We are born and taught to follow.
When we are young, we follow our parents and relatives. Then, we go to school and follow our teachers and our friends. After we graduate, we follow the commands of our bosses, and the dictates of society.
Not only are we taught to follow, but it is in our psychological makeup to look to others, to determine the best course of action for ourselves.
If we see people wearing shorts, we assume that the temperature is warm, and we will switch to wearing shorts. If we see people buying stocks and making money, we will also feel compelled to buy.
Where does this pack instinct come from? Is it bad to follow?
Clearly, if everyone is only interested in following, we won’t get very far because there is no one to lead. On the other hand, if everyone wants to lead, there will be much chaos and we won’t get very far either.
Therefore, when should we follow, and when should we break from the pack and lead, or just go our own way?
Is Following Bad?
Following is not inherently bad or good.
We often paint followers as lazy people, who are incapable of thinking for themselves. However, the fact of the matter is that all of us follow and conform to some degree.
A big part of being human involves building and living in communities. Communities help to give us all a better quality of life, and allow us to achieve things that we cannot do alone. However, working and living with others mean that we must follow rules, and sometimes follow the lead of another.
Following is a necessary part of being human.
Should We Break From the Pack?
Life is about priorities.
Following a pack and being normal gives us a comfortable, stable, and safe life, as well as a good support system.
However, this means that we must conform, stay silent, or even participate in group actions that we may not agree with, or know wholeheartedly to be wrong. We may delude ourselves into thinking that our actions are just, but deep down, we will know that it is simply expedient. We may be physically comfortable, but we will have sacrificed our integrity, and honor.
Alternatively, we may speak up, do what we think is right, and fly in the face of conventional beliefs. However, ushering in change, and fighting the status quo is always difficult.
When we do this, we run the risk of losing our stability, our standing in society, as well as acceptance from our friends, family, and peers. By its very nature, social groups, communities, and society at large, do not approve of rebels, or abnormality within its ranks. To survive, a group must maintain a cohesive identity, which means that significant social and economic pressure will be applied to ensure that everyone conforms, and that everyone stays put.
Finally, we may also break away and just leave everything behind. We may choose to travel alone, and not influence or be influenced by others.
How to Break from the Pack
- The first step is to question conventional wisdom, think for ourselves, and not just accept what is for what will be.
- The second step is to decide which things are important enough to fight for, and to sacrifice for.
- The third step is to create a plan of action that minimizes risk and maximizes success.
- Then we just have to decide whether the price paid is worth the reward of trying to do what is right.
When we break from our pack …
We will lose much in the short term, and the long term rewards may be far, far away. Once we commit to this path, it will be difficult to reconsider and get back what we have lost.
Therefore, breaking away from the norm is not something to undertake lightly.
Yet, to truly live with ourselves, we must sometimes do what is right and not just what is expedient.