Seeing the “bigger picture” is a slang term used to describe widening your perspective to get a clearer view of what really matters, and what doesn’t.
Because seeing the bigger picture is all about perspective, it’s subjective by nature and less of an exact science. Never-the-less, there are scientific principles that can boost your ability to see the bigger picture.
In order to fully see the ‘bigger picture’ it’s vital to take onto account as many perspectives as possible in order to gain a deeper understanding for all sides of the truth.
Increasing your ability to see the ‘Bigger Picture’ increases self-awareness, can give you more control over your life, more control over your emotions, actions, behavior, and with increased awareness comes a sense of calmness which reduces daily anxiety.
In this article we’ll explore expert perspectives, opinions, and the latest science when it comes to undemanding what it means to see thew bigger picture in life.
Let’s Dive In.
Understanding the “Bigger Picture”
What Is Big Picture Thinking?
In a 2018 study, published by Ohio State university, psychology experts define someone who has a “big picture” perspective as an individual with a “high-level construal”. Construal, meaning understanding.
In a clear definition of big picture thinking, according to ScienceDaily, “High-level construal allows you to step back and see the consequences of your decision and to see more clearly the best way to allocate resources,”
One of the leaders of the study, Dr. Paul Stillman, says that seeing the “bigger picture” is fostered by creating mental and emotional distance from the decision. Being subjective and open minded to the possibility that you could be wrong.
In the study, Stillman and his colleagues found that people tended to make the most efficient decisions, with the most overall value, when they looked at the bigger picture. In other words, the best decision makers were able to see ‘the forest through the trees’.
Since scientific evidence has proven that ego’s warp our sense of reality, It’s also important to set your ego aside when looking at the bigger picture as you do not want to filter your bigger picture perspective through your ego.
How Big, Is The Bigger Picture
The Universe And Our Place With-In it
Understanding the bigger picture, is all about understanding context.
With-in the context of the United States in the year 1800, the presidential election of 1800 seemed massively important. However, looking at the Bigger Picture 200 years later, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks the election of 1800 was a big deal at all.
Within the context of the entire cosmos and infinite universe, nothing our human civilization is currently doing matters.
According to Dr. Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, there is much that we don’t know about the universe, but there is also much that we do know. The universe is large, and we are small.
He says , “Our lives are short against the span of cosmic history”, but the fact that we contemplate and care about the people and environment around us brings meaning to our existence.
Dr. carroll believes that humans, as higher-level creatures, have the ability to construct purpose for ourselves.
So how big is the bigger picture?
It’s as big as we want it to be. When looking for big picture solutions to life or a big picture understanding to work problems, there’s always a higher level of contextual understanding that can explored for a deeper and longer term perspective.
Finding Meaning in Life Through Seeing the Bigger Picture
When looking at life from the perspective of the bigger picture, it can be easy to fall into the fallacy that ‘nothing matters’ and ‘life is meaningless’ with-in the context of the infinite vastness of the universe.
While that may seem true, the “”bigger picture”” meaning of life is not known by anyone, and has been a topic of hot debate among intellectuals, kings, religions, and guru’s for thousands of years.
Studies have shown that stronger feelings of having meaning in life leads to both significantly higher mental and physical health.
Although the feeling of having purpose in life comes easily to some people, others (myself included) struggle to find purpose. Sometimes it feels like purpose may never come, and sometimes it feels like it would be better to just choose a purpose rather than wait for one to hit me on the head.
Ultimately, its up to us as individual humans on planet Earth to choose how we want to spend our time on the planet while we’re alive for our lifespan of about 80 years or so on average.
According to senior researcher at the Pew Research Center, Dr. Laura Silver, there are multiple paths which millions of people follow on a daily basis to allow themselves to lead both meaningful and fulfilling lives.
The biggest factors Dr. Silver and her colleagues found that impact feeling of living meaningful lives are physical, mental, and material well-being, economic stability, and overall basic quality of life.
Where People Find The Most Meaning In Life
1. Finding Meaning in the Local Community
Cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Gleb Tsipursky says that, according to studies, people have a higher sense of purpose and meaning in life when they are part of a community.
It’s easy to get upset at friends, family, and neighbors over minor disputes, but in the bigger picture context, it’s healthier and more universally beneficial to find common ground to strengthen relationships.
2. Finding Meaning in Experiencing Nature
Esteemed philosopher, best selling author, and Psychology Today contributor Elaine Dundonthe believes that “our ability to discover deeper meaning in our lives is positively correlated with the amount of time we choose to spend in nature.
Elaine follows this up by later explaining that on a metaphysical level, nature is a wonderful teacher and guide for finding deeper meaning in our lives.
3. Finding Meaning Through Activities in Daily Life
If we’re just “going through the motions” we can easily miss opportunities to get more enjoyment out of life. But if we live by a high set of values and pause to acknowledge these moments, recognize them, be more present in the moment in a new way, then there is an opportunity to connect to the world on a deeper level.
4. Finding Meaning Through Traveling and Having New Experiences
Traveling expands our conscious awareness past our everyday lives, giving us a bigger picture perspective of the world we live in. By seeing how other people live and do things differently it can lead to a greater sense of appreciation for what we have and our place with-in the world.
