Month: September 2020

essay

Herd Behavior: Comfortable and Necessary

I don’t follow herd behavior. I think of myself as a creative and independent thinker. I don’t always go with the crowd and I do my own thing. You might think of yourself the same way.

Hah.

The truth is, we pretty much all just follow herd mentality most of the time.

When businesses started to open again after the shutdown, there was not a mask mandate where I lived. And every time I went somewhere, I looked around to see if people were wearing masks or not. If the majority of people seemed to be wearing masks, I would wear them too. If they weren’t, then I wouldn’t. I knew I should wear a mask, but I just didn’t want to feel awkward.

When the mask mandate happened, then everyone was wearing a mask and it was easy.

We follow herd behavior even when the information says otherwise.1 So we will literally know better, and then follow the crowd anyway. If everyone else is jumping off a cliff, chances are you will consider it for quite a while.

People standing on a cliff

Is this always a bad thing? Not necessarily, because usually the herd is not jumping off a cliff. Sometimes herd behavior is safe and comfortable. We end up feeling nicely invisible, fitting in and doing what other people think we should do.

But other times, we really need to act differently. Sometimes the herd is not doing what is right, and we know better.

Find Your Herd

Instead of trying to be independent thinkers and have the willpower to always stand out, we should instead simply surround ourselves with better herds. No matter how strong you think you’re are, the pull to fit in is very strong.

We are social creatures and we need the support of other people. There are so many uplifting groups out there, and we can often choose our friends and the people we spend time with. We can realize that the desire to fit in and be safe and normal can be a really good thing–as long as we are choosing where we fit in and what group we are going with.

When we better understand our own values, we should work to create herd behavior that follows those values. We can work to make the world a better place, by elevating and expanding those groups that want to do what is right.

1Study

essay

Plan Your Endings

Plan your endings.

I woke up, feeling uncertain about the direction of my life. My to-list was very full: write a blog post, work on framing the back wall of my house my house, clean out my kitchen cabinets, read stories with my kids, talk with my husband, finish reading about econometrics, etc. I don’t have a career, but I have wanted a sort of clarity: should I focus on writing or economics or renovation or blogging or something else?

My main priority is to take care of my kids and my family, but then what do I do with my time (especially now that I actually have time without my kids)? How do I contribute to my community and the world?

As I thought over all the things I wanted to do, I realized that everything that I was thinking about was a project that would someday end.

I need to plan for those endings.

Looking back on my life, I am very satisfied with the projects that I started and finished, such as writing novels, , web design, or learning the piano and organ–I don’t do those things very much anymore, and I don’t feel any pressure to do so. They had an ending.

I am studying economics right now, but I will finish my current degree in December. My home renovation will eventually be completed. I will finish the book I am writing.

Instead of saying generalizations that I want to write or study or renovate, I feel a lot happier when I make it a more specific project with an ending: I am going to work on writing this specific book. I am going to renovate this house. I am going to get a degree.

Goals are so much more motivating when they have an ending to them.

Even when we think about long-term projects, like being in a career for years and years, eventually all of it will end.

Our biggest accomplishments and the things that we are most satisfied with eventually end, and that ending is the frosting on the cake and the wrapping on the present that made everything worth it. 

Because who we are is not what we do. I get so discouraged when I think about what I want to be when I grow up. So I change the question. I actually asked my son the other day, “What is one thing you want to do when you grow up?” He said he wanted to be a fireman. And that seemed like a good answer–he could be a volunteer firefighter, or work seasonally on wildfires–and it would end, and he would go and do something else.

Make Exit Plans

If you start a business, plan for the end. What happens at the end of it? Do you hope to sell it, for example? Pass it down in the family? Or maybe you realize it’s a temporary solution and eventually you’ll just have to close up shop and move on.

If you start a career, make an exit plan. When do you want to retire? What promotions or other job opportunities interest you? Is there any more education could you get? What other jobs are interesting to you?

What is your exit plan for vacations, hobbies, where you live, temporary relationships, leisure? When do you want it to end and how do you want it end?

What do you want the ending of your entire life to look like?

I don’t want to do one thing in life. I like doing lots and lots of things, and that’s okay. There are times when I will focus on just one thing for a time, and then it will end, and I can move to something else. I don’t have to live my entire life all at once. My identity does not need to be permanently categorizable.

What is the best work I can do in this temporary season of life–and where does it end?

trail dead end sign

Further reading:

Thoughts on writing

Finding Your Place