I have been asked many times, “what is the single most important step I can take in the pursuit of my goals?”. For me, the answer is always the same: change your environment.
What is ‘My Environment?’
Your environment is the world you inhabit. It is unique to you. It is made up of hundreds of aspects of your daily life: things you see, things you hear, things you experience and things you feel.
Some are obvious and self explanatory, such as your family or partner. Some, such as the Facebook groups you belong to or the radio you listen to, fly under the radar.
In one way or another however, they all combine to create you: your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ultimately your actions.
Here is a snazzy graphic to help you remember the process.
THOUGHTS ⇒ FEELINGS ⇒ BELIEFS ⇒ ACTIONS
This Ramble however will focus on only one aspect of our environment. The aspect I believe to have the single greatest influence on our ability to accomplish our goals!
You’re the Average of the 5 People You Spend The Most Time With
What then -above all else- determines whether we succeed or fail in achieving our goals? Drum roll please…it is PEOPLE.
Your friends, your colleagues, your clients, your family, your partner, your teammates, your mentor, your favourite singer or even Mrs Jasper from number 23.
These people all have their own sets of beliefs and values and all, to one degree or another will impose them on you. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, ‘you are what you eat’? I’m sure less of you will have heard its Buddhist counterpart ‘what you think, you become’.
Even the most stubborn amongst us are swayed by the people around us, especially those with whom we spend the most time. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this.
Have you ever:
Gone on holiday to a place because friends recommended it?
Changed your opinion on someone in line with the views of your peers?
Noticed how your usually unfashionable Dad went through a phase of trying to talk or dress more like you and your friends when you were 16 years old? No? Just mine then…
Idle Chit Chat or a Deadly Virus?
Whilst the above may be overt and trivial examples, they illustrate the power of our conversations and our instinctive desire to fit in with those who immediately surround us.
If idle chit chat can influence our opinions on the sports we follow or the shoes we wear, what’s stopping them impact our wider held beliefs on society and our role within it? What’s stopping them influence our views on wealth; on our career path; or our willingness to stick our neck out and pursue our goals and dreams?
The answer? Nothing. They can and they do…more than most of us ever realise.
Multiple studies have been conducted in recent times that illustrate in a powerful way, the influence people closest to us have on multiple facets of our lives.
Here's a couple of headlines to demonstrate the point:
Health - If you have an obese friend your 57% more likely to become obese
Habits - Smokers are more than twice as likely as nonsmokers to have friends or family who smoke
Relationships - If a close acquaintance gets divorced, it increases your likelihood of getting divorced by 75%
Shocked? I imagine so.
A Quick Goal Alignment Test
Do you want to have financial freedom and live by your own agenda? Do you want to spend everyday doing what you love with the people you love, in the places you love?
My guess is, yes. If so, here’s a quick test -have a think what this goal looks like and share this vision with your 5 closest friends…go on.
What was their response? If they laughed -and this is going to sound brutal- they are not the friends you should take with you on your path to success and happiness.
Find Those Who Share Your Ambition
The laughter you heard is a reflection of their own limiting beliefs. They’re own environment has manufactured this belief so consistently it has become their reality. Why else would such a suggestion be laughable?
If you REALLY want to make that dream a reality, hang around with those who are on the same path as you. Who share your enthusiasm for success and are not afraid to think big.
I'm not expecting you to rush out and immediately make friends with millionaires -although this would be very useful. No, start simple. There are plenty of people out there of a similar age, social background and net worth as you who think differently.
Find this lot first. I guarantee if you had the same conversation with these people, you would get a very different response. Rather than mockery and derision, you will be greeted with respect, reinforcement and most importantly, support.
How Do I Find Them?
Finding them is easier than you think. Why? Because of the very reason this article was written. They understand the value of their environment and as a result, have sought out each other and created a network that provides support, ideas and accountability.
A little like rats: find one and there will always be 10 more just around the corner. Unlike rats however, they will be more than happy to introduce you to their network over a beer :)
Popular Hunting Grounds
Here are some places most often frequented by such visionaries:
Online Entrepreneurs groups
Courses on: leadership, management, finance, sales/marketing
Entrepreneurial meet ups
Podcasts, audiobooks and books - e-mail them and ask for a meeting, you’ll be surprised
Now put your money where your mouth is, go out and find them. Change the inputs and reap the benefits of the outputs, and remember…
THOUGHTS ⇒ FEELINGS ⇒ BELIEFS ⇒ ACTIONS
A Final Tale
I couldn't finish this Ramble without including a story about someone who demonstrates better than anyone, the power of environment. If my argument so far hasn't been enough to convince you, this will.
My Godfather turns 82 this year. For as long as he can remember he has hung around with people many years his junior.
He has done this deliberately. Why? He dislikes the thought of being old, finds ‘old people’ boring, believes age to be a state of mind and makes no bones of the fact that he is -as he puts it- ‘growing old disgracefully.’
The results of this life choice? He ski’s twice a year; works out 4 times a week; is still learning foreign languages; works 3 days a week in a business he still owns shares in; and travels all over the world -he recently visited me in Australia and matched me on an 12 hour drinking session.
Most staggeringly of all however, he recently featured on UK television where he planked for 25 minutes!! If you're not familiar with planking, Google it and give it a go. If you get over 5 minutes first time round, e-mail me!
If this is not the perfect real-life demonstration of the power of your friendship group, I don't know what is!!