We all go through life with people influencing us. Sometimes that is good and positive role models help us achieve more and sometimes we get caught up with the wrong crowd.
Either way, systems thinking tells us that those factors matter in our life. We can’t simply ignore them. They matter.
This is a very complex topic and frankly not something that I have really been able to understand. At times this is basic and makes complete sense. If you join a gang, you are more likely to commit crime than if you join a book club.
But what about the associations that are far more subtle? How deep does this association-based influence go?
There is actually a lot of research into this and the conclusions usually point to the fact that those around us heavily influence us. If we spend a lot of time with overweight people we are more likely to be overweight. If we spend a lot of time with wealthy people we are more likely to be wealthy.
But correlation doesn’t mean causation. In other words, just because those two factors seem to be related, that doesn’t mean that one caused the other. It could even be caused by a third factor.
For me this isn’t enough to completely dismiss the fact that those around have an influence on you. We should take that insight and assume that sometimes that might be coincidence. Sometimes it could be that being rich causes you to live in a wealthy neighborhood but living in a wealthy neighborhood doesn’t increase your odds of being rich. All we know for sure is that those two are related.
Most people learned everything they know about life from others. When we are born we are constantly learning from our families. We hear our parents tell us what to do, we see their example, and we model it. We see our sibling act a certain way and we start to mimic his or her behavior.
I have two daughters and see this constantly. The older daughter has great influence over her little sister. She hears that play time is over and decides to throw a fit. Suddenly the younger one behaves exactly the same way.
As much as this happens, the individual mimicking the other usually doesn’t even realize they are doing it. Maybe us adults are doing the same thing with those we spend time with even if we can’t see that?
In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams, the author says, “Given our human impulse to pick up the habits and energy of others, you can use that knowledge to literally program your brain the way you want. Simply find the people who most represent what you would like to become and spend as much time with them as you can without trespassing, kidnapping, or stalking. Their good habits and good energy will rub off on you.”
So if you want to develop positive systems and habits and you are working to instill the right attitude and mindset, realize that it may help to surround yourself with people who already have those positive habits. This can help you to learn more about the behaviors and provide a positive association.
Who you surround yourself with matters. If you truly want to be successful you will have to learn how to control who you spend your time with. You may have to stop hanging out with certain friends. You may have to join more clubs or groups that can provide better examples. But it is up to you to realize the power of association. Either way it is impacting you so you might as well work to have that influence be a positive one instead of a destructive one.