Humanities and My Superpower

coaching humanities perspective Sep 08, 2021
shannon and family in glass ball

If you want to know me at all, there is something you should know.

I love the Humanities.

Love them.

All the arts.

I love studying the arts, culture, language, religion, music, history of people all over the world.

I have been known to geek out a little (or a lot) when I find something in that realm that speaks to me.

So give me a minute before you completely tune me out!

In a former life I was a Humanities adjunct professor at a few universities in my area. This was my absolute dream job, but life had a different path and another dream job for me.

But I digress. . . . 

In all my years of studying the Humanities, I gained a pretty amazing superpower.

I didn’t realize it was a superpower at the time. In fact, I acquired it so gradually it still comes as quite a shock when Jake has to remind me that “not everyone can do what you do.”

My superpower? I can see something--anything--from many different perspectives if I choose to: a painting, a tv show, a book, a cultural practice, an historical event, a circumstance, a person, myself.

To do this I learned to ask questions to understand. Not to judge. But to be filled with more love, more empathy, and more compassion. 

I used to ask my students a question on the first day of class. The purpose of the question was to SHOCK. Jolt my young students into awareness of thoughts they had ingrained in them about what art and artists should be like. I wanted to teach them right from Day 1 how to expand their perspective.

The question: “What was one of the most influential pieces of art from the 20th century, and subsequently, one of my personal favorites?”

The answer: Duchamp’s Fountain

Go look it up. It will probably shock you too.

Now without getting into a whole thing (no matter how tempted I may be) about why it was influential and why I like the piece, the point of the exercise with my students was to help expand their perspective.

Interestingly, coaching is not that much different. 

When faced with a challenging circumstance or person, often all we need is a broader perspective. 

That alone is regularly a game changer for me and for my clients. Of course, we get into actions they can take and some things they can “do” too, but that is a post for another day. Today I just want to focus on the larger perspective superpower.

So how do you get a different perspective when faced with something so hard like a pandemic, job loss, divorce, death, a diagnosis, a family member, the grocery store running out of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked, etc.?

Question everything. . . . everything you’re observing, thinking, and feeling.

Seems simple, but trust me. That’s where the magic happens.

These are some of the questions I use to help me or my clients slow down and look at things from a different angle. While they might not all be useful in every circumstance, they can help:

How might this event, person, circumstance be perfect for me?

How might someone in an entirely different situation view this experience? How would so and so view this same experience?

How is this situation working toward my good?

What does love look like in this situation? Love for myself and love for the other person.

What are the facts of my story that everyone would agree with? What are the thoughts, opinions, or judgments I have about the story? 

What if this was all happening exactly as it should?

Can I imagine another way to think about this?

Think about that last question for a second. Is there another way to look at this? The more you let your brain go to work to answer that question in multiple ways, the broader and deeper your perspective gets.

Try it. Who knows? It may give you just the shift you need.

Originally Published 5/7/20

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