The past few weeks I have been deeply contemplating Mark Twain’s quote, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” Whether you agree with Twain or not, you can’t deny that his words are good food for thought.
All innovation is born out of doing something new, something different, something that goes against the grain. Oscar Wilde offers us something similar when he says, “Everything popular is wrong.”
Both thoughts point us towards challenging commonly held assumptions, which I believe is a positive and necessary endeavor.
Why do we often stand with the majority, or follow what is popular? One reason is that there is safety in numbers. It is easy to hide amongst the majority, to stay small, to avoid risk, to please others, so that we can have what we believe is acceptance, belonging, and safety.
Anytime we step out from the herd we are taking a risk. We are risking our sense of belonging, our perceived sense of safety, and when we take this risk we learn so much about ourselves and afford ourselves the opportunity to change, learn, and grow. We innovate and we create meaningful change not only for ourselves, but often for those around us as well.
Now, I’m not arguing that when you find yourself on the side of the majority that it is in and of itself a bad thing. Rather, wherever you may stand, take time to check in with your intentions, to check in with your “why.” Why do you stand where you stand? Why do you believe what you believe? Are your behaviors and actions in line with your authentic self, or are you simply operating on autopilot?
We often go through life on autopilot, without ever checking in with why we do the things we do. We fail to ask, what are the intentions behind our actions, or our intentions for aligning with the majority?
Knowing your “why” and knowing the intentions behind your actions creates meaning and personal empowerment. Often times we do something because it served us at one point, but perhaps it is no longer serving us, however, we don’t realize it because everyone else is doing it so we just keep aligning with the herd in our effort to stay safe. In our effort to create ease in our lives.
When you find yourself on the side of the majority, ask, why am I here? How is this serving me? How is this serving others? What would it be like if I didn’t align with the majority in this situation? What would be different? Would that potentially better serve myself and others if I moved in a different direction?
We can’t possibly know without stopping to pause and reflect. When I did my own personal inventory, I found many areas that I am aligned with the majority—in certain beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. I also found that where I am aligned with the majority it is often because it creates more ease in my life in many ways. When I consider doing something different, I can see that it may disrupt my current way of life, however the benefits of acting differently may be far reaching. I can’t know unless I step out and try something new.
The bottom line is there is no right or wrong answer, but in stopping to pause and reflect we can live more in line with our values and possibly create meaningful change.
In stopping to pause and reflect we are able to align with our intentions. To live with integrity. To find clarity. There is more power in living intentionally then there is in hanging with the majority, although often the majority feels pretty powerful.
Take a personal inventory. In what areas of your life do you find yourself on the side of the majority? Step back. Pause and reflect. If necessary, step out, take action, and reform.