The Ladder of Consciousness: How Perspective Dictates Your Life Experience

Have you ever taken a close-up look at an ant? They’re TERRIFYING!

Crouch down low, get your face near the ground and take a close look.

What do you see?

  • Huge pincers!
  • Menacing eyes!
  • An imposing frame!

Oh, and did you know they can withstand 1000x their own bodyweight?

Yeah! Ants are fearsome creatures!

That is…until you stand back up again. Then, you can see things from a new perspective.

Perspective Dictates Your Experience

Depending on your perspective, an ant is either a terrifying beast or a total non-issue.

The ant is the same. But your relationship to the ant has transformed.

  • From a zoomed-in perspective, you see what’s scary! Pincers, creepy eyes, and incredible strength, oh my!
  • But zoomed-out to a higher perspective, you can see the ant in a bigger context.

This transformation takes place because we live in a world of our stories. You don’t experience the ant by itself. You experience the ant PLUS the narratives in your head ants.

But these narratives aren’t set-in-stone. They shift and change depending on your perspective!

Your perspective impacts your perception of life events. And when you perceive something differently, you create a different narrative in your head. And depending on the narrative you choose, your felt experience changes.

“No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.”​​
~ Albert Einstein​​

States of Mind, Perspectives, and The Ladder of Consciousness

Perspective influences your every experience. All day, every day, the perspective you carry is altering how you experience life, and show up to it.

Think of these different perspectives as rungs on a ladder. I fondly refer to this as “The Ladder of Consciousness.”

When you’re lower on the ladder, you’re close to the ground. This means you’re zoomed-in. You can see the ugly details. And you can’t see the bigger picture.

In this state, you feel like a smaller version of yourself. (Weaker, less certain, disconnected, fearful…) And as a result, all life events seem bigger. (More serious, more difficult, and more worrisome.)

But when you climb higher on the ladder, the experience changes. You’re zoomed-out and can see the bigger picture.

In this state, you’re connected with a more powerful version of yourself. What was once intimidating seems like a small issue. In this state, you feel whole, connected, courageous, and unshakeable. In turn, even difficult life events feel like enjoyable challenges.

“The size of the problem is never the issue—what matters is the size of you!”
― T. Harv Eker

No “Right” or “Wrong” Rungs

Many people make the mistake of judging different rungs on The Ladder of Consciousness as “good” or “bad.”

But that’s not the case. Through mindfulness, we learn to practice non-judgment. That wisdom applies here as well.

There are no “right” or “wrong” places to be on The Ladder of Consciousness. Without even trying, you shift up and down the ladder every day/week/month of your life. Each rung is simply a different perspective you can hold.

That being said, it’s helpful to know that the ladder exists! It helps you relate to your life in a new way. When you see where you are on the ladder, you may choose to act differently.

For example, I have a couple of simple rules for myself:

  1. Don’t make big decisions while low on your ladder
  2. Don’t come to any sweeping conclusions while low on your ladder

I don’t get upset with myself when I’m low on the ladder. But I do adjust my actions and perspective based on that awareness.

5 Obstacles that Limit Your Perspective (and How to Overcome Them)

Sticking with this theme of shifting perspective, below are five obstacles that can keep you stuck in a lower perspective.

Keep reading to understand how these obstacles show up, and how you might take action to shift your perspective.

(I’ve also created a summary sheet that includes 11 Ways to Shift Your Perspective. Download it below.)

Learn 11 Ways to Shift Your Perspective

Shift your perspective by addressing key obstacles that keep you "stuck."

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1. Low Physical Energy

When you’re drained of much energy, you tend to show up as a lower version of yourself. You have lower-quality attention to invest in what you do. And it’s difficult to stay aware and connected to the world around you.

What to do about it: Giving some attention to your energy management fundamentals is an essential part of shifting your perspective.

  • How’s your sleep? 8+ hours/night is essential for your body and mind to recover. Supplementing sleep with power-naps (15-20 minutes) helps refresh mid-day for consistent energy.
  • Are you moving? All bodies are designed to move. Find a way to move that you enjoy, and get some vigorous exercise multiple times each week.
  • How’s your fuel? Eat food, mostly plants, and not too much. Limit/avoid sugar, processed grains, and alcohol.
  • Are you breathing well? This means through the nose, and from the diaphragm. Relaxed, light and smooth.
  • Are you making time for meditation? A morning sit of 10-20 minutes sets the tone for the day. Mid-day meditations help you reground and rejuvenate to finish the day strong. End of day meditations help you transition to sleep. All help you connect with yourself and develop focused attention. Pick what will serve you best!

