Turn Setbacks into Setups

Are You Following Trends, or Breaking New Ground?

February 2, 2019

Quick: name a trend you’ve fallen prey to in the past. Depending on your age and personality, your mind might jump to one or more of the following: tie-dye shirts, 3D TVs, water beds, or Pokémon Go.


Luckily, most trends are perfectly harmless (except when it comes to your wallet). But following trends in certain areas of your life, especially without pausing to reflect on what you truly want, can cause you to veer off course, and away from the things you value most.


Why following the crowd can lead you astray


The thing about following the crowd is that crowds are pretty stupid. And yes, we mean that literally—it’s been studied.


Research from Arizona State University and Uppsala University in Sweden found that crowds are terrible at choosing between two options, even when one is clearly superior than the other. And one study by French psychologists Serge Moscovici and Marisa Zavalloni found that when groups of people reach a tentative consensus, their attitudes intensify over time, eventually leading them to more extreme positions.


In other words? In certain situations, crowds really don’t make the best decisions. But more than that, crowd decisions may not be best for you.


Following the popular route, especially for extended periods of time, can limit your capabilities, holding you back from success. It can make you settle for something that seems “good enough.” You might start to accept yourself as “normal,” as part of the majority—even if you end up in a place you never really meant to be.


In essence, following the crowd means you sell yourself short as an individual, failing to recognize your personal potential and greatness.


Check-in: are you a trend setter or a follower?


It’s easy to feel like we should “adapt or die.”


In some ways, our brains are wired for herding. We’re social animals, after all, and in our evolutionary past, it made a lot of sense to stick with the group. Even today, we tend to place a lot of importance on what others think and how they act.


But in the modern world, following the crowd is much less important to our survival and well-being. In fact, we tend to find much greater success when we focus on our inner selves, rather than superficial values set by the larger crowd.


So, it’s time to check in, and be honest: Do you follow the crowd, sticking to the easy path by accepting common trends?


It’s a tough question to answer, especially because it’s not something we like to admit, even to ourselves. Unfortunately, we’re all affected by our desire to fit in, and it can take a lot of courage to reject those conformist tendencies. As difficult as it is in practice, setting your own trends based on your personal values and goals is ultimately the most rewarding way to live your life.


We’ll leave you with this: the dictionary definition of “trend-setter” is “one who sets a trend.” But there’s a bit more to it than that. A true trend-setter is someone who inspires others to follow their lead, someone whose confidence or perceived worth encourages others to choose the path that they have chosen. So chase your own success—and let others follow you, if they choose.

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