Perspective: What Are You Looking At?

My coaching clients and I do a lot of perspective work. We all see things our way, and often think it is the best, right, or only way. But look at your point of view from another perspective, and you often run into a real “Aha!’ moment.

Doing perspective work isn’t easy. It requires you to imagine what someone else believes or thinks. Often, a good way to get there is to use images. It makes it easier to imagine.

Clouds on Lake Michigan

Clouds on Lake Michigan

I flew to the East Coast today, through Chicago. I love Chicago–it has friendly people, great restaurants, and I love Centennial Park. But the site that always amazes me is the flight over Lake Michigan. I think of the people who stood at the edge of what looks like an ocean, and decided to cross it, not having any idea of what they would discover or encounter on the crossing. And did it anyway.

The other amazing thing is that the city of Chicago presses on the edge of Lake Michigan, busy and crowded. On the other side, are small cities, much more pastoral. Why isn’t it as busy on the other side?

It’s a perspective issue. Flying over Lake Michigan, I was struck at the luminosity of the water. Last time I saw it, in November, it was gray and dark. Today it looked turquoise and serene. Over the water were shadows, and at first I thought they were some kind of wave effect. After studying them a few minutes, I saw they were rows of clouds between the airplane and the water. It suddenly “clicked” in my head, and then I couldn’t see it any other way.

Perspective work in coaching is like that. You see one thing, then, with some thinking, it suddenly “clicks” and you can see it another way. It frequently is followed by a rush of understanding and

Chicago coastline

Chicago coastline


The two images are both of Lake Michigan. In the smaller image, you can see the edge of Chicago. The light-colored rectangle on the middle left edge  is the wing of the airplane.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See more about coaching at (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “Perspective: What Are You Looking At?

  1. History mostly answers the question of why no large development on the other side: lumber and mining and Indian territory mostly restricted settlement of the northern parts of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota; also lake effect snows which bury western Michigan each year.
    My great-grandfather was a lumberman in northern Michigan but his family lived in Port Huron, which was one of the larger settlements in Michigan (crossing to the west through Ohio was dangerous because of the the fierceness of the Mohawks, so most western travel was across Canada to Port Huron and up along the coasts of Michigan). My grandfather said he was terrified by his father’s appearance each spring with his wild hair and beard.

  2. Quinn,
    That change of perspective…so important to moving on creatively and yet, sometimes, so hard to do. And pushing for it, doesn’t help…but just like your photos, it happens suddenly, when you are looking for or at something else.

    —> It’s amazing. You can almost hear the “click” when the perspective shifts! -Q

  3. Quinn,
    Thank you for taking me on this vicarious journey! Your photos add so much to this blog. I never thought of Lake Michigan being so beautiful, or the contrasting lifestyles on its shores. I wish everyone living there could read this and have a fresh perspective of their own setting.


    —-> It’s really great to get such a different perspective when you fly. You see things you’d never notice at ground level. I’ve often wondered why Chicago developed so fully, and there isn’t a huge matching city on the other side. Must have to do with railroads and commerce in the development stage. -Q

  4. I simply love what you wrote. Once it “clicks” in your head then also ‘the magic’ has gone.

    Would love to go and visit Chigago some day.

  5. when my little brother was about 5 or so he was trying to say “perceptive” to copy some adult but came out with the accidental “vewy perspective of you”. Never found a place to use it ’til now!

  6. I love how your photos and the analogy really bring this point home. A change in perspective sometimes just brings freshness and creativity to a situation – while other times it leads to a complete paradigm shift!


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