Change Your Vantage Point: The Context
In this article, a definitive look at what philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and scientists throughout history have thought regarding the benefits of having the right perspective on life in general and in day-to-day situations more specifically, and how that perspective impacts one’s happiness and well-being.
Modern Philosophy, Psychology, & Science
Modern science and psychology have found that having a positive perspective on life and accepting what cannot be changed can lead to greater happiness and well-being. Positive psychology, in particular, emphasizes the importance of cultivating positive emotions, such as gratitude and optimism, and developing resilience in the face of adversity. Research has also shown that mindfulness and acceptance-based therapies can be effective in reducing stress and improving mental health. By adopting a positive and accepting perspective, individuals can experience greater life satisfaction and improved well-being.
Modern philosophy emphasizes the importance of accepting that which you cannot change as an essential aspect of achieving inner peace and contentment. Philosophers such as Nietzsche and Heidegger argue that by embracing the finitude of human existence and accepting the inevitability of suffering, one can overcome negative emotions and achieve a sense of freedom and authenticity. Similarly, existentialist philosophers like Sartre and Camus teach that by accepting the absurdity of life, one can achieve a sense of personal responsibility and meaning. By adopting a perspective of radical acceptance, one can achieve greater happiness and well-being.
Axial Philosophies Overall
The Axial Philosophies, which emerged in the period between 800 BCE and 200 BCE, posited that having the right perspective on life and daily situations could lead to greater happiness and well-being. These philosophies emphasized the importance of personal introspection, self-improvement, and the pursuit of a virtuous life. They taught that by cultivating the right attitudes and behaviors, one could achieve a sense of fulfillment and purpose. For example, Confucianism encouraged the cultivation of compassion, filial piety, and self-discipline, while Buddhism promoted detachment from material possessions and the attainment of inner peace. The Axial Philosophies emphasized the idea that individuals have agency in shaping their own lives and that the right perspective can lead to greater flourishing.
Confucianism & Daoism
Confucianism and Daoism are two of the most influential Axial Philosophies that stress the importance of cultivating the right perspective. Confucianism promotes the cultivation of personal virtues, such as compassion, self-discipline, and loyalty, and emphasizes the importance of social harmony and order. Daoism, on the other hand, encourages individuals to cultivate spontaneity, humility, and simplicity in their lives and to align themselves with the natural order of the universe. Both philosophies teach that having the right perspective can lead to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
Hinduism & Buddhism
Hinduism teaches that having the right perspective on life and daily situations can lead to greater happiness and well-being. The ultimate goal in Hinduism is to achieve liberation from the cycle of rebirth by attaining spiritual knowledge and living a virtuous life. Hinduism emphasizes the importance of performing one's duty, or dharma, in accordance with one's station in life, as well as cultivating detachment from material possessions and the ego. By adopting a spiritual perspective, one can transcend the mundane concerns of daily life and achieve a sense of inner peace and contentment.
Similarly, Buddhism teaches that the right perspective on life and daily situations can lead to greater happiness and well-being. The goal in Buddhism is to attain enlightenment, or Nirvana, by following the Eightfold Path and embracing the Four Noble Truths. Buddhism emphasizes the importance of cultivating compassion, wisdom, and mindfulness to achieve a sense of inner peace and contentment. By detaching from material possessions and the ego, one can overcome suffering and achieve liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
Traditional Western Philosophy & Stoics
Traditional Western philosophy and the Stoics believed that having the right perspective on life and daily situations can lead to greater happiness and well-being. They emphasized the importance of cultivating reason, self-control, and acceptance of one's fate. Stoicism taught that one should focus on what is within their control and let go of what is not. By adopting a rational and objective perspective, one can overcome negative emotions and achieve a sense of inner calm and resilience.
Christianity, Judaism, Islam
Christianity teaches that accepting that which you cannot change is an essential aspect of achieving inner peace and contentment. It emphasizes the importance of surrendering to God's will and trusting in His plan. Christianity teaches that by embracing humility and letting go of the desire for control, one can overcome negative emotions such as anxiety and fear. By placing one's trust in God and accepting His sovereignty, one can achieve a sense of inner peace and well-being.
Judaism teaches that having the right perspective on life and daily situations can lead to greater happiness and well-being. It emphasizes the importance of cultivating a relationship with God through prayer, study, and observance of the commandments. Judaism also teaches that one should embrace challenges and view them as opportunities for growth and spiritual development. By focusing on gratitude and developing a sense of purpose, one can achieve a sense of inner peace and well-being.
Islam also teaches that having the right perspective can lead to greater happiness and well-being. It too emphasizes the importance of one's relationship with God through prayer, fasting, and charity. Islam also teaches the importance of compassion, humility, and gratitude, and the pursuit of justice and equality. By living in accordance with God's will and submitting to His plan, one can achieve a sense of inner peace and contentment.
- Ames, R. T., & Rosemont, H., Jr. (2009). The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Ballantine Books.
- Esposito, J. L. (2011). What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam. Oxford University Press.
- Flood, G. (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press.
- Girardot, N. J. (1998). Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism: The Theme of Chaos (Hun-tun). University of California Press.
- Hayes, S. C., & Smith, S. (2005). Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. New Harbinger Publications.
- Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and Time. Harper & Row.
- Irvine, W. B. (2019). A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. Oxford University Press.
- Jacobs, L. (2011). Basic Judaism. Behrman House.
- Jaspers, K. (1953). The Origin and Goal of History. Routledge.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Bantam.
- Mou, B. (2014). An Introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge University Press.
- Nietzsche, F. (1969). The Gay Science. Vintage Books.
- Prebish, C. S. (2013). Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
- Radhakrishnan, S. (1994). The Principal Upanishads. HarperCollins.
- Rippin, A. (2010). Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Routledge.
- Russell, B. (2010). The History of Western Philosophy. Routledge.
- Sartre, J. P. (2007). Existentialism Is a Humanism. Yale University Press.
- Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. Free Press.
- Telushkin, J. (2008). Jewish Wisdom: Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers. William Morrow Paperbacks.
- The Holy Bible, New International Version. Zondervan, 2011.
- Candlish, R. S. (1894). The Christian Doctrine of Forgiveness of Sin: An Essay. T&T Clark.
- Williams, P. (2012). Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.