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From the Journal: A Note from Jo on Perspective

by Joanna Gaines
Published on July 28, 2023

Brown and beige graphic reads "A Note from Jo: A Collected Perspective"

I’ve heard it said that people can be visual learners, but I’ve always thought of myself as a visual problem solver. Where some might rely on evidence or experience, I simply want a moment to look—to lay it all out and see what sticks. It might be a room to style, plans to finalize, or a half-baked idea that needs the oxygen of life outside my busy brain. It’s just that sometimes I can’t make sense of a thing until I’ve approached it with my own eyes.

Visual work is my life’s work, in a way. I feel it’s part of my purpose to create moments of beauty or inspiration that people can experience, that they can see for themselves, and that hopefully lift them up. It’s work I absolutely love, but it can feel as though it rises and falls on my ability to trust my vision. To follow wherever my eyes are leading me.

Brown banner reading "A Story From Magnolia Journal Fall 2023."

It’s a skill I’ve been honing in quiet for the past 20 or so years, ever since Chip and I started helping people design their homes. Like all things that you and I might nurture and work at, it’s been a gift to watch it strengthen with each new project, every new design.

There have been times, though, when I’ve felt a need to approach some things differently. When life has handed me new challenges to navigate, and my mind’s been a blank. When I couldn’t see the solution, no matter how close (or creative) I got.

Maybe you’ve been in a similar place before—where the way you’ve always done a thing is no longer working. Could be a routine, a relationship, a parenting style. Work you’ve carried forever that’s in need of fresh direction. You start to hit a dead end enough times that you realize it’s time to tune your point of view.

So, I did. I tried something new—something that, for me, edges on discomfort.

A Note from Jo on Perspective

I started closing my eyes. For a few minutes each morning, I quiet the sense that’s strongest so the others can stretch their muscles. I feel the presence of my body. The breath readying in my lungs. I hear the great quiet, and sometimes, if I stay still long enough, the whisper of something more. And when I open my eyes, I know I’ve witnessed far more than what they could have offered me on their own.

I’m finding that I’m more alive to the present moment, more aware of my blind spots, when I stretch my point of view from one to two, to three, to four. It’s like feeling the moment in total harmony, every new vantage point revealing more of the bigger story being told.

And it’s proving its worth beyond the senses. In conversations with my kids, in how we’re problem-solving at work. In moments where my typical approach is getting us only halfway, I’m looking for ways to expand my perspective.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as physically shifting my point of view. I’ll take a few steps back. Walk to the other side of the room. Stand instead of sit. Listen instead of talk. Other times, it’s acknowledging the simple truth that I can’t know what I don’t know, and I’ll ask questions that teach, not just answer.

Intuition and “best practices” are both comforting things, but there’s no feeling like believing you are made of more. That your gut reactions don’t have to be your only reactions. That what may feel like second nature can become on second thought. That there’s likely a whole library for what you don’t know. And that you are capable of multiplying what you think, but also that you don’t have to have an answer for everything. Not until you’ve paused long enough to sharpen that particular instinct.

If given the option, most of us will choose to move and react and decide before we’re willing to wait and collect and refine. But I want to be more dynamic than that. I want to be more today than I was yesterday. I want more than just glimpses of the bigger picture. Because perspective, I’m learning, isn’t necessarily a setting aside of what we may already know, but a building upon it— with the strength of someone who trusts it’s worth reaching for more.

It’s this kind of hopeful expectation that leads us to the stuff of life that sustains it: Deeper understanding. Clarity. Growth. And it’s made me wonder if maybe perspective isn’t only about what there is to gain but what we can’t be willing to lose.

It seems as though the things I care about most in this world, that I’d imagine might be the same for you—the health of my kids, my relationships, my work—require a willingness to grow and evolve right alongside them. I can’t imagine it’s good for anyone to continue doing things the same way we always have. To see people as who they used to be rather than who they are right now. To rely only on what we knew yesterday—about ourselves, and each other.

"It seems as though the things I care about most in this world ... require a willingness to grow and evolve right alongside them."

I’m grateful for eyes that can see, but I’m also grateful for ears that can hear and hands that hold and for all the other parts of me that, together, show me what it’s like to live more wholeheartedly. Because it’s a collected perspective that I’m after now, the kind that builds one by two, view by gracious view.