Issues of motivation, goals, and means are always complicated ones to tackle. When I see a popular figure make an important decision and then others copy that decision, supposedly because they decided independently to do so, it raises a flag for me–the timing is suspect. But how am I to know whether they are honest or not?
More important than my penchant for judgementalism, however, is our ability to analyze our own motivations and decisions. Americans, particularly younger Americans (Baby Boomers and younger) progressively seem inclined to jumping first and thinking later, and our busy schedules leave little time for self-actualization. We might be leaping onto a bandwagon because a popular icon has done so, but we might not even realize what we have done. It isn’t until things are different that we begin to wonder why.
And at the point when our lives are different and we try to figure out what happened, how we got all the way here from where we were, we usually have no idea how the journey was made. Not only did we travel without a map, we didn’t plot our course as we went. From friendships to college majors to jobs, fewer Americans are preparing themselves to answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten? Twenty?” We don’t plan out our finances more than a few days or a month in advance, we don’t worry about the relationships we foster or burn, and we don’t consider the wagon or quality of hay therein.
Even people I know who know better, or should, and who can articulate the right way to plan and live seem incapable of doing so. Struggles with discipline, responsibility, and critical thinking abound.
So what’s the solution? We’ve got to practice, every day, every moment to live mindfully. Discipline doesn’t come upon a whim, but is something gained after great perseverance is spent. You build it during times of ease in preparation for times of hardship. And during times of hardship, you need to make a plan and stick to it until you can get out of that time. Self-actualization is at the top of the pyramid because we have to climb to reach it.
Chances are, other people aren’t going where you really want to be. If most people don’t seem to get this stuff, then hopping in their bandwagon is a surefire way to end up in the wrong place. Walking might take longer and be harder, but sometimes you’ve got to do it for a while. And putting it off won’t make it go away.
So walk on and bear the struggle with dignity. Discipline yourself and analyze your roadmap, your decisions, and your potential destinations. Perhaps if we spend more time thinking and less time doing, we will do the right things when the time for action comes.
I find that jumping off bandwagons is pretty embarassing, so I work hard to avoid them altogether. Still, jumping off is better than riding to where you don’t really want to be.