Harper Lee once wrote, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
As a researcher, I spend most of my time observing people to better understand life from their perspective. Though this is technically my job, I’m certain we all experience the same sense of innate curiosity — whether we’re aware of it or not.
Take for example the dark-haired woman at the local bus stop: why is it that she spends so much time waiting there and what bus is she trying to catch? What about the seemingly successful businessman on the Underground, whose eyes sparkle with pride each time a passenger takes a side glance at his gold watch?
These are the types of questions that run through my mind daily as I transcend into stranger’s worlds.
You might be wondering what it is that fascinates me most about humans. Is it our ability to communicate through language, gestures, or emotions? Perhaps it’s how we’re influenced by social tribes or cultural groups? Maybe it’s our ability to control or shift our mindset based on the various circumstances life presents?
In general, I am most interested in the last aspect, which relates to the power of the individual mind.
Just recently, I was listening to a podcast called ‘The Happy Place’ by Fearne Cotton and there was an episode which caught my attention. Over the course of thirty minutes, Lawrence Okolie talked us through his life-changing transformation, mainly driven by a shift in mindset. In just four years, he went from being clinically obese and working in a fast-food chain, to becoming an Olympic boxer. This is an example that demonstrates our ability to redefine our own, personal circumstances.
“Somewhere inside all of us, is the power to change the world.” Roald Dahl.
So, we know we can transform our inner worlds, but what about the broader impact?
If we look at the tools and technologies we’re building today, it’s fascinating to see how they’re shaping the world of tomorrow. We’re building and innovating at a fast pace — we can create whatever we can imagine, which is something no other species can do.
It’s interesting to note that the tools and technologies we’re shaping today are in turn shaping our species as a whole.
Take for example the Macintosh computer or say Artificial Intelligence. Just think about how much these technologies have changed the way we behave or interact. Reflect on what life must have been like before their invention. Consider how it might change again in one hundred years. As a researcher, these are the types of questions that excite me most.
I want to close this note with an invitation to you, the reader. I encourage you to take thirty minutes out of your day and visit your local coffee shop alone. Sit by the window and let your mind wander. Observe the dark-haired lady by the bus stop. Catch a glimpse of that gold watch on the Underground. Become a part of other people’s lives and imagine life from their perspective.