We sometimes find clues to who we are and what we really want by paying attention to what we notice about other people.
I’m not talking about wishing you were like someone else or wanting to have what someone else has. That evolves all too quickly into envy.
But there is a healthy way to take notes on other people that yields insight into yourself.
By the time I graduated from high school, I had not traveled much. Raised in the American Southeast, I had never been west of the Mississippi River except for a several-hours trip to Iowa across the river from where my grandparents lived in Wisconsin. But I was too young to remember that excursion.
Growing up in the days before Disney World, I dreamed of visiting Disneyland in California, but a trip to the West Coast seemed unthinkable. I put any such ideas out of my mind, assuming I’d probably never be able to go anywhere so exotic.
Then in college, I met Stu. He was a sophomore from the Bahamas who spoke with an intriguing, British-sounding accent. But the story of his travels was even more intriguing than the inflection of his words.
Before starting school, he had come to the States and spent six weeks roaming America. He’d seen the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, and, yes, California.
Waking Up to Myself
Stu’s travelogue awakened my earlier vision for traveling the country. His experience showed me something I thought I would value doing myself, and the observation I made at the time continues to help me:
If I see something in another person that I find interesting,
it must mean I’m interested in that thing as well.
In the 40+ years since I met Stu, I’ve traveled to all 48 of the continental United States, lived in California for four years, and in the process, managed a visit to Disneyland in Anaheim (Disney World in Florida, too, for that matter).
I’ve visited the Grand Canyon nearly a dozen times—once to hike from the North Rim down to the Colorado River—and have enjoyed multiple nights camping in and around the Rocky Mountains from Colorado to Canada. I’ve also worked in trips to a few other countries, including Mexico, Germany, Belgium, and Israel.
So, the next time you’re fascinated by someone else’s experience, consider that it may tell you something about what matters to you. Even if you’ve never done whatever it is, the observation may mean it’s time for you to start down the path of it.
The reflection you see in someone else of what you really want out of life can be a big help in finding your way to Different.
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