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Are You Just A Product of Your Environment?

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/24/2007 | Entrepreneur

Most people don't particularly like the idea that they are merely products of their environment. But whether the suggestion in the title appeals to you or not, it describes the situation for most people pretty accurately. Most of our thoughts, emotions, actions, behaviors and habits are dictated directly or indirectly by our environment.

There may be a few exceptional individuals for whom this doesn't seem to be the case. People with such a strong character that they appear to be impervious to influences of the circumstances around them. However even these people are under the influence of their environment Their past environment has shaped them in such a way that they have gotten stronger and are more able today to withstand certain influences. But even though they may have developed an unshakable character they are still not untouchable. They can however be highly selective as to by what and whom they allow themselves to be influenced. They have learned to stand guard at the door of their minds, and that is a major reason for their success.

We would all like to think of ourselves as such a person and we all have the ability to be just that. But hanging around people who are just about the opposite, in other words: most people, won't do much good. It's not that much a question of whether or not you are a product of your environment. The question is : Do you like what your environment has made of you?" Or even better, and certainly more accurate: "Do you like what you have allowed your environment to make of you?" If you do. Great! If not. You basically have two options; change how and when you allow your environment to influence you or change your environment. The former might seem easier, since it allows you to stay within your comfort zone, but it is in fact a lot harder than you might think. After all, if it were that easy you would already have done it.

Changing your environment can be easy enough, but it does take a conscious decision on your part. Your 'environment' or your 'peer group' usually consists of about five people. These are the people that you spend the majority of your time with and these are also the people that influence you the most. Like it or not. So if you're not satisfied with your results and you would like to change where you are in life, a change in your environment may be the smartest first step to take. The expectations put on you by your peers have a huge impact on you, whether you are aware of it or not. If you hang around people who hold themselves to high standards you will do your best to meet those standards. Even if this means you will have to put a higher demand on yourself. Conversely, if the people around you have a lower standard you will inevitably either lower your standards to remain comfortable around them or you will leave them. Unfortunately for many people the former, which is obviously the path of least resistance, is often the alternative of choice.

You could make achieving your goals and reaching success in life so much easier if you would just be a bit more choosy when it comes to the people in your environment. Take an active role in determining who is and who is not allowed into your peer group. Instead of just letting other people claim you for theirs. To some this may seem like a chore; consciously selecting who they spend their time with or posing as somebody else and pretending to be something they're not in order to fit in. A lot of people also consider it to be unethical or opportunistic to apply this kind of selectiveness to determine who they spend their time with. Many people also mistake being selective in who you spend your time with for being insincere. As if you were taking advantage of someone else by spending time with them. Of course if you actually try to take advantage of someone, he or she will notice this sooner or later and when that happens, that person will no longer be a part of your peer group. However, if you sincerely want to get ahead in life there is nothing wrong with looking for people that can increase you chances of success.

The good thing about being around like-minded individuals is that you enjoy each others company because you think alike on at least a number of subjects that you both consider to be important. These people won't feel exploited by you at all. They'll probably enjoy your company as much as you do theirs. And you will have a lot less trouble filtering all sorts of negative influences from these people. Simply because they won't give you a lot of it. They may give you a lot of constructive criticism or hold you to higher standards than you are used to, but they aren't likely to crush your hopes and dreams and try to de-motivate you. If you have a carefully selected peer group it's as if you have a whole team of security guards protecting the door to your mind instead of just one.

Of course this doesn't mean that you can't still spend time with the people you currently hang around. These people may still be very important to you. They may be close friends and family and by no means should you completely erase them from your life. Although in some cases that might not be a bad suggestions. It is important to realize that continuing to devote most of your time, attention and energy to them can seriously hurt you and your future. As the expression goes: "Love your family, Choose your peers". If you really want to get ahead in life you better take that phrase to heart. After all, time is a very precious commodity of which all of us are only given a certain amount. We might as well spend it in an environment that is supportive to our goals and dreams.