A Lesson From Stephen Hawking on Putting things into Perspective








Cross-linked from jerryscarlato.com


Yesterday I was listening to a TED Talk  from Stephen Hawking about the Universe. It was an awesome talk, especially if you’re interested in astronomy. Oddly, though, the part of the talk that caught my attention the most was actually not about the Universe at all. Here’s what he said:


“All my life, I have sought to understand the Universe….I have been very luck that my disability has not been a serious handicap. Indeed, it has probably given me more time than most to pursue the quest for knowledge.”


OK, if you don’t know who Stephen Hawking is this may not mean much to you, so here is a short summary. Stephen Hawking is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author. He has a slow-progressing form of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (AKA “ALS”), and has essentially been fully paralyzed for most of his adult life…..by the way, he’s 73 now.


So why should this quote mean anything to you? If you notice, in the middle of his statement he says, “I have been very lucky that my disability has not been a serious handicap”………this is a strong statement from a man who has been in a wheelchair for the majority of his adult life.



Last year I read a book called Mindset by Carol Dweck (thanks Shelli!). The book teaches us that there are two distinct mindsets when it comes to our thoughts and decision making, a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. A person with a growth mindset believes that things can always be improved on, that nothing is set in stone and that we can always become better at whatever we are pursuing. A person with a fixed mindset believes that everything is fixed, that they cannot be any better than what they are and that “it is what it is”. People are not necessarily either, or, but can be combinations of both dependent on the situation.


The statement above from Stephen Hawking fits squarely into the growth mindset group. It could have been very easy for for him to give up at the onset of his disability, accepting that things will never get better than what they are. Considering the severity of the disease, it would have been an easy thought process to slip into. However, it is extremely unlikely (if likely at all) that he would have ended up being the person he is today, and rather unlikely that he would have lived as long as he has. It is easy for us to get caught up in our own worlds, thinking that nothing bad is happening to anybody else…..”woe is me”. After all, we only see things from our perspective. The problem is, when you see everything from one tiny perspective, then you have nothing else to judge it against.  So maybe it’s time to open up to other perspectives. Maybe next time you get cut off on the highway, you don’t get raging mad and throw yourself into a frenzy (yes, this used to be me). Maybe you think “they must be in a hurry to get somewhere”. Seems simple enough, right?


Next time your caught in a simple situation that you are used to reacting to, calm yourself down and think it through. Let your mind decide if it’s worth the effort, not your reactions.

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