Picture This – Photos as a Metaphor for Life and Work

Morning selfie.

Across from the couch where I pause each morning to drink my coffee sits an empty picture frame. It once contained a picture of me from years past. I removed it in frustration a while back because I felt stuck in an identity that I wanted to leave behind.

The empty picture frame is there to remind me that I’m not chained to the accumulated memories, emotions and experiences that present themselves through my thoughts and impressions. There are other possibilities. Other options. It’s a kind of self-awareness centered on the idea that I’m free to recreate today’s particular version of myself while remaining true to my core values.

I try to give myself the freedom to question the way I’m thinking and experiencing life right now. I stop to contemplate how I might approach my relationships, my work, my beliefs, my goals today. Perhaps even to challenge the current path I have chosen for my life.

Today is a new beginning and offers unique experiences.

Each experience offers an opportunity to choose my response.

Every choice presents the potential to change how I experience the world.

As my view of the world changes, I will change.

Photo albums.

Limiting beliefs are a real challenge for me. I have past traumas, mistakes, and circumstances that still flash their images when I encounter similar situations or people. I have to remind myself regularly that these reactions are not always true just because they feel true. Work can be an especially challenging in that regard.

As a leader, I bump into these situations often. Typically they involve the complex nature of work relationships or the uncertainty and fear that go along with difficult decisions. When I can pause and listen to the belief without simply accepting it, I give myself the chance to consider other options. Sometimes I don’t get it right but I use the picture frame to remind me that these outcomes do not define who I am.

This awareness also helps me be more compassionate and empathetic with others because I can appreciate that everyone is dealing with one type of internal battle or another. We’re all trying to figure out how we fit in, who we are and how to make our way through life in the best way possible. When people act in ways that frustrate me or cause me to become upset I try to remember that I never have the complete picture.

Custom Filters.

I experience my picture of the world through the filters I create. I never see the complete, original picture, just as I can never know the complete picture of myself. I need others to help me pull in details, colors, and perspectives that I cannot see.

This is especially true in a world that exposes us to more information and opinion than ever before. Our filter can become distorted if we limit ourselves to only those options that form the picture we want to see. We find ourselves reacting to an image that is at best a vague representation of the real thing.

That’s why it’s so important that we get out of our offices, our companies, our social circles, our culture, etc. We need to have our filters adjusted on a regular basis so that we are operating with a better picture that gives us better data to make better choices.

Group picture.

Who we are today as an organization does not define who we may choose to become or what we may choose to do. We may have attached labels to our organization that limit our choices. We may have beliefs about what we can or cannot do that limit our responsiveness.

That’s our job as leaders. To help people not get stuck on one version of the group picture or where they appear in it at any given time. The vision is never quite so fixed that it provides the complete picture. We are dealing with a world that is constantly changing and it is this mindset that gives us the freedom to adapt and grow so that we can thrive.

We can help people through this experience by building a foundation of trust through consistent adherence to our core values. This gives people a sense of stability while working through the evolving nature of their role. It’s the frame that holds the picture.

The Camera

You are the photographer and your mind is the camera. You choose what to see, what to keep, what to delete, what to change. You determine the quality of the images by investing in your mind. You decide the point of view whether narrow or wide. You control the focus. You create the context. You press the button.

May your pictures tell a beautiful story.

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