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I don't think happiness is what I want, but rather, what I'll get.

Last week I got the chance to sit down with Robbie Stokes, the founder of a movement which I was very much inspired by, called I Talk to Strangers. Robbie walked up to me while I was grabbing some lunch, getting some work done. He sat down in front of me and introduced himself, wearing a shirt that simply said, I talk to strangers, and it's changing my life.

Admittedly, I was thrown aback, I didn't know how to respond or what to do. I wasn't sure if the person who had just sat in front of me at my table was going to steal from me, ask me for money, or if he needed help. I made an instinctive check for my belongings before I finally listened to what he was saying. It was quite a foreign and yet familiar concept to me. I used to give people the split second of attention before I lived in cities like Barcelona, where that split second is the difference between you getting your wallet stolen or going home unscathed.

Robbie was hitting on a much stronger point, however.

Why don't we talk to strangers?
"It's socially unacceptable", I responded.

After a few questions, my brain was venturing into much deeper and powerful thoughts about my life, my motivations, and where I was headed. It made me think very profoundly about where I was going. It made me realize that although I was generally happy on my day to day, it wasn't something that I strove to achieve. I didn't wake up every morning wanting to be happy, I woke up every morning wanting to make a difference. Sure, a by-product of making a difference would be happiness, but I'd be willing to sacrifice and suffer through a lot of things in my life if it was at the benefit of something greater and more powerful. Robbie looked at me and said, it gives you purpose. I couldn't of put it better myself, it was purpose that I always strove for.

A smile on my face would suffice for a day, but I keep wondering, will I be counting smiles on the day I die, or will I wonder if my life was worth living?

I think they go hand in hand, and I think happiness is definitely a meaningful part of who we are and what we live and breathe for, but I think if our goal is to be happy, we will be more prone to go down the wrong path. There are a number of ways to be happy, but if none of them give us purpose, we will slowly lose sight of what is important.

I ask that you strive to achieve purpose in your life, happiness will come along for the ride, but happiness alone will quickly vanish when you start wondering if your life has meaning.

What would we get from talking to strangers?
"Empathy", I said.

It was then that I realized that I had sat down and talked to a stranger and it had by consequence enlightened me on a number of topics that I wish I discussed with people every day. We are consumed by the bubbles of our group of friends and we rarely venture outside these bubbles. We never strive to bring new people in because once we feel safe, we like to stay that way.

Social networks tend to reinforce this bubble-like behavior, and on a global scale the problems are increasingly evident. We hate others because they are strangers, because they are so far from our bubble that we no longer care for who they are. Our brains have categorized these strangers so negatively that we are one step away from calling them enemies which is a scary thought we have lived through.

This is why I said empathy. We need to get to know strangers because we need to understand that they are, like all of us, human.

They feel, they breathe, they think and talk, and like Robbie made me realize, they all want to have purpose.


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