You may think that the elements in your environment can only affect you if you let them, and that you’re able to filter outside influences at will. Think again.
I hung out for around half an hour with an acquaintance I ran into at a party recently. She’s hilarious, but swears like a trucker. I used to swear when I was a lot younger (as a kid, desperate to fit in, it helped dirty up the dreaded goody-two-shoes image), but I’d stopped for years. The day after I’d hung out with this woman, I got into a “debate”. Guess who swore? I couldn’t believe it. Seriously, I don’t swear. Really! Except, apparently, when I’ve been spending too much time around people who do. Yikes.
This kind of influence is easy to pick up on, but what about the subtle, steady influence of the people you’re around every day? Are they positive, or negative? Do they love to talk behind people’s backs? Are they whiners and complainers? The more you hang around certain people, the more you will become like them. It’s an insidious and sneaky process.
It’s easy to get into a routine, where you unconsciously do the same things you’ve always done, and hang out with the people you’ve always hung out with. I’m all for friendship with as many different people as possible, but we need to make sure that people with negative habits or beliefs aren’t influencing us in a negative way.
This awareness has moved me to reflect on the people and activities I spend time on. Are they in line with my current values for my life? I’m not suggesting you dump your old friends for more upwardly mobile ones, but you may think twice about the amount of time you spend with people who have a harmful impact on you or your life.
Apparently, our incomes tend to be the average of the incomes of the five people we spend the most time with. Yikes! I’m not saying you should pick your friends based on their incomes (yuck, what an awful thought), but it’s true that if you’re around people who are working to improve their circumstances, you probably will too. Same goes if you’re hanging around people who waste their money, or carry lots of debt.
What are you reading? Do the novels and stories you read fit with the type of life you’d like to lead? Are you always reading the same type of book? Take a look around your life to see if it seems to be affecting your world in some way. You might be surprised!
Do you watch TV? Do you choose what you watch, or do you just automatically turn it on when you get home? If you think for a moment about the programs you usually watch, who are they turning you into? Have you become numbed-out to violence, or nastiness, or gossip? Is what you watch adding quality or depth to your life? Are you becoming more superficial? Or more worried? Some experts even recommend avoiding the news when you can, as so much negative information can negatively impact your mental and physical health.
Think of popular songs – how many of them are about loss, betrayal, or casual sex, or not being able to live without that certain someone (despite the fact that they don’t treat you well)? At the very least, become aware of what your mind is listening to.
Take a good look around – your environment is shaping the future you. Who would you like to be, and what influences can you choose that are consistent with that? Invite someone you admire and respect to lunch. Watch that program that will teach you something new and fascinating. Read that new biography. Start making choices, on all levels, consistent with with your most important values.