Three men are walking through the woods when they come across a half-fallen tree. One man decides to go around the tree completely. Another man decides to step over the base of the tree, where it is close to the ground. The last man decides to duck underneath the tree where it is far enough off the ground.
Which one was right?
Have you ever encountered that friend or relation that is constantly trying to get you to do what he/she does? They’re always campaigning for their habits, trying to get you to adopt them, from which, no doubt, they will receive some sort of validation.
The fact is, we all do this to a certain extent, particularly when it comes to our inter-personal relationships. There’s a part of our homogeneous human nature that thinks that if others like you and respect you, they should emulate you. Conversely, we also feel pressure to emulate others that we like and respect, even when it makes no sense to do so.
Nobody is immune to human nature, least of all me.
There’s a temptation to argue about who was the smartest man of the three, based on which way they chose to circumvent the fallen tree. And if I was the guy who went under it, I’d have a damn thesis ready on why I thought that was the best choice, the implication being, of course, that the others should have followed me (because I’m the smartest ever and going UNDER the tree is the ONLY way!).
Instead, I’ve found that I prefer to say “Your path is not my path.”
When someone is trying hard to get me to emulate something they do in the misguided hope that this will show my love and respect for them, I’ve taken to saying (or sometimes just thinking in my head, while I politely nod) “Your path is not my path.”
On the flip side of that, when I find myself campaigning to get others to follow me, even if it makes no sense for them to do so, it’s helpful to tell myself, “Their path is not my path.”
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that we follow in each others’ exact footsteps.
It only matters that we’re walking in the same woods.