Often when trying to fix a problem or work out an answer we get too involved with the details. The problem seems to get bigger and bigger and more and more complicated. Sometimes walking away from it is all that is needed to get it back in perspective. How often do we hear people arguing in circles when all that is needed is a fresh perspective or a new look at the issues?
Easier said than done.

This weekend some of the tricks we can use to regain perspective were brought home to me. I was canoeing in a river, down some big rapids which neither I nor my doubles partner knew. Now the most important thing in a rapid is to choose the right line at the top, one that will take you clear through to the bottom. Changing direction in the middle of a rapid is often not a good idea. My partner in the back of the double canoe asked how I selected the line. Without thinking I answered that I blurred my eyes out of focus so I couldn't see details and then went where the water looked smoothest.

There was a silence for a moment and then I heard, "so the driver is not watching where the rocks are?" "True" I replied. Silence.

Whilst hiking in the Drakensberg, we noticed that if we blurred our eyes and looked at the grassy slopes ahead we could see the slightly flattened grass where cows had passed. Cows always go the flattest, easiest route, so we saved time and energy by finding their faint trail. When we focused in on the landscape and looked for the trail it was very difficult to see.

"Can't see the wood for the trees?" is a saying which refers to this tendency to get lost in details.

How do we avoid it? Here are some things you can try.

Take a break from the problem and when you get back to it the answer is often clear.
Use empathy. Try to imagine how it would look from another angle or viewpoint.
Ask someone else how they see it.
Ask yourself how important the issue is in the greater scheme of things. Perhaps if you ignore it, it will go away?
Lastly look beyond it. Think of your ultimate goal and where you want to be and then ignore the little things that get in the way. This applies to most things from carrying a full cup to riding a bicycle. Look ahead, not at the problem.

Author's Bio: 

George Forder is a learning skills trainer and lecturer.
With years in formal education, corporate training and children's education, he brings fresh perspctive to learning, by drawing on his military and adventure racing/extreme sport background.