What Will People Think?

Many people struggle to pursue what they really want, out of fear of what people will think.

When I hear this, I always ask, “Which specific people?”

As in, "What are their names?"

In many cases, the other person has a hard time responding.

They’ll often say, “You know, ‘people.'”

The great irony is that when everyone is so worried about what other people will think, they’re often too busy worrying about others judging their life to judge yours.

We all want to look good in the eyes of others. It’s certainly preferable to be admired, respected, and liked than not to be.

Being concerned with what other people think becomes a problem when such concerns cause you to make decisions differently than you would make otherwise.

When you deviate from your life’s strategic plan for the sake of validation, you risk heading in a non-strategic direction.

Rather than implement your life strategy, you end up implementing someone else’s strategy that they want for your life.

Usually, this strategy “for” you is based on their values (e.g., what they, not you, think is important in life/career) and biased towards validating their own life choices.

For example, let’s say we both get job offers to work in consulting and investment banking. Our tendencies would be to convince the other person to take the same offer we are taking.

When others in a similar set of circumstances make the same decisions we made, it’s reassuring.

When they make a choice different from our own, it causes doubt in our own choices.

What is almost never discussed in these self-dialogues is the appreciation that different people have different values and goals.

If I want to become a doctor and you want to be a lawyer, it doesn’t make sense for me to go to law school, given my goal of being a doctor. Conversely, you shouldn’t go to an elite medical school to become a lawyer.

In a similar vein, when two people receive job offers from McKinsey, they too have different values and goals. For a certain set of values and goals, accepting a McKinsey offer makes a lot of sense. Given a different set of values and goals, joining McKinsey would be a terrible idea.

Many people find this extremely counter-intuitive.

Two people may face the same opportunity but make two entirely different decisions, based on differences in their values and desired outcomes.

When assessing your own choices, don’t spend a lot of time debating which option to pursue until after you’ve determined what you’re trying to accomplish and why that goal is important to you.

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