Have you ever seen a group of guys out together, all dressed the same?
Look for it – you'll start to see them everywhere.
These packs will subscribe to different “looks,” but within the group they're all rocking the same basic style.
Sports bar? Guys in jerseys and caps if there's a game on, or gray T-shirts and light-colored shorts if there's not.
Rock concert? Jeans or cargo pants and concert/tour shirts (the older and more obscure the better).
Modern whisky bar? Elaborate facial hair and battered sports jackets.
And so on.
This is herd mentality – the phenomenon that we are influenced by those around us and instinctively seek to fit in.
To watch a summary of this style psychology article – click here.
What is Herd Mentality?
Herd mentality, in the simplest terms, is a phrase that describes the way in which people are influenced by their peers to act in similar ways.
It means the instinctive desire to follow along and fit in. We see it in everything from one-hit wonder music phenomena (anyone remember the Macarena?) to “hot” stocks that shoot up briefly in value and then, generally, crash.
Flash trends are a consequence of herd mentality, but not the entirety of it – many long-lasting social constructs are “herd-like” in nature, too. Look down a row of houses in any city in the United States, and see how many are painted a bright pink or a brilliant, neon orange – not many, right? That's because people have “agreed,” without thinking about it, on what houses should look like, and neon colors aren't part of that agreement.
Even the counter-culture tends toward herd-like behavior.
As I mention in the video, I was recently traveling in the Pacific Northwest, and there was a “look” that most of the younger people all shared: longer hair, casual shirts, and tattoos – especially shoulder tattoos for the guys (tribal motifs, mostly) and lower back tattoos for the girls (knot-work and floral patterns).
It's inescapable. People just like to belong – even when they think of themselves as aggressively independent. They end up creating a culture of OTHER aggressively independent people around them, until the herd mentality kicks back in.
How to Avoid Herd Mentality
Is being part of the “herd” necessarily a bad thing?
The answer is NO.
You don't want to set yourself so far apart that people can't interact with you – think about the guys you occasionally see wearing sandwich boards warning about the End Times and ringing a bell as they march up and down the street, shouting at passers-by.
Those guys don't “belong” to the herd – and that's not a good thing. They'd do better if they tried to fit in a little more.
But most of us, who do naturally fit in when we're just being our regular old default selves, can benefit from a little individuality. The guy who fits in completely is a little bit of a caricature, and not a very nice one. You want to be able to rise above the herd at least a little bit!
Here are four ways to help build yourself a mindset that gets outside the herd mentality:
1. Understand Your “Why”
This is a common concept in self-improvement or self-motivation.
All it means is taking a moment to think about why you want a change — or in this case, not even a specific change; just a different way of thinking about your role in the world.
– Know Your Goals
One of the key things that sets you apart from other human beings is your set of unique personal goals.
What do you want to achieve? Odds are, it's something that could be helped along by standing out from the crowd.
Think about what it is specifically, and how you want to stand out to help that along, and you're already most of the way there.
– Define Your Motivations
Along with goals, there are your specific motivations: not just what you want to do or achieve, but what makes you want them.
Think about the motivations behind your goals: do you want a feeling of personal pride? To help other people? To live a more comfortable life, or pass a more comfortable life on to others?
Those are your reasons for changing. The more aware of them you are, the more you'll want to change. And the more you want to change, the more you will change.
– Have Reminders
Keep things in your life that make you remember your goals and motivations. Get as hokey as you want — tape a picture of the dream home to your bathroom mirror so you see it when you shave every day, listen to a self-made motivational tape; whatever.
You want something outside of yourself that prompts you to think about where you want to be — and where you are right now. That way you're consciously looking for ways to bridge that gap, rather than just dreaming about it happening some day.
2. Understand The Situation
Remember the sandwich board guy we talked about? Standing out is great, but it has to be a little grounded in reality.
You want to understand your situation when you change anything — especially your appearance — and you want to make sure you're still appropriate for your reality.
– Understand Your Environment
Keep your environment in mind! Like I said about the Pacific Northwest, there's a look up there. Standing out from it a little could just mean neatening up a little, or adding something more traditionally American and less counter-culture or ethnic inspired.
