The Importance of Creating Touchstones to Lend Perspective

I was listening to Dallas Clayton (a children's book author) tell this story about when he was stuck in a traffic jam with his son. They sat bumper to bumper for a while before finally reaching the end of the traffic jam where they noticed a bunch of police cars and an ambulance crowded around a wreck. Dallas decided to turn it into a teaching moment for his son. "You see, even though it would've been easy to get upset over all of this traffic, what we didn't realize was that our situation could be a lot worse. We're stuck in traffic but we're in an air conditioned car, we're safe and we're together."

A few days later they were in a similar situation — stuck in traffic — when Dallas noticed himself starting to get hunched over the wheel on the edge of frustration. But then he thought back to that conversation with his son and just the simple act of remembering that moment was all it took to diffuse any irritation that was boiling up. That touchstone was a mountain top from which Dallas could put everything into perspective and not get swept up in the negative emotions of the moment.

Creating these touchstones for ourselves is a great way to keep ourselves in check. If you're in traffic, just remember that you're not the one holding up the traffic. If you got passed up for a promotion just remember that there are others who are struggling to get a minimum wage job. If you don't have the money to eat out this week, just think of those who spend their days scrounging for any scrap of food they can find. Sometimes, just that simple reflection is all it takes to remind us how blessed we truly are.

A few of my personal touchstones include:

  • the times I've met unhappy, unfulfilled, wealthy families that reminder that wealth isn't the goal
  • the answered prayers and miracles that remind me of God's power
  • the overflowing joy from sitting around a camp fire with friends, laughing and singing that reminds me of how little I need to be happy
  • the moments I've spent on mountain tops overlooking scenic view that remind me to slow down
  • the poverty that exists within my own city that reminds me to speed up

Anytime you find yourself experiencing a moment that is particularly poignant, consciously file that moment in your mind to be referenced later — you never know when you'll need a little dose of perspective.