Our minds are very good at filtering information based on a small number of variables.
What we spend our time thinking about is what we’ll have quick insight into when we encounter a new situation. Are you obsessed with money? You’ll immediately notice if there are opportunities for profit. Power? Reputation? The facts will arrange themselves to suit your burning questions.
Sometimes, too, the facts will arrange themselves to match someone else’s questions. If you know someone well and they are fellow observers with you, you’ll be able to anticipate some of their reactions.
It’s like picking up an imprint of someone else’s spirit. You know that they always demand that you justify your ideas in light of one particular filter, and so you begin to see through that same filter.
My recommendation is to learn to read situations in light of the possibilities for growth in virtue, wisdom, happiness. Look for those paths first. That’s the very best way to get the most out of every new scene that arises. And precisely by gaining that filter, we have already made one of the biggest advances we can make on the road toward wisdom and virtue and happiness.
And it will spread from us. It will grow slowly, but the people who spend time with us will eventually come to see things differently than they did before. We don’t need to preach, cajole, convince.
We just need to learn to see things in a different way, and then wear those lenses into every conversation, every new moment. The changes around us will be slow but inevitable.
And if you think you know others who already think in this way, it’s never a bad idea to spend time with them when you can, and to try to let them have the same influence on you that you hope to share with others.