Over the past weeks, we’ve been discussing some of the attributes of a visionary, and as the new year approaches, one particular characteristic stands out—the ability (and willingness) to see the big picture, to focus beyond the present moment with a perspective that is larger than our lives, the ability to grasp the future and how our actions today can shape the world for years, decades, even centuries to come.
Many of us use the new year to take a step back and look at our lives, where we’ve been, where we’re going, where we fit into the big picture. Visionaries do this all year long, constantly holding a larger perspective and a long-term view even as they go about their daily lives.
Taking this view is in fact one of the ways we can create order out of chaos, as discussed in this post. The classic educational video “Powers of Ten” (see below) illustrates this beautifully, by starting with two people picnicking, then showing us a gradually bigger picture, ultimately taking us light years out into the universe, then back again, down to the subatomic level.
Imagine yourself at this subatomic level, surrounded by the seeming chaos of quarks. As your perspective zooms out and you get a bigger picture, you can see the order of this chaos in the atom. At every step, something that seems chaotic when you’re within it reveals a larger order as you pull back and gain a bigger picture view.
This is true in our lives and our work as well. When everything around us seems chaotic and uncertain, we need to zoom out from the situation and look at it from this larger perspective. Only then can we see not only the order and patterns that are eluding us, but we can see how we can create new order and ideas, solutions that will be sustainable into the future and innovations that apply on a larger scale than we could have imagined from our narrow views within the situation. The bigger our view of the world around us, the greater our impact—by orders of magnitude.
In what areas of your life, your work, your world could you use a bigger picture view? When you step away from a situation, what do you see?