If you’re a woman, you’ve probably had this experience: You’re standing in a long line for the women’s bathroom, and meanwhile the men’s bathroom is completely empty. You know that the bathroom consists of one stall and has a lock on the door — so you could potentially go in there and lock the door, and not risk that a man will walk in on you. But as you eye the 20 women waiting ahead of you, you begin to doubt yourself. If going into the men’s room were a good idea, everyone else would be doing it — right?
This is the problem with popular thinking: It’s often misguided and wrong. The more you choose your actions based on what other people are doing and thinking, the less you’ll do what you feel is right, and the less fabulously you’ll live.
In the new book How Successful People Think by John C. Maxwell, the author presents this equation:
Popular = Normal = Average
Do you want to be average? Probably not. But if you base your thinking on “conventional wisdom,” average is your fate. Going along with the crowd is definitely easier than thinking for yourself, but it’s not the way to live your best life.
We make decisions based on other people’s thinking all the time. We automatically send our kids to the same schools our friends send their kids to, because that’s easier than considering whether our child would be better off in a different school, or even homeschooled. We eat what our families have eaten since childhood, even if it’s not the healthiest food. We follow the rules that were set by others — years ago — in terms of our careers instead of breaking out of the box and trying something different.
Okay, I’ve convinced you — but how do you think differently?
For one day, question everything you take for granted, from the way you brush your teeth in the morning to how you get your work done to how you communicate with your family. Why do you do it the way you do? Would it be better if you tried doing it a different way? Can you try that right now?
For example: What if you wore something other than your black-pants-patterned-top “uniform” to work today? What if you made quinoa porridge instead of your usual cereal? What if you took a different route to work? What if you said No to an obligation you would normally say Yes to, even though you didn’t really want to?
This will be an eye-opening experiment. If you do it, please post back here to let us know how it went. I think you’ll discover that there’s a whole new world out there that you haven’t discovered only because the people you know — and whose actions you follow — haven’t discovered it yet themselves.