Perspective is everything. How we choose to view the world plays a big part in determining our mood, our wellbeing, our outlook for the future and our path in life.
I have been a fan of Ben Fogle and his numerous endeavours for many years. Not just a daytime TV presenter who came to fame in the BBC series Castaway, Fogle is also an avid adventurer. From rowing the Atlantic ocean with Olympian James Cracknell, running the gruelling marathon des Sables with just a few months training and, in 2018, accomplishing one of the greatest human feats -climbing and summiting Mount Everest.
It was whilst reading Ben’s biography of his Everest attempt that I happened across a thought provoking reflection on his grandmother’s advice to ‘Always look up’:
‘Always look Up,’ my late grandmother used to say. It was good advice. It is too easy to go through life looking down.
It is almost a symptom of modern society, to look down, both physically and metaphorically. Travel on the commuter train, bus or tube each morning and they are full of people looking down. Down at their phones, their newspapers, their feet, anywhere but up, for fear of making eye contact. Walk along most streets and they are full of people looking down at their phones, their feet, the pavement. It is like we have evolved into a downward-looking species.
I remember once on a visit to New York, a taxi driver pointed out that he could always spot a tourist because they were the ones looking up. That observation is so symbolic. You see, to New Yorkers, those magnificent vertiginous skyscrapers were just another part of their landscape. Complacency meant they never looked up and admired the city that others flocked to.
Can you imagine how much we miss out on by looking down? Those chance encounters, opportunities and sights. To my mind, we have become an increasingly pessimistic, negative and angry society. We have become suspicious of success. Social media and the press will often pick on the negative, downward-facing stories and opinions.
“Where is the Up? The positivity, the optimism and the celebration? I’m sure if more people looked up and smiled, we would be in a happier world. If there is one thing I encourage my children to do, it is to smile. Not in a needless, fake kind of way, but in a positive karma kind of way. A smile has a natural way of lightening and lifting the head. Take a look around you. Downward-facing frowns? Lift your head and smile.”
(excerpt from Up: My Life’s Journey to the Top of Everest by Ben Fogle)
This really struck a chord with me, it felt so true to my own life. I like to think of myself as a generally cheery person, as I’m sure most of us do. It’s almost a pre-requisite for being in this profession. But reflecting on Ben’s words, I was very conscious of my own tendency to look down.
It’s such a simple bit of advice: always look up. Yet it can be interpreted and applied to so many aspects of our lives, both personally and professionally, in many different ways. I hope it can be a useful tool for you as it was for me.