Wearing a full suit and tie to go hang out with your friends at a brew-pub certainly stands out, but it isn't environmentally appropriate. You've got to keep the changes relatively small, so that they still fit into the overall environment.
– Know Your Professional Needs
Similarly, you want to be keeping your work-related needs in mind. A sweet ring like one of the ones from our sponsor might be a great accent piece in your social life, but if you work for a bank that has a strict written dress code, including “no jewelry on men apart from wedding rings” you obviously don't want to buck that.
Be determined to change, but be realistic about it too. You don't want to upset your employers by being too counter-culture within the culture of your workplace.
– Pay Attention to Function
We like to get caught up in the style side of things here, but clothes do serve a practical purpose, too. You need to keep yours functional.
I love looking sharp, but I'll bow to necessity. I wear cargo shorts and light polos when I'm hiking around with my kids, even though it isn't as sharp-looking as crisp slacks and a sports jacket with a dress shirt.
Is it a little less dressy? Sure. But I also have all the room I need for water bottles and toys and pacifiers, and I'm not going to soak it with sweat by the end of a long day spent mostly outside. You've got to be realistic.
3. Clear the Path
Make getting out of the herd easy for yourself — set your life up so that it's the simplest thing to do!
If you're making a basic wardrobe improvement — swapping your T-shirts for collared dress shirts, for example — get your space ready for that change. Put the T-shirts somewhere out of the way, and move the dress shirts front and center of wherever you get ready for the morning. That way the thing you want to do is all set up for you.
I think shoe shine kits are a great example of this. They're a really basic idea, just all the necessary tools thrown in the same box, but once you know that all you have to do is grab your box and get started, you find yourself shining your shoes twice as often.
It's not that the actual actions you're taking are any easier. They're just ready to go, so that it takes less mental energy to get the process started.
Set Up the Right Systems
Same basic idea here, but in the longer term: set your life up with recurring systems to help you change.
This is the basic theory that good hair salons are using when they schedule your next appointment at the end of the current one. It's taking one more thing you would have to notice, think about, and make the arrangements for away from you and making it automatic instead.
There are lots of these you can apply to your life, ranging from scheduling your dry-cleaning drop-offs to getting a wardrobe consultant or private shopper hired. Find the ones that work for you and use them.
Own Things You Love to Wear
When we're talking about wardrobe changes, you're never going to make them if you're buying things you hate.
No matter how useful it might be to rock a slick business suit, if it makes you feel like a fake you're not going to wear it well. Fill your closet with things that you feel sharp and natural in, so that you're never forcing yourself to get dressed.
4. Reinforce Your Decision
Change happens when we want it to happen. Goals and motivations help get us started, but we're simple creatures — reward us, and we keep doing the behavior we were rewarded for. You'll make the best changes in your look and your actions if you make sure you're also rewarding yourself regularly.
Complement Those You Are With
One of the rewards of thinking about your clothes is the effect you can have on others.
You don't have to just dress for yourself — you can dress for other people in your life too. That could mean anything from wearing a pocket square in the color of your wife's dress (adorable) to getting a sharp suit with pinstripes in your alma mater's colors for college or alumni events.
Take a Few Pictures
Save the moments – snap a few pictures with friends and family with all of you dressed in your best. You'll have these reminders of how our appearance does affect our behavior and mannerisms – a reminder to continue to dress sharp years from now.
Finally – Have Some Family Pride
For me, one of my big motivators is the need to represent my family well.
When we were going out recently, and I was dressed sharp after filming one of my videos, it meant a lot to me that my daughter Svitlana looked and me and said “Daddy, you look handsome!” So much so that I didn't change into more casual clothing – I just wore what she complimented me on that day.
As a sort of impromptu celebration, I took us to a nicer restaurant than we usually go to. It wasn't incredibly expensive or anything, but it was a nice little Bolivian place with a good atmosphere.
We had a great time just sitting and soaking up the experience, and the kids were well-behaved and very adult-like. They were dressed for it and so were their parents, so they knew exactly what to do.
Those are the kinds of little joys you get when you start making the changes you need to in your life.