Here’s an account of a chance introductory encounter between two economists and a dentist, from Nick Powdthavee’s book ‘The Happiness Equation’. It’s a small mind-blower:
‘So tell me, are you happy being a dentist?’
‘Happy? I’m miserable as a dentist’, replied the man.
Chuck smiled to himself. ‘What? If you’re so unhappy, why on earth did you choose to become a dentist in the first place?’
‘I didn’t choose to become a dentist.’ The man took another swig of his drink before delivering the final hammer blow. ‘Its that stupid kid eighteen years ago that chose to become a dentist. Not me.’
Here’s the thing; as children we go about growing up. Much of that process is working out who we are. We find out what we like. We search for what we’re good at, and we use that information to form our habits. And that’s where we start messing up, because we look for external indicators. We watch our mum, dad, teachers and friends to see where our talents lie (we’ve not been on this planet long, so it makes perfect sense). We listen, and form our self-view; I’m this and that. I’m not that. If I work hard I could be this…ok I’ll do that. We move from I-like-animals to she-thinks-I-like-animals to I’d-make-a-good-vet.
Job done. I’m a vet. Or a dentist.
All from what we perceive others can see in us. It’s all perception. And perception is as tenuous as the wind.
This week was a small mind-blower for me. I don’t promote my blogs on facebook (I forayed. It felt wrong). But my friend Tony did for a recent post, and two others took up the mantle. It blew me away. The icing on the cake was a beautiful, generous comment a friend added, that came from nowhere and left me standing gob-smacked with my shoes half a kilometre on the road behind me.
I had no idea she ever reads my posts because, as she said, she hadn’t ever commented.
That’s the thing. We don’t know, because we don’t say. But the things we don’t say could have been the things that make the enormous difference; the things that take people off the path of being a dentist and on to the path of being a trapeze artist, or economist. The small comments that can take our breath away.
Thank you so much Claire. Thank you Charlie, Laura and Tony. It makes all the difference. And that’s well worth sharing 🙂