Have you ever found yourself making decisions based on what you think others will think? I’ve seen it (and done it) a million times if I’ve done it once.
For the most part, we don’t even know we’re doing it, we’re just making decisions. However, the criteria we use to evaluate our choices often tend to include an invisible and inordinately weighted variable – what this choice will mean for the way people see you.
I was on the phone recently with a fellow veteran and current MBA student asking for advice on choosing his first job out of the military. The guy is smart, affable, funny, and self-deprecating. In two minutes of conversation, it was clear to me that he will be successful doing whatever he chooses to do and any company would be lucky to have him.
Despite all of those glowing traits, his thinking around his choices was fundamentally flawed. Talking me through one of his job opportunities, his voice lowered an octave to what I can only describe as a tone that communicated defeat.
“I’m supposed to go to take a job like this.”
“People expect me to do this. I just don’t want to let them down.”
“I don’t want the guys to think I’m taking the pack off.”
He assessed that he would hate this job and it was absolutely not what he wanted to do, but he was considering it anyway. That is insane. And totally understandable.
We all feel that we are the stars of our own drama – that our friends and family are regularly evaluating where we belong on the totem pole of worthiness.
That’s part of being a human being.
But here’s the thing: no one is watching you. No one really cares what you do or don’t do. They don’t care about your elaborate title or that you took the fancy job. Nobody cares that you got laid off. They don’t care that you had a huge wedding. Or that you eloped in Vegas. They don’t care about what you do.
The people that matter cares about you. That’s it. They care about you, not what you do.
That’s not mean or sad or pessimistic. It’s just the way it is. That is how human beings operate.
It’s also a great thing.
If you can free yourself from this trance of believing that you need to make life decisions based on what people will think of you, your life will be *markedly* better.
Take the job that suits your strengths and gets you to where you want to be in life.
What do you want to learn? Who do you want to spend your life around? Where do you want to be? What impact do you want to have? What are your values?
Questions like these hold the answers to the bigger questions you will face in life. If (when) you find yourself wondering how a decision you’re facing might be viewed by others just remember that they’re not watching. They’ve got lives of their own to deal with and they are very likely winging it just like you are. We all are. They’re too busy worrying about the crappy haircut they just got to notice how you’re living your life.
Finally, a related public service announcement: for God’s sake put the phone down and simply enjoy the small moments that, in the aggregate, become your life. Truly, sincerely, nobody cares about your Instagram vacation pictures.
Don’t shoot the messenger.