Exploring the World with Receptivity and Expectation
Like everyone else, we eventually get bored of noticing the same things day after day.
What we like to do is explore and move away from expectations. There must be some activity or
pastime that triggers such excitement towards new destinations. Maybe it is the dull continuity
and repetition of similar surroundings that is making us desperate to discover new things. In “On
Habit” by Alain de Botton, de Botton makes distinctions between the “traveling mindset” and a
“habituated” view of the world in the line between receptivity and expectation. The mindset
described as habituated, is dull to the human mind and life because it takes on a pattern in which
there is no spontaneity for an individual to explore new ideas and experiences. The mindset is
not necessarily an indication that the real world provides no intellectual or emotional satisfaction
for the human being, rather it is inside the mind of the individual that confines him or her to
believe that there is nothing to look forward to. By believing that there is nothing new to see or
learn, we no longer find interest in places we encounter or pass through. On the other hand, a
“traveling mindset” is concentrated on receptivity, meaning, the willingness to process and find
value in human experiences and knowledge. The whole purpose between the distinctions of the
“traveling mindset” and a “habituated” view of the world is not necessarily trying to prove which
one is better but rather a way to show how the human approach to daily life needs to be set on
learning new lessons and experiences.
An individual that has an open mind to the new opportunities and learning experiences
that surround every day life look at people, places, and events with an eager desire to engage
them with a “traveling mindset” approach. This is evoked from a receptive attitude. Receptivity is said to be the “chief characteristic” of a traveling mindset (de Botton 62). When a person has
such receptivity then their surroundings are no longer habituated. For example, “I forced myself
to obey a peculiar kind of mental command: to look around me as though I had never been in this
place before. And slowly, my travels began to bear fruit.” (de Botton 63). After reading de
Maistre’s work, de Botton tries to reverse the process of habituation by disassociating his
surroundings; he then approaches his neighborhood as if everything around him was something
new. By doing so, he discovers new things and learns to appreciate the buildings and site that
were already there. If one were to approach his or her locales with a “traveling mindset”, they’ll
begin to notice objects that release latent layers of value. They will then start to notice more
traits that make up your environment, things that were not noticed before. This would allow
people to remind themselves how certain means contributed differently to their lives. Rather
than just simply acknowledging an object’s basic functions, we have to appreciate its inner worth
As people, we are capable of completely evolving in life through our change of outlooks.
The idea that we are in control of our lives is often questioned, as new ideas are introduced.
We are more inclined on our destination rather than the journey and approach it took to reach
there. On the contrary, “the pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the
mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to” (de Botton 61). When we’re
traveling, it doesn’t matter where we’re going but what does matter is our psychological state.
By approaching a journey with no rigid ideas of what’s interesting, we allow ourselves to avoid
expectations towards new places. “On entering a new space, our sensitivity, is directed...
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