Dr Reza Etemad-Sajadi points out that for more and more travelers, vacations are becoming less about fancy restaurants and more about living an outstanding experience and finding more meaning and purpose in life.
How To See The Big Picture ?
To see the big picture you need as much information to inform your opinion as you can gather.
What problems are you facing? What is the root cause of those problems? How do you know for sure that you’re right?
What are the best solutions? Have you looked at everything from all perspective to make sure you have the best solution.
Are you thinking big enough?
Is your perspective being overshadowed by your ego or a bigger yet perspective that you’re not seeing?
These are the types of questions we need to be asking ourselves when looking at the bigger picture.
5 Tips To Help You See the “Big Picture” With Clarity
1. Avoid Getting “Caught Up In The Weeds“
Don’t get entangled in the details. Big picture thinking starts when you decide to start viewing things in broader perspectives instead of over-analyzing every small detail.
Part of seeing the bigger picture is understanding the concept of “by-in-large”. If something is “by-in-large” true, then in the context of the bigger picture, it is true. By getting hung up on the details you can be left missing the bigger picture context.
When you see the bigger picture in life you begin to understand where you are heading. At this point you can strategize and refocus your attention on your future goals and timelines instead of focusing on minor obstacles.
Both big picture thinking and detail-oriented thinking is important in life. And, it is possible (and necessary) to do both. But don’t get caught up in the weeds for too long.
2. Ask Lots of Questions to Maximize Understanding
Big picture thinkers do not dwell on the minute details. But that doesn’t mean they don’t ask questions about minute details. According to Harvard professor Leslie K. John, who specializes in negotiation, asking questions is a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking value and naturally improving our emotional intelligence.
Asking questions is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of curiosity and intelligence. In order to get a complete understanding from all perspectives, asking questions is important to gain relevant context for deepening our understanding of the bigger picture.
3. See The Details, But With-in The Context Of The Bigger Picture
Of course details are important but you need to see them with-in the correct context.
If you were to only look at the artwork above up-close, then you would just see a bunch of screws. But when you zoom out and see the screws in the full context, all the screws make up a face.
Seeing the “big picture” in life allows us to focus on that aspect of life that matters the most without being distracted by inconsequential details.
4. Don’t Dwell on Problems, Focus on Solutions
Big picture visionary’s like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and George Washington back in the day, all have dealt with their share of problems. but for every problem they face, they maintain focused on the bigger picture goal and invent solutions to get them there.
When seeing the bigger picture you become very fast at solving problems.
Big picture thinking allows you to gain a new perspective on your approach to issues to see things more clearly. A wider perspective gives you the ability to observe and predict solutions for every problem.
You’ll start considering how your ideas will unfold and be able to visualize future impacts.
When you develop a bird-eye view on things, you begin aligning your efforts, intentions, solutions, and ideas with life goals.
5. Maintain a Clear Vision of Your Big Picture Goals
Creative strategist consultant Royale Scuderi notes that with a vision in mind, you’re more likely to achieve far more that what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision.
I used to fall victim to starting a project, getting caught up in the details, and then loosing sight of the ‘big picture’ end goal. At which point i would usually throw up my hands in frustration and walk away.
But by seeing the bigger picture, the path towards completing your goals becomes very clear. You may have to ‘dive into the weeds’ but you still maintain a clear view of the bigger picture you need to head while you’re in the details.
The big picture perspective works to reinforce the real reason for the activities you engage in daily.
Unfortunately, in the absence of maintaining a vision on clearly set objectives, we become vulnerable to being pulled in any direction by trivial acts, distracting us to shift our priorities.
Are You A Big Picture Thinker Or A Detailed Thinker ?
Big picture thinking is a skill than anyone can develop, but like any skill, some people are naturally geared towards big picture thinking, and some people are naturally geared toward detail oriented thinking.
Without detailed oriented thinking, big picture thinkers would never have their visions come to reality. And without big picture thinking, detailed oriented thinkers may end up lost in the weeds. it take a balance of both types of thinking to optimize value.
Characteristics of Big Picture Thinking
- You quickly notice patterns in problems.
- You have a low tolerance for routine details, tedious errands, and busywork.
- You are great at outlining goals for what needs to be done. But you get tired quickly when you start getting into the smaller more tedious details that need to be done to achieve the goals.
- Most people find big picture thinkers creative and innovative.
Characteristics of a Detail-Oriented Thinker
- You tend to dwell on the ins and outs of a project’s specifics.
- You enjoy optimizing the inner workings of something that already exists instead of starting from scratch and creating something new.
- You are analytical.
- You tend not to like change and can becomes frustrated if things change too much or with-out proper notice.
- You fear failure and not doing things the right way.
Final Thoughts: Seeing The Bigger Picture
Seeing the bigger picture can be a gift and a curse. It can help solve problems with ease and efficiency. It can lead to feelings of lost meaning from a cosmic perspective or feeling of deeper meaning from a family, community, and belonging perspective.
Seeing the “bigger picture” is not something you can just decide to do spontaneously like hiking up a mountain to get a better view. Seeing the bigger picture in life takes a little bit of conscious effort.
But simply by being aware of other perspectives, the effort it requires to see the bigger picture becomes easier over time, just like developing any skill.
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