Scaling is a mental tool for shifting one’s perspective. It is a technique and a practice that can be habitualized. It promotes greater optimism, creativity, and self-efficacy in the place of reactionary, limiting thinking.

This page will offer 3 different ways to use scaling—3 tools for harnessing the power of perspective and zooming out for greater context:

  1. Scale It!
  2. Your Own 1-10 Scale
  3. Scaling Visually

1. Scale It!

The first is a straight-forward, everyday technique for mindfully scaling your experience. This is ‘scaling’ in its most straight-forward form.

The concept is actually very simple:

Rank your current experience on an amphorous 1-10 scale. Simply give it a number.
By only noticing and gauging this experience, you assert power over its context.

Our scale is often small. Like tunnel vision, we tend to react with a strong negativity bias, seeing our failures as massive, permanent, and personal. We can react to negative events as though they are the end of the world. We lose something, and all we see is the empty space left behind, forgetting the space that our entire lives actually take.

The steps above may be enough for you to begin a practice in Scaling. And, below are a couple of more-specific exercises to empower your ability to scale your perspective.

2. Exercise: Your Own 1-10 Scale

You can download the printout of this exercise using the button, or you can read on below and do it with your own pen and paper.

The point of this exercise is to lend perspective to your suffering. It can be invaluable, humbling, and empowering to step back from our experiences and compare them with a life-sized, world-sized scale.

Step 1:

Write down examples of your scales of discomfort/suffering on scale of 1 to 10. Try listing three examples of each using something like the below tables:

How does it look? Maybe a number 1 is a bad hair day, and a 10 is a supernova.

Step 2:

Now, Consider the top 10 on a Global Scale.

The global scale is an opportunity to think of pain OUTSIDE of our own personal experience. How can you imagine pain generally, in a non-personal way?

Write down a 1-10 scale of what you’d imagine as a global scale.


Step 3:

Take a look at these examples. What do you think?

Make sure you’ve written your own top 10 list before looking at these example. The point of this exercise is comparison.

Paper Cut
Bug Bites
Bit My Tongue
Injury of semi-serious nature
Fired from Job
Slightly too Hot Day
Headphones Broken
Caught out in the Rain
Getting shot
Minor Car Accident
No Tea in the House
Financial Stress
Sore Muscles
Losing Items of Meaning
No Showering
Road Rash
Only Dirty Clothes
Natural Disaster
Something in Teeth
Empty Phone Battery
Gum in Hair
Fight with a Friend
Bad Breakup
Death of a Friend
Lost in the Wilderness
Rejection of my Society
Arguing with Family
Fail Out of School
Disabled muscle
Feeling unsafe physically/sexually
Death in Family
Destruction of Ocean
GF Cheats on me with Best Friend
Extreme Confusion
Entire Family Dies
Body Cast
Lost Wallet
Bad Back
No Money at All
Ear Infection/Hearing Loss
Lack of Choice
The Unknown

The important thing to notice here is that your own personal scale is flexible and ever-changing, and you have control over it. If you’re interested in scaling your concept of suffering with more examples of loss, you can visit our section on Grief, Loss, Death, & Dying, where we have The Loss List, which shows how losses are associated with secondary losses.

When we are reactionary, our scale becomes narrow. ‘Small stuff’ can become the focus of all our attention, and our attachment to outcomes of simple matters can become the source of much suffering. Creatively, we can scale our perspective on the events of our life, reasserting some things that happen ‘to us’ at a 10, to ‘by us’ at a 4. (See Creative vs. Reactive Brain).

3. Scaling Visually

You’ve had an experience. You’ve reacted.

1. Now, reflect upon your reaction. How did you receive that experience? Did you treat it like a 5-out-of-10 on a scale of suffering? You are at one point on that line. Consider that line itself as one dimension.

2. Now consider your life as a whole. As in the exercise above, you can imagine your own 1-10 scale of scenarios of suffering, edified by a ‘global’ scale, that broadens your first axis. Where do you put your dot on that line?

3. Lastly, add a third dimension: time. How will the story experience you’re currently having change its context when considered against weeks, months, or years?

This method may help you, after reacting to an event, to visually imagine it, not as the only thing in the world that has ever happened, but as one instance in a sphere of possible experiences, ranging widely in their feelings and impact. When you have a challenging experience, reflect on it mindfully as soon as possible, and imagine that experience with a sphere of context inflating around it. Breath an insightful breath, and sigh.

Practice this. Any experience can be experienced differently, with experience. 🙂