I have a theory.
It goes like this: the environment and the people around you control who you are much more than discipline and growth hacks.
If accurate, this theory — though unproven scientifically because I am in the business of writing and not in the business of proving things scientifically — has certain implications for us humans.
Instead of jerking off on willpower and forcing ourselves to do things — e.g., run 10 miles before breakfast, read good books, be nice, don’t drink too much, don’t binge-eat on that box of cookies, so on, so forth — we can focus more on what we do control: our environment.
Change your environment — change who you are. Don’t like who you are — change your setting. Want to become someone else? Look for where people like that congregate. Go there.
Where we live and who we socialise with have more impact on us than we realise. But then, perhaps it’s just me. When I lived in Moscow, I smoked and drank and acted like a jerk and partied and listened to sad music because that’s what you do in Moscow. When I moved to Tbilisi, Georgia, I gained weight, ate lots of bread and cheese, drank wine, and didn’t care what day of the week it was. (As Morrissey sings, “Every day was like Sunday.”) When I moved to London recently, things changed dramatically for me: I started running more, I started working much more, and I now obsessively think about my path, future, and success. Because, well, that’s what you do when you’re in London or any other big city (e.g., NYC).
Nobody forced me to do these things. They came by themselves, naturally. And I think it has to do with the energy conveyed by the people who surround me than my conscious choice. No wonder your parents told you not to socialise with “bad company”. In Russia, there’s a proverb (in my awkward translation): “with whom you hang, from those, you’ll learn.” In the U.S., they say that you’re the average of five people you spend the most time with.
But it’s not just about people or your immediate circle. It’s also about the place where you live in general. Humans are social animals, and we willingly or unwillingly succumb to our environments and the values those environments convey. (Of course, any place is created and sustained by people, so you can say it is about people after all.)
In our remote-work-digital-nomad world, we severely underestimate the impact of our physical environment. While…