sounds like empathy only with intellect rather than emotions. Specifically, empathy is about understanding and sharing the feelings of someone else. Similarly, changing perspective is about understanding the intellectual approach or thoughts of someone else and then applying to your situation. In an earlier post, I discussed that key to high group performance is ensuring both the emotional and cognitive engagement of participants ( Just as empathy is a key concept for the emotional engagement of others, changing perspectives is a key concept for the cognitive engagement of others. A simple formula for a highly successful collaboration may be as simple as the presence of empathy for emotional engagement and changing perspectives for cognitive engagement.

If you would like to learn more about how changing perspectives can help trigger great results through collaboration at your organization or for your project, then contact Valerie Patrick at Fulcrum Connection LLC (412-742-9675 or Ask about the first-time client offer.