It’s tough to overstate how important these fundamentals are.

They’re the foundational elements that set the stage for you to show up with great energy. Without giving them proper attention, you’re likely to enter each day in a depleted state.

2. Lack of Clarity

If you don’t know what you want, it’s hard to take empowered steps forward. In this place, it’s easier to get knocked off your axis. You don’t have clear orientation mechanisms to keep you upright.

But when you know what you want on a big-picture level, even obstacles that get in your way feel less significant.

What to do about it: In any situation where you aren’t showing up at your best, take time to slow down and consider: “What do I want?” Think about what you want in this situation, but also on a high-level.

If you want to take it a step further, get curious and put your desire through the “Five Why’s?”.

  • Why do you want that?
  • And why is it that that is important?
  • And so on…

3. Attachment

When you feel that life needs to go a certain way or else you won’t be okay, you’re over-attached. This attachment brings with it a host of suffering.

For example, the prospect of changing jobs, breaking up with a significant other, or moving to a new city may feel too overwhelming to consider in the moment. But on a high-level, it’s clear that this is a part of life. Other people do it successfully all the time. So can you!

What to do about it: When agonizing over a decision, you’re usually too close-in. Try zooming out to consider the situation in a broader context.

  1. Start by identifying where you’re feeling attached. Is there a feeling that you won’t be okay if this situation goes in a particular direction?
  2. Notice the attachment without judgment. See it for what it is.
  3. Consider: Is clinging to this future vision is serving you?
    1. If so, how?
    2. If not, can you give yourself permission to let it go?

4. Expectations

When you’re locked-in to a vision of how something is supposed to go, it’s easy to get bent out of shape. You’re always on-edge, fearing things might not go as planned. This is just over-attachment in a different form. But expectations are a significant enough category on their own that it felt worth noting.

What to do about it: When you’re stressed about the future, consider: “What are my expectations here?”

After clarifying what you expect and hope to happen, ask “What if the opposite happened? Would I still be okay?” Deep down, the answer is usually “yes,” which illustrates the danger of clinging to expectations.

5. Environment

The associations you have with a physical space can shift you into a different state of mind. Routine places are good to connect with routine thoughts. But new environments stimulate new thinking.

For example…

  • Going to a library may give you more energy to read.
  • Spending time in nature may help you zoom-out and connect with the big-picture gifts of life.
  • Too much time in your home or office may cause you to feel cooped-up and agitated.
  • A messy environment lends itself to cluttered thoughts.
  • Surrounding yourself with negative people is likely to leave you feeling negative.

What to do about it: When taking action on something important, consider the influence of your environment. A simple shift can go a long way. What would be optimal? If that’s not available, what might you do to shift your environment just a bit towards what’s optimal? (e.g. I’ll take a walk for 10 minutes to shift perspectives before starting this task.)

See Your Perspective and Shift

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett

Understanding the power of perspective helps you see life more clearly. And it gives you another lever to pull at when working through life’s challenges.

Feeling stuck? Looking for new opportunities? Trying to solve a problem? Consider the role of perspective.

How might shifting your perspective serve you?

It can be difficult to recognize when your perspective is out-of-whack. That’s one of the reasons why working with a coach is so valuable.

But building this awareness for yourself is a powerful capability to develop.

To get started with this topic, consider the following reflection questions:

  • When are you at your best?
  • What does your ladder of consciousness look like? What do you feel like when you’re connected with the “big picture” of life? How about when you’re stuck in the weeds?
  • What are the biggest obstacles that keep you stuck in a limited perspective?
  • What are practices help you shift to a higher perspective most effectively?
  • When you zoom out to the biggest picture of life, what do you see?

Learn 11 Ways to Shift Your Perspective

Shift your perspective by addressing key obstacles that keep you "stuck."

We'll also add you to the Mindful Ambition email community. Powered by ConvertKit