Seeing the bigger picture
A Netflix series that I am addicted to right now is Limitless.
In Limitless an FBI consultant Brian Finch takes a smart drug called NTZ that enables him to make connections at a more significant level than everyone else.
Brian can then see the bigger picture of the unseen forces that are trying to shape the reality of the show's characters.
While on NTZ Brian can connect information as large as geopolitical motivations, to weather, to individual actions so that he can predict the nemesis's next move.
Brian can also perform miraculous feats of cognitive processing, recalling facts with video clarity and mathematical accuracy.
NTZ makes him empathic, insightful, charismatic, motivated and inspired.
NTZ also helps Brain to face his fears and grow as a person.
It's an attractive idea that one tablet could make us super smart, be able to out-think everyone else, stay emotionally connected and operate at maximum efficiency with no side effects.
Being able to cut through and see the truth of things is an ability a lot of us strive for.
To be able to make sense of the world around us removing uncertainty and anxieties.
See every angle, predict the actions and motivations of others so that everything makes sense.
See the bigger picture and know what comes next.
Helping us plot the best path through life so we can achieve our goals and become a better person.
Unfortunately, you can't take a pill and get the abilities of Brian, but you can develop your thinking along similar lines to him.
You can develop the ability to see the bigger picture, make connections and grow as a result.
Here are three ways for you to develop and open up your thinking and ability to make meaningful connections in your life.
Taking on different perspectives
When on NTZ, Brian can be seen talking to different versions of himself, each version brings a new perspective on Brian's current problem or challenge.
Taking on different perspectives is a crucial skill of acceptance and commitment coaching, and you don't need a drug like NTZ to do it.
First, imagine all the different parts of you that you have, all the different roles, all the different voices you have in your head.
Some are kind, critical, motivating, inspiring even. Some are connected to your role as a son, daughter, as a parent, as a friend, or sibling. Some are connected to your job and profession.
Consider about six different versions of you and give each one a name and voice.
Get to know these different versions of you, look at their helpful and unhelpful traits.
For example 'Gary the worrier' is always trying to keep me safe but is also negative, anxious and overly dramatic.
And 'Gary the parent' is kind, caring and loving but is also direct, controlling and arrogant.
Once you have your advisors, call to mind a problem or challenge that you face and then call to mind your advisors one-by-one.
Take time to get into their perspective of the world, how do they see the world? What are their qualities, and what is their energy?
Then ask them questions about your problem or challenge that you face. What decisions would they take? Notice which voice is the loudest and which view you have to listen to.
Think about following through on their advice right to the end. Where would that take you, would it take you closer to being the person you want to be or away from that person?
One last person to consider
One person who sits at our table of advisors but rarely is considered is our self-compassionate voice.
That part of us that can soothe us and tell us everything is going to be ok.
It can be difficult to tap into this perspective, but sometimes it helps to imagine a child facing a similar problem in life.
How would you talk to that child?
What would you say to help them feel better?
Would you tell them that everything is going to be ok, that things will work out?
That we've sometimes got to face our fears to make them go away?
Step outside of yourself
It is very difficult to see our problems and challenges in our life when we are stuck inside of them.
And you know that it much easier to give advice to a friend because you are objective and outside of the situation.
Thus, try to step outside of yourself and look at your situation or challenge as if you were a fly on the wall.
Viewing yourself with a bit of psychological distance helps you detach from any negative thinking or stories that you are telling yourself.
Picture the problem you are facing and place yourself and any others into the scene and story. See if you can be a dispassionate observer and look at your behaviours from the outside.
How would this outside neutral observer see the situation that you are in?
What would they say about your behaviours and your actions?
What advice would they give you?
We spend a lot of time thinking about the future automatically.
The mistake we make when we time travel without thinking is that we project how we are feeling now in the future.
For example, if you are feeling anxious about a future experience now, then you assume that you’ll feel that way when you are having the experience.
But the experience hasn’t happened yet so you have no idea how you will feel.
Instead, practice a more intentional time travelling experience.
Go past the experience to the other side and imagine how you will feel afterwards and complete the whole journey.
When working with people to overcome negative habits, give up drinking or take up exercise this can be beneficial in helping you see the whole picture.
A drink maybe helps you and soothes your anxiety right now but on the other side of that is guilt and shame not long lasting relief.
Or going to the gym may bring up thoughts of hard work, breathlessness, pain and even embarrassment if we aren’t as fit as we would like.
But if you work through that on the other side is satisfaction, motivation and confidence.
Often when we think of something challenging that we want to complete or a direction in life that we want to go we stop at the first bit of resistance.
We naturally avoid our negative emotions either by turning away from them or by moving towards immediate emotional relief.
To get unstuck in life you need to step back see the bigger picture and have the courage to turn towards the fears that are holding you back.
Then you can see that fear for what it is, just a thought with no base in reality.
You can let it go and then step into the space that it contained, grow and expand and see the world in a new way.