How well do you see?
I'm not talking about your score on the eye exam or the prescription of your glasses.
How well do you actually see yourself, other people, and the world around you?
Today I want to kickoff the first post of 2020 talking about the 4 levels of sight. It seems perfect to talk about sight during 20/20 right? I like to think that the way we interact with the world and the value we bring to it is largely based on what level of sight we are able to develop. Let's look at the 4 levels and see if you can recognize which level you operate at most often.
Level 1 Sight - Seeing Only Yourself
The first phase of life that we enter into as children is one of growth and self-awareness. We focus on what we want and when we want it. We don't care if it disrupts everyone in a movie theater or the supermarket, if we want a cookie we will scream until mom or dad gives us one. As teenagers we tend to hyper focus on ourselves and how we look as though we are the center of the whole universe and everybody's attention. I remember stressing over a zit on my nose that I was sure everybody was going to see and remember forever. Turns out, everybody else in junior high was stressing about their own zits and didn't have time to focus on mine. This is the ego-centric stage. It's all about me. Although it brings its pitfalls with it, this stage is crucial for our development (and sometimes survival) from birth up until our late teenage years. We start life by seeing ourselves, developing our character, and finding out where we fit in the world. This level of sight is incredibly important, however, if we never grow out of it we will find that it becomes a major stumbling block for us in the future. It can lead to selfishness, failed relationships, struggles keeping a job, and some really bitter arguments. Unfortunately, many people never grow out of Level 1.
Level 2 Sight - Thinking About Other People
As we mature, we start to gain the ability to think about other people. We think about how we can brighten someone's day with a gift or a compliment. We think about how we can include others in our plans. We start to realize that we are not the center of the Universe and that there are other great people out there that we can meet, become friends with, fall in love with, or maybe even be enemies with. Our vision expands from just focusing on ourselves to seeing the world in which we operate. We start to understand that our words and actions affect other people although we still don't internalize it very much. This stage is important because it helps us start relationships and make initial connections. One limit of this level of sight are that it often times only produces shallow, surface-level connections with other people. Many marriages and relationships hover around this level. We are conscious of the other person and thoughtful of what we can do to make them happy but we leave it at that. The other problem with this level is that it still tends to be egocentric; What can I do for them? How can I make them feel better? What can I do to get them to go on a date with me? Even though we are thinking about others, they are still linked to our personal efforts.
Level 3 Sight - Recognizing How Other People Feel
Level 3 moves us into the harder levels to attain. Some people are born with this level of sight but most of us have to learn it. As we mature further, our vision increases so we begin to see, and have concern for, how others are feeling inside. We can look past what they say or how they look and focus on the subtle clues their soul is sending out. This is the level where we gain sympathy. We acknowledge their feelings and maybe we can relate to those feelings in some way. Our relationships and connections get deeper as we connect at a higher level. We put away the focus on "me" in favor of the "he", "she", or "we". At this level we start to evaluate our decisions by including how it would make other people feel. We think a little more before we speak. We are more slow to criticize or give harsh advice so that we have time to think through the feelings of the other person. We gain the ability to shift our focus from what we are doing to how others are feeling. More importantly, we understand how those two things are linked. Relationships that consistently consider how the other person is feeling produce stronger bonds and greater joy.
Level 4 Sight - Experiencing Another Perspective
The highest level of sight, and one that few people ever develop, is that of being able to consistently look at the world from another person's perspective. We all tend to give our perspective more value than that of others. Have you ever been in an argument that just hits a total roadblock because both people have to be right? Have you ever been in an argument where later, after you calmed down, you were able to see it from the other person'a perspective and at least understand where they were coming from? Every single one of us is experiencing life completely different than the person next to us. Two people stare at the same painting and see different things. They watch the news together and notice totally different headlines. How each of us experiences the world today is based on everything we've experienced in the past, what stage of development we are currently in, and how we see the future. The mature person is able to step back from their perspective and look at a situation through another person's eyes. This gives them great insight into the world and helps them build relationships of the deepest kind. This is the stage that lets us go from sympathy to empathy. We don't just feel sorry for someone, we feel sorry with someone. We can start to see how all of the baggage each of us carries with us skews our perception of the world. We learn that the best way to approach the world isn't as an either/or argument but as a both/and enlightenment. It is not that one person is right and one is wrong. Both people are right from their perspective, and there is more they can learn together. It is Level 4 sight that creates the most joyful relationships, workplaces, families, and communities.
The Good News
As I mentioned earlier, many people never grow out of Level 1 or Level 2 sight. The good
news is that you are in control of what level you get to! It isn't just something that happens or doesn't happen and you're stuck where you are. Just by learning about the 4 levels will help you recognize where you are at and will most likely give you a nudge into a higher level. It definitely takes time and practice but the benefits are well worth it. It is like getting a new set of glasses that let you see the world better.
Level 1 - Seeing only yourself.
Level 2 - Seeing that there are other people in the world.
Level 3 - Seeing how others are feeling inside.
Level 4 - Seeing the world from their perspective.
Remember that there is always another way to see every situation. So adjust your proverbial glasses and try seeing on another level.