It was a clear evening as I headed toward Pasadena for dinner. When I crested a hill on the freeway, the panorama made me pause. It was an expansive view, the roadways curving through the San Rafael Hills where homes were nestled in, and with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.
I thought, if I were writing this scene, this would be a great establishing shot of Pasadena.
In classical filmmaking, the establishing shot is the wide or long shot at the beginning of a scene that sets the tone, and indicates where, and sometimes when (time period), the ensuing scenes are to take place. It can also provide an instant glimpse into the concept and/or character relationships in the story.
What happened when I took in the stunning establishing shot of Pasadena on that evening drive, was I got a sense of scope, with an eagle eye view, of what lie ahead in terms of landscape and architecture, as well as greater clarity on the direction I was going to take.
It got me thinking about what it might look like to apply the same idea to life, pausing for establishing shots in order to gain some clarity and perspective.
What does that mean? To my way of thinking, it means to stop what you’re doing in a given moment and take an energetic step back to peruse the bigger picture. And, also it means to view a total landscape before getting started on something, whether it's starting your day or launching a big program.
I often like to pause for an eagle-like perspective. It keeps me on track toward a bigger goal and also helps me to refocus on the present moment.
It can take place in smaller as well as grander moments. Such as:
- Taking a broader glance at what’s on your desk, reprioritizing the day
- Looking at the year ahead with a wide lens, highlighting special dates and deadlines. Navigation is sometimes clearer from a higher vantage point.
- Focusing in on health – paying attention to the signals in your body, asking ‘where am I and where do I want to be when it comes to health?’
- Zooming in on your living space – arranging things so they feel fresh and comfortable, and getting rid of excess that doesn't belong.
- Picturing your life – through a life establishing shot, looking at where things are working and where they’re not, whether it's a job, a relationship or an idea. A broader perspective helps to light the way for more of what’s working. Also, from that establishing shot, you can visualize the life you desire.
Pausing often to take these brief life establishing shots not only add layers of texture to your roadmap, but they keep you aware and present to your own life story.
Why not give it a shot?