Writing does a lot of things for me, and I suspect for a lot of people.

It can help me work through problems.

It can be therapeutic.

It also allows us to examine things from different points of view.

In itself, this is powerful. Taking the perspectives others may have can help us recognize blind spots. It can help us understand and empathize with others.

But today, I am thinking about a very specific type of perspective: the level from which we observe events.

Understanding Field of View

Field of view is a concept we intuitively understand.

When you look at something from a very close distance, two things happen:

  1. You see the details more clearly; each detail composes a larger percentage of the total area within your view.

  2. The total area within your view becomes smaller.

Your field of view can become so narrow that you miss things that are close by, but just outside of your focus.

The tradeoff here is that because you are looking at something so closely, you will be able to see things that others do not. At the same time, you will miss things that others may expect you to see.

I am a visual thinker, so I often consider levels in the context of space. Physically being close to the ground, or the bark on a tree. Physically putting something under the microscope.

You can adjust your field of view along various dimensions:

  • Time: very short term to very long term, or past / present / future
  • Physical Distance
  • Topical Scope: This refers to the abstract frame of our thoughts. Are we thinking about this as if we are very close to our subject (detailed) vs. high level and far away.

Escaping Tunnel Vision

It is easy to fall into a trap where we are seeing things too closely, and we lose sight of an event’s relative importance in the grand scheme of our lives.

Good focus, by design, enables us to block out the things that do not matter. However, when the object of our focus pulls us in too much, it can also blind us to other important things.

The solution is the ability to detach. Meditation is an excellent means to train the ability to “un-focus” and detach. This allows you to put things back into perspective and re-assign your attention properly.