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Learn how to achieve your goals in life by considering who you soround yourself with. Your friends and family has a great impact on your ability to reach your goals. This is something you can harness to make goal achievement easier. Learn how to use this powerful tool without having to change all your friends!
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to make changes to their lives easily like changing jobs, lose weight or start a new hobby?
Others on the other hand talk a lot about change and they may start things, but they never seem to make a real effort or stick with it.
Finally, there are those who don’t even talk about change as it would be impossible anyway. They think that there is no way they would be able to lose weight as their parents have always been overweight, or there is no way to improve their situation at work because all employers are out to get you anyway.
References in popular culture
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Here the idea is that:
The people you spend the most time with shape who you are. They determine what conversations dominate your attention. They affect to which attitudes and behaviors you are regularly exposed. Eventually you start to think like they think and behave like they behave.Jim Rohn
What does the science say?
Nicholas Christakis and James H. Fowler has done extensive research on the topic:
In 2007 Christakis and Fowler published an article called The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 years in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In this study they measured the BMI of over twelve thousand people for over 30 years to see whether weight gain in one person was associated with weight gain in his or her friends, siblings, spouse, and neighbors. Spoiler-alert: it was. A person was:
- 57% more likely to become obese if they had a friend who became obese
- 40% more likely to become obese if an adult sibling became obese
- 37% more likely to become obese if one spouse became obese
- was not influenced if a neighbor became obese.
The authors’ conclusion was that “Network phenomena appear to be relevant to the biologic and behavioral trait of obesity, and obesity appears to spread through social ties.”
Smoking and happiness
Christakis and Fowler followed this with another article called The Collective Dynamics of Smoking in a Large Social Network and they again found the same pattern.
If your spouse stopped smoking you were 57% more likely to do so while if your close co-worker stopped you were 34% more likely to do so.
Fowler and Christachis also researched if happiness can spread from person to person within a network in Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study.
They showed that not only are we more likely to become happy if we surround ourselves with happy people, it extends up to three degrees of separation!
That means that if someone is very happy, their friends, their friends friends and their friends will also become happier! This may be the ultimate proof that happiness is not a selfish pursuit, but I digress….
How does this impact goal achievement?
While the statement that your 5 closest friends determine who you are may not be completely accurate, there is a strong argument to say that what you spend your time on, the messages and influences you have around you will impact how you think, what you do, and to some extent what the outcome will be.
If your goal is to lose weight, surrounding yourself with people who take a healthy, systematic approach to weight loss will make it more likely for you to succeed than if your friends are all yo-yo dieters or spend every evening on the sofa with a Ben and Jerry’s.
In the same way, if your friends spend all their money on large houses, new cars and fancy restaurant visits, it’s likely that you do too!
How can you use this to achieve your goals in life?
What do your family and friends bring you?
I’m not telling you to sack all your friends and moving to another part of the world where people have other values and customs, unless you really want to off course!
But you might want to think through what your friends, family and co-workers are sharing with you. Are they perpetually negative, spendy, indulgent or even hostile?
If so, you may want to consider how much time you spend with them. Is that daily chat with Wendy at the coffee break really worth it if all she does is complain about how she can never get a break?
If your mum calls you every day to talk about how horrible uncle Berry is treated, without actually wanting any help or wanting to do anything about it, could you change your phone schedule to every three days or once a week?
Take a look around and see if there are people around you that are going to make it more difficult for you to reach your goals.
Determine if you value them so much you still want to continue to spend the same amount of time with them.
In the same way, see if there are anyone who do what you want to be doing. Who are approaching things in a way you feel positive about? Can you change your life so you spend more time with them?
What other influences do you have in your life?
In this world of cable TV, Netflix, YouTube, social media, blogs, news sites, podcasts and a myriad of other sources of information, the people you spend the most time with may not be your friends and family.
It may be people you don’t even know (!) but that you interact with through all this different media. The good news? This is the area where you have full control!
Do you really think looking at people doing extreme diets on Instagram will make you skinnier? Or that by binge watching the horrors of social media you will making the world a better place?
Taking the same approach that what you spend the most time with influence you the most, think through if what you are consuming is really setting you up for success.
If you want to lose weight, find someone who has done it in a healthy way and spend time consuming their content.
If you want to want to change the social media use of yourself or someone you care about, find a role model who has successfully done that and spend time with their blog, podcast of YouTube channel to get inspired on how to actually do it!
What media you consume will significanly impact who you are. So, take a good look at how much time you spend on different things and consider if this is in line with your values and goals.
If not, find some new content!
Find your tribe on a blog or social networking site, find podcasts and YouTube channels where people who have done what you want to do share how they have done it.
Try different things!
Stay with the content that will take you closer to your goal, to the person you would like to be.
To get you started, let me share a few of my favorite resources and see if they are right for you:
Weight loss and health eating
Final words – how to achieve your goals in life
I hope this made you feel hopeful.
Reviewing who influences you and how is a powerful way to take control over your life. For me, changing to a more mindful and curated approach to where I spend my attention and time, has made big changes for how I’m feeling and for what I think I can do.
If I hadn’t done those changes, I would for example never have started a blog, never have had sustainable lost weight and kept it off, and would never have considered the power of being intentional with my personal finances.
I truly hope this can help you get where you are going.