The advice that makes a real difference in your life often comes by surprise, and feels completely random.
This happened to me 48 hours ago. A writer, Derek Sivers, wrote in his latest book, “Thinking of everything from the other person’s point of view is one of the best things you can do in life.”
This is the sort of advice I’ve never dissected. It’s good advice, but I asked myself the question “do I do it?” The answer is yes. In fact, I believe, it’s a superpower that is responsible for a lot of my results in life.
Thinking of everything from another person’s point of view doesn’t make you a Mother-Teresa-like kindness hero. No, it’s simply the human way.
Start by seeing every situation from another person’s point of view. Here are the benefits.
You Will See Problems Nobody Else Sees
I find most problems — through this new lens — are caused by me. When you start with the other person, you take the main problem (you) out of the equation.
Why are you the problem? Because how you see the world gets in the way of how you treat people. And how you treat people creates or subtracts a lot of the problems in your life.
Blowing up at people wastes your finite energy. It’s exhausting to think everybody is so stupid and you’re so smart. This is our default human behavior. The lie: “I’m right.” You’re probably not. Your ego just lies to you and says you are.
I have found looking at the other person’s point of view helps me see problems a lot of other people around me can’t see. Why? They’re too busy thinking about themselves. These thoughts are occupying their mind:
- “How can I benefit?”
- “What about me?”
- “Why is X person so much better than me?”
- “I wish I had…”
- “It’s so unfair that…”
These phrases tornado around my head and block my mind from seeing any of the real problems. Replace those thoughts with these:
- “How does the other person feel?”
- “What is going on in their head?”
- “How could I help them in this situation?”
- “How am I complicit in the problem?”
These questions have been life-changing for me. Try them out yourself.
You will act radically different
Since moving to an “others point of view” mindset, everything has changed.
I don’t act the same way anymore. I’m not focused on trying to impress people. I’m not using fake confidence to attract people into my life. I’m not buying luxury items to demonstrate status. What’s changed?
I’m focused on solving problems. Not my problems, but the problem of others. I solve those problems by spending a lot more of my time imagining myself in the shoes of others.
I spend time in the shoes of a bad boss. I spend time in the shoes of a social media influencer. I spend time in the shoes of a writer who wants to write their dreams into reality. I spend time in the shoes of a business owner. I spend time in the shoes of a politician dealing with a global health crisis. Each pair of shoes makes me think different about what actions to take.
The same can happen to you. You will act very different when you spend your day teleporting yourself into the imaginary shoes of others.
You will drop the sob story
Like a lot of people, I’ve had my fair share of injustices. I spent years blaming the education system, family, the economy and politicians for any hardships I endured. I was even angry at myself for not seeing the now obvious signs of former mental illness.
There’s not much room for your sob story, though, when you think of everything from another person’s point of view. You speed straight past your sob story and into the middle of someone else’s story. It’s a really powerful feeling. You feel like you can hear people differently. You spend a lot of time picking up the subtle signs they’re telling you through their words, gestures, and actions.
I wish I knew the positive effects of spending more time in someone else’s story other than my own… all those years ago, when the world looked dark.
You will be more generous
When I spend time in other people’s shoes I feel more generous. I think about what they might be enduring and then the thought of “how could I be helpful” enters my mind. The natural reaction is to be a little generous.
You don’t want to give away all of your life savings or anything. But you do feel like you want to give away the ideas, thoughts, and resources that have helped you a little over the years.
Your work life looks different
A typical 9-5 job is focused on revenue, KPIs, and random business forecast generators. My work life has changed entirely.
I go to work thinking about the customers I work with and what they must be feeling. Are they overworked? Are they getting too many emails? What’s helpful to them as opposed to good for my back pocket? What can I give them that they wouldn’t expect in a million years? What else can I give them for free and not charge them for? (Strangely the more free stuff you give a customer the more they’re dying to spend money with your business.)
I talk to people I work with and it’s a different story. They’re focused on their next promotion or their annual bonus. I don’t find myself thinking about that anymore.
I believe if I spend enough time in the customer’s shoes then their success will do the talking for me and attract new career opportunities.
For a former wannabe Wolf of Wall Street, this new thinking surprises me. I used to be so addicted to success and trying to look good that I didn’t care about any customer — only their wallet. If you genuinely think about other people, you’ll solve more business problems.
Customers are just normal people who are quietly hoping you see the world the way they do.
Your world looks upside down
I don’t know who I am anymore. Spending time looking at the world from different angles that aren’t my own has changed me. I realized I’m wrong about most things.
What is right, is only right, from a certain view of the world. You can be right or wrong depending on whose shoes you’re wearing in that moment.
Try on different people’s shoes. Get in their head. Escape your own world. Get lost in their world.
You become bored with your life when all you do is focus on how the world looks from your point of view, and then unconsciously try and defend that worldview.
Turn your world upside down by spending 50% or more of your time in other people’s shoes. Life will become exciting again in a different way.
Not everything is perfect with this life-hack. You can become so extreme with looking at the world from the view of others that you don’t think about yourself enough.
This can lead you to neglect yourself. You may accidentally try and adopt everybody else’s worldview instead of forming you’re own.
Balance is the key. Be good to others, and yourself.
Derek Sivers reminded me that at any moment a tiny concept you might already be practicing can feel life-changing.
It pays to spend your time looking at the world from other people’s standpoint, so you can discover and solve problems you didn’t think you could before. In the process, your life will have even greater meaning. Humans are a connected species.
Reconnect through changing world-views regularly to experience a miracle in life: radical compassion for your fellow human.
This article first appeared on Medium.