Each day we are surrounded by so many things in our external environment that influence us and often we are not even remotely aware of just how big of a factor our environment plays in our thoughts and behaviors.
The people we surround ourselves with on a regular basis can affect our attitude and guide our choices, in both a positive and negative way, probably more than any other single factor, if we allow it. When growing up, we all heard things like “he started running with a bad crowd”, as a way to explain someone’s change in behavior for the worse. But what about as we grow and mature? Certainly, as adults we are past all that sort of thing… aren’t we?
The Sphere of Negative Influence
Fast forward a decade or two past the teen years. You are surrounded by your family and peers, whether they are your co-workers, friends or neighbors these are the people you are spending the majority of your time with and therefore they are part of your environment. So what exactly is their sphere of influence on you? Do they lift you up or bring you down? Are they the type of people who inspire and motivate you to be the best person you are capable of being or do you find yourself getting sucked into their darkness, finding fault with everyone and everything always complaining about what they don’t have or making excuses always blaming others for what they lack.
It is incredibly easy to get sucked into that negative sphere of influence without even realizing it’s happening to you.
Perhaps you find yourself engaging in gossip or putting others down because your friends do it or maybe you simply nod your head in silent agreement when someone passes an unkind remark about someone else be it the boss, a friend or neighbor even when you don’t actually agree? What about things like drinking, smoking or other unhealthy habits? It can be very difficult not to do those things if all your friends or family are doing it.
Indeed the opinions of others have a great deal of impact on us as shown in this experiment where Solomon Asch showed a group of people a line on a card and asked them to find a matching line from a group of three lines on another card, one of which was quite clear was the correct choice. The catch was that all except one person in the group were collaborators and chose the wrong line. When it came to the ‘victim’s turn, guess what? In a range of experiments, 76% of them followed suit. The presence of just one supporter reduced this to 18%.
Finding the Courage to Choose to Take a Different Path
If you want to make positive changes in your life, if you are tired of getting what you’ve always gotten or find yourself in a bad place, unsure of how ever you got there in the first place, it’s time to take a good hard look at your life. Start first with looking at yourself and then the people and things you surround yourself with. If aren’t happy with the choices that you’ve made, then you then need self awareness to catch yourself every time you begin to head in the wrong direction and to use the will to go the opposite way.
That usually requires mustering up the courage to and making the decision that you don’t want to fit in. Not if fitting in means you have to sacrifice having being a healthy, happy person with a positive attitude and optimistic outlook on life.
Your attitude greatly affects your experience in this world and THAT is something YOU can control.