Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

With International Women’s Day approaching I thought it would be fitting to focus the following Mindset Shift Strategy in honour of and to celebrate the powerful women in my life.

I promise that I will get to the strategy. First, bear with me as I recount the story behind this photo and reflect on what it means to me.

This picture, taken many years ago at my Aunt Kate’s wedding (who herself was also a giant in my life) represents four generations of the women in my family – my Great Gram, Gran, Mom, my older sister and me (the one holding a hand under my Gran’s chin).

I remember this photo being taken like it was yesterday. Given that we didn’t get to see Great Gram very much as she lived in Ontario, my Mom thought it would be special and important to capture this photo of all of us together – four generations. I got into trouble mere moments before this photo was taken. I was admiring how lovely my Gran looked and had got the bright idea of putting my hand up under Gran’s chin to showcase this for the photo when my Mom curtly instructed “Sara, put your hand down. Get it away from Gran’s face!” In cheeky defiance, I said “No! I want to show just how beautiful Gran is!”


To this day this photo is one of my most cherished and it takes its place in a prominent location on my desk. It is a powerful anchor that reminds me daily of the empowered and strong women in my family. Each woman in this photo has endured more than their fair share of tragedies, significant life events (the kind of ‘knock you to your knees’ events), surviving life’s many twists, turns, and detours, plot twists, pitfalls and obstacles (you get the point).

Yet, through all that they endured, their resilient and indomitable spirits persevered against all odds, improvised, adapted, made do, embraced faith, and somehow found a way to put one foot in front of the other to keep moving forward. Over the years, their stories and wisdom have been a great source of comfort and guidance to me. This picture, their collective stories, have also acted as a catalyst in redirecting my focus to reclaim the grit, perseverance, and tenacity required to overcome my own challenges.

These women are not only family. They are legends to me. I remind myself in times of great challenge and uncertainty that I stand on the shoulders of these giants.

Now for the strategy.

During difficult times and challenging circumstances. our emotions can cloud our judgement and temporarily disable our ability to see things clearly. During such times it can be helpful to take another’s viewpoint or perspective to gain fresh insights or clues on our best ways to move forward. The “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” mindset shift strategy invites you think of a person (or people) that have inspired you or who have been a positive influence in your life. This could be family members, ancestors, mentors, a favourite schoolteacher, a sport hero or anyone who you look up to and see as a role model.

Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, take a few deep relaxing breaths, and imagine that they are sitting right across from you. They are here to fully support you and provide you with the intel you need to resolve or work through the present challenge. You can ask them anything!

To get you started you might consider asking them:

  • Given your situation, what would they advise are your best ways forward?
  • How might they handle or approach things?
  • What would they offer as your next best steps to take?
  • What would they tell you to remember?
  • What are you not seeing?
  • What advice or words of encouragement would they give you?
  • What is the one thing that you can do that will create the best results and positively impact all who are involved?

Listen for their answers. It can be helpful to capture what you learn or discover in writing to help with recalling things later. Be sure to offer your appreciation and gratitude for their guidance. You can repeat the process and ‘visit’ with them anytime you need or want to.

By taking on another’s viewpoint or perspective it will help you to create space in your mind to consider new possibilities, choices, and options that you hadn’t thought of or were available before.