Many times in life we come across a conflict. It usually occurs because we see others going in one direction but we feel the opposite direction is the right one for us.
It might seem easy to contradict the crowd and chart your own path. Plenty of people have done so and gained extraordinary fame and riches. But even if armed with that insight, we all still have a tendency to stick with the crowd.
This is true in many areas. Those around us heavily influence us. It can be our family, friends, and coworkers or it could be from news reports or radio personalities. The sources of influence from others is often understated by, in fact, holds great power over us.
We can observe this influence by taking a look at how we invest. We often look for insight from magazines, new articles, and TV shows. We often feel, “in the know” and we arrogantly feel that we know more than everyone else. Yet these mass media outlets often try to gain as many followers as possible meaning the information they share is shared with as many people as possible.
This often becomes evident when the media is promoting a piece of information that turns out to be incorrect. It could be that they are stating a particular stock is about to go up or down or that some new political turmoil will influence the stock market in a specific way.
In The Behavior Gap, author Carl Richards addresses this herd mentality head on. He says, “We know this, and yet we feel safer in numbers. When we do what everyone else is doing, we can take comfort in knowing that even if we’re wrong, we’ll be wrong with a bunch of other people.”
But if we start to look at the situation systematically we can start to see the influence of others on our emotions. We can account for the fear or greed that is imposed by the piece of information. We can start to see the full picture and not get sucked in to what everyone else is doing.
I always promote the systems and habits approach to improvement. I feel that improvement in life should start with small, repetitive behaviors in order to ultimately make big changes in our lives. But sometimes this gets labeled as a rigid method that leaves us as mindless robots following our habits and systems without thought.
But it is paradoxical because that is exactly how we have to move forward and break away from the heavy influences of others. We have to chart our own course and keep our head down enough to move forward towards the goal. We can’t constantly give up and try something else. We have to make sure we are making progress and that can’t happen without consistent action.
If you are exploring systems thinking for the first time, start to look at Peter Senge or Donella Meadows works. They do an excellent job outlining how to see the full system. When you do that, you can start to make better sense of what you face and the influence of others in our pursuit of success.
Most successful people know that they have to be responsible for the decisions they make and the ramifications of those decisions. While it might feel better by following the crowd and then blaming others when things don’t work out, the path to success heads in the opposite direction. It moves away from a herd mentality and forces us to confidently move into the unknown, doing everything we can do in order to get better.