by Emy Brubacher
Walking down the street, you run into an old friend. "How are you?" they ask. Quick, what's your answer?
Most of us would bounce back with "Fine thanks. How are you?" or some other such scripted answer. But are you really fine? Maybe you're feeling absolutely fantastic. Or maybe you didn't get enough sleep and are feeling tired and dragged down. Either way, you say fine because that is what is expected.
Why in a society that values individualism do we conform so readily? Most often it is simply because we are not really paying attention to these routine events. In a world where we are constantly dividing our focus, we rarely give conscious attention to any one thing.
Conformity can have it's advantages. Without some sort of social norms our society could become fairly chaotic. Imagine a world where people randomly jump in line or where there simply is no line. However, when we follow these norms robotically, our actions lose any true meaning.
When we actively pay attention, it is amazing what we notice. Little details that routinely slip by silently suddenly inspire introspection, motivate learning and broaden our perspective. Suddenly our minds take on an individualistic vantage point of a cookie cutter world.
Paying attention makes us put intention back into every move that we make. And every word that we say.
So the next time someone asks you how you are, tell them you're absolutely fantastic because you noticed today how the bright the sun is, because you just heard a great song, or because today you met up with an old friend.