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Are we really making our own choices?

We are mimetic creatures. In fact, it is common for us to imitate other human beings and their desires. As such, most advertising also works on a mimetic desire principle, as does Google and Facebook.

First, understand that desire is mimetic, which means that we naturally want to be like others; as a herd animal this makes sense. This leads to a clash of interests when two people want the same things. Because of this, we often engage in unnecessary competition and status anxiety (again Facebook really accentuates this behaviour). Mimetic desire also explains why classmates in the same class may have different career goals, and why similar career paths are reinforced by their peers. Ultimately, mimetic desire drives our behavior.

Once a person develops a deep attachment to another person, they will begin to mimic the behavior. This could explain why people in your peer group are much the same as you. If your friend has just bought a Tesla, chances are you'll also be interested in the same car or perhaps something similar.

I had never come across this before and thought that we were always looking for somebody's intrinsic motivations to help move them to action.Intrinsic motivation does not rely on external factors to spur a person on. Instead, it stems from an individual's own desires, and not from any outside pressure or reward. But, are your internal motivations actually yours is the question I am left with...

In my thinking (which could be wrong), it seems that mimetic desire and intrinsic motivation are in competition with each other in terms of your desires and subsequent choices.When we seem to believe we are making the decisions that we want to be making, is this true?

I have said to clients before that a good test of having a strong desire to do something is to ask yourself before doing it the following question - would you still do it if you could not tell anybody about it? I think this would remove a lot of mimetic behaviour and has stopped me from acting on my desire to go to The Fat Duck. Although I am curious to find out if a 3 star Michelin restaurant's food is really worth £300 a head, although if I am being really objective about my real motivations about going, it is to say I have been.

I am now more motivated to not go as I know I am not doing it for the right reasons. I'm sure that most of our decision-making is not this conscious but we can have big gains in our own levels of self-esteem, and knowing who we are and what we want, by trying to be more conscious about decision making. Surely, it is worth the extra time and effort?

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