We are influenced by everything we see, feel, smell, hear and taste.
Maybe there are cosmic rays penetrating our brains from Outer Space that influence the way we do things. Perhaps there are aliens among us beaming thoughts into our easily determinative grey matter. Maybe there is influence from the other planets in our solar system affecting the Earth's magnetic field screwing with our synapses. Perhaps we are all lemmings incapable of changing course as we plunge headfirst over the Cliffs of Utter Destruction to the rocky, wave pummelled seashore below.
A more likely explanation of why we do what we do is elder influence.
Have you heard the saying “Do as I say, not as I do”? I've heard it of course (or I wouldn't mention it). There are studies that have shown as little as seven percent of communication is verbal. Taking that into account, it's no wonder we seldom listen to our elders. Rather, we watch their actions to learn most of what we know. Our words are getting the crap beat out of them by our actions.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
(16th century German proverb)
It seems we Homo Sapiens are subject to a pack mentality more often than not. Most of the “follow the leader” mindset derives from thousands of years ingrained reaction-ism; a need to belong to our tribe in order to survive. How much of that is necessary now? Very little, yet we still are influenced by the actions of those we look up to; parents, teachers, bosses, celebrities, peers, etc. It's not surprising we follow along with others since we learn to mimic the actions of our parents and relatives in our formative years.
Our need to belong far outweighs our need to do the right thing.
As stated, seven percent of communication is verbal. How can we expect those who are influenced by us to do any different than we do if what we say has such little effect? What we say isn't having the impact we hope. What we do has tremendous consequence. It is far better to lead by example than it is to say one thing and do the opposite.
Why should I care if I consume the right food and drink if my parents don't care what they consume? Why should I treat customers with respect if my boss is consistently degrading them in the back room? Why should I care if the environment is going to hell in Little Red Riding Hood's basket of Grandma goodies if society (as a whole) doesn't care?
Massive change seldom happens overnight. It usually occurs in dribs and drabs as individuals slowly change course.
One of the easiest ways to change our minds, without too much effort, is to change the pack we run with. In our early days, as children, it's difficult to change our pack. We pretty much have to follow our parents where ever they go. As adults, we have the right to choose. In fact, we have an obligation to make choices about who we call our tribe. And with that choice, we have an obligation to lead those who are swayed by us.
And... is it too late to make changes as adults if our parents had so much ingrained influence on us as children?
The only way we can truly influence others to “do the right thing” is to choose to do the right thing ourselves. It's unfair to expect otherwise. Since what we say seems to have minute influence, leading by example seems our most effective course of action.
Of course, I could be entirely wrong and what is really required of us is put Reynolds Wrap chapeaus on our heads to divert the hallucinogenic influences of Earthbound aliens.