John Steinbeck once wrote that what we “see” in life at any given moment is determined in part by how we are feeling.1
“….. I discovered long ago in collecting and classifying marine animals that what I found was closely intermeshed with how I felt at the moment. External reality has a way of being not so external after all. … This monster of a land, …, turns out to be the macrocosm of microcosm me.”
What Steinbeck discovered about himself in a scientific endeavor is true for every one of us, and influences many aspects of our lives. We co-occupy this planet with about 7 billion people, yet we see and interact with only a small fraction of them every day. So who do we see, and why? Who do we connect with, and why? Who you see and connect with is, for the most part, up to you. But this also means that you have to make choices.
Don’t get me wrong; there is randomness in life. We don’t control whom we see and the extent to which we connect with them. You can’t predict who will be standing in front of you in the lunch line tomorrow or who will be sitting next to you on the bus. But what you can control is how you choose to “see” the people that are around you every day, and more so, how you choose to interact and connect with them.
Most people are in your life by choice or design – not necessarily completely by your choice or design, but they are in your life for a reason. This does not mean that you have no control of your connections with people in your life. You greatly influence the outcomes of every relationship in your life – even if it began by chance. Let me provide a few suggestions of what you might aim for and why...!
understand that how you feel influences whom you see and how connect with people, and that the same is true for everybody else. If you’re in a good mood, you’re likely to be friendlier and more open to connection, and if not, quite the opposite. It is important to keep this in mind always, because the responses you get from others are also highly a result of their present state of being. Once you understand this, you can begin to be aware of this and, more importantly, learn to manage it so that you meet the people you'd like to meet, or keep relationships you'd like to keep.
enhance your ability to see and to connect with people. You can do this by simply changing the way to go about “seeing” others. As in work and sport and school, you can create a “game plan” to improve or change the outcome of something. So here’s a “game plan” to try: next time you’re about to step outside your dorm room or apartment door, stop for a second and think about who you might encounter, and think of them not as objects impeding on your progress to the coffee shop, but as individuals with whom you share this planet. These are people to meet, to interact with, to talk to, to smile at, to help, and to love – don’t give up the chance to choose to do any of these options.
know that making a conscious effort to really see and connect with people in your life may pay off greatly, not only in your life, but in theirs as well. Seeing and interacting reminds us that we are not alone, and this reminds us to be sensitive to the problems and to the good fortunes of others, and to share both. A little inspiration can go a long way, even if it’s just a smile or pausing for a moment to hold the door open for a stranger.
remember that time and energy are limited resources. You cannot possibly see and connect with every single person you encounter every single day. So be strategic. Have you heard of the strategy to get the largest number of different-sized stones into a container? Well, it goes like this. You start with the large stones and work your way down to the smallest stones. And, BAM! You now have the largest number of different-sized stones in the same jar. You can do this in your life! This strategy works for any and every overwhelming situation in life; and it works especially well when considering valuable relationships in your life. Make a plan on how to manage the relationships in your life by allocating your “seeing” resources, that is your time and energy. Begin with the really important people in your life and plan to see and connect with them, and then continue with other people, ending with acquaintances with whom you simply exchange a smile and “hi”. All of these relationships provide something to you, and to the recipients, even if it is just a friendly passing “hello”. You are who and where you are at this very moment. But you are not alone and you have a job to do – be part of the whole.
So, open your eyes, and look at who of those seven billion people are in your life today. And don’t forget to smile :)
1Travels With Charlie, 1961
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The Words of Wisdom Column, Lia Vosti:
Lia Vosti is an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, majoring in Bioengineering. Growing up together, her words always made the most obscure situations crisp and clear. She is the up and coming Renaissance woman, able to give homely advise after a day in the lab, and wise beyond her years.