New research shows recalling memories from a third-person perspective changes how your brain processes them. When you take the third-person point of view, you are the narrator of job obstacles and career disappointments. The practice of self-distancing, however, gives you the view of an observer, widening your perspective and helping you see the bigger picture—the water you’re swimming in. And it reveals solutions to problems and possibilities to work obstacles so you can scale them and enjoy career success.
Previous Studies On Self-Distancing
Research shows silently referring to ourselves by name instead as “I,” gives us psychological distance from the primitive parts of our brain. University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross conducted research into the value of first-name self-talk as a way to disable social anxiety before and after a stressful event when people often ruminate about their performance. Kross gave 89 participants five minutes to prepare a speech. Half were told to use only pronouns to refer to themselves while the other half were told to use their names. The pronoun group had greater anxiety with such comments as, “There’s no way I can prepare a speech in five minutes,” while the name group had less anxiety and expressed confidence using self-talk such as, “Bryan, you can do this.” The name group was also rated higher in performance by independent evaluators and were less likely to ruminate after the speech. Other studies also show that first-name self-talk is more likely to empower you and increase the likelihood that, compared to someone using first-person pronoun self-talk, you see a challenge instead of a threat.
In a study conducted by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, researchers assigned 104 people to one of three groups: group 1 experienced positive feelings (amusement or serenity), group 2 negative feelings (anger or fear), and group 3 no special feelings (neutrality). Then the researchers said, “Given how you’re feeling, make a list of what you want to do right now.” The positive group had the longest list of possibilities compared to the negative and neutral groups because the positive perspective showcased a range of possibilities. You have agency to broaden and build your brain’s constrictive “zoom lens” into a “wide-angle lens,” creating a perspective that broadens your range of vision to take in more information and free you from your mind’s limitations.
Clayton Critcher and David Dunning at the University of California at Berkeley conducted a series of studies showing that positive affirmations function as “cognitive expanders,” bringing a wider perspective to diffuse the brain’s tunnel vision of self-threats. Their findings show that affirmations help us transcend the zoom-lens mode by engaging the wide-angle lens of the mind. Self-affirmations helped research participants cultivate a long-distance relationship with their judgment voice and see themselves more fully in a broader self-view, bolstering their self-worth.
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