Are you keeping things in perspective?

There’s a funny exchange you can hear online involving a naval commander who gets more and more irate and aggressive with another ship because a collision between the two boats is imminent.


As he is a naval officer and has a powerful array of weapons available to him, he repeatedly warns the other ship to alter its course to avoid a collision. Despite the increasing hostility the maritimer on the other vessel remains calm throughout repeatedly informing the naval commander that it is in fact he that must alter his direction.  

Only when the naval commander threatens to launch his arsenal of weapons at the other vessel, does the calm, rationale responder inform the naval commander that it is not he but the commander who must change direction because he is a coastguard manning a lighthouse.

Whether this is a true story or not, it demonstrates the importance of staying calm and maintaining perspective. When we struggle with life and become emotional, one of the first things that goes out the window is perspective. Having worked with many clients, the loss of perspective tends to be due to what I call the 3Ps. And providing them with a simple formula can really help. My formula is 3Ps = 1P.  

Let me explain this formula better using the 3Ps: permanency, pervasiveness and personalisation.


If we are going through a difficult time or situation, we tend to think that our current situation will be permanent. “This is the end of my life.”, “I’m doomed forever.” The reality is that difficult times rarely last forever. They come and go like the seasons. They are episodic. But when you are amid a crisis it feels like it will be forever.  

A useful technique to help people regain their perspective is to ask them to fast forward 10 years and reflect on the now. Ask them to scale how bad they would feel about their current situation in 10 years’ time. Putting a bit of distance between us and the problem using time can be a very effective navigational tool.


We live our lives in different arenas. We have our work life, our home life, our social life. When a problem arises, it tends to crop up in one of those areas. If we are not careful the problem will start to leak into all arenas of our lives. For example, we are responsible for a challenging work project with aggressive timescales and we are behind plan: the success of the project is in jeopardy.

When we finish work for the day, we go home and take out our stress out on those closest to us: our partners, our children. This then creates a secondary problem at home. We then don’t feel good about ourselves and start to withdraw, avoiding social situations, a dinner party, a night out with friends as we’re ‘not in the mood’. We now have a third problem as we stop doing the very things that may help us calm down and relax. And our partners, our friends or a trusted third party can be very useful in terms of helping us to see things differently.  


When things go awry, we often blame ourselves and see us as the problem. A recent client of mine was beating himself up as he was struggling with a key product launch.  “I’m such a failure”, “I’m letting everyone else down”, “I’m not good enough for this senior role” was his inner dialogue.

When we unpicked how they ended up in this situation, it turned out that he had been asked to lead the initiative as another leader had left it in a pitiful state. He had done a first-class job of turning things around but this week two key people on the project were off sick and only they had important information for a key meeting with the board. In addition, my client had just come back from two days of sickness themselves due to working back-to-back weekends. Were they really a failure? Were they letting everyone else down? Away from the hotseat and from where I was sitting, it looked like they were doing their very best despite challenging headwinds.


If you find yourself in a challenging situation where you cannot see the end in sight, that’s starting to affect the different arenas of life and your inner critic is putting you front and centre as the problem, it’s probably time to reach out to somebody that has a little bit of distance between you and the problem. Sometimes that distance can make all the difference and help us regain that all-important perspective on life.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7QY
Written by Steve Maher, Executive, Life, Leadership and Confidence Coach
Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7QY

Steve has helped 100s of leaders and clients with life’s challenges.  He is an accredited and certified Senior Coaching Practitioner with the EMCC, a member of the Association of Coaching and works as a consultant coach with some of the world’s leading coaching organisations.  

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