Mimetic desire is the feeling of wanting what someone else has.

When we spend time with other humans, biology tells us to bond with them. That’s why groups of friends start wearing similar outfits and why you can pick up a twang from a friend with a strong accent.

Mannerisms, words, energy and desires. All are picked up from people we spend time with.

My friend Ali first told me about this concept in a chat about not being distracted. He’s a YouTuber. I was in New Zealand when we spoke. I left the conversation wanting to start a YouTube channel. He left the conversation wanting to visit New Zealand.

Perhaps we had thought about these specific desires before, but human instincts and mimetic desire made them front and centre.

It’s kind of scary.

You can be going about your work, following your plan, executing on your vision, when you meet someone doing something else cool and feel like you want to swap places. Many do swap. They jump ship for the shiny object and wind up with a career spent leapfrogging around and never developing mastery in one area.

If you, however, have insane self-awareness, including the effect of biases and mimetic desire, you can appreciate someone’s life choices without feeling the need to copy them.

  • I’m happy Ali has a successful YouTube channel, but I don’t want one of my own.
  • I’m happy another friend is settling down in her dream home, but that’s not my path for now.
  • I’m thrilled for an associate charging six figures for a keynote, but I’m not focused on that at the moment.

Avoid the trap. Want what you have. Desire only what aligns with your strengths and vision.