And over the years, that love of comfort has done me some disservices. For example, when I graduated from high school at the ripe old age of 17 and my wise Dad counseled that I take a year before going to college to travel and work. I didn’t even truly consider it. “Nah,” I said, in favor of a dorm room and a meal plan. Or the college summer my roommate invited me to drive cross country and go work on an Oregon resort. “Think I’ll stay home and lifeguard,” I replied.
Here’s something I’ve come to learn: Getting out of your everyday environment is crucial for your growth. See, the people we spend the most time with may love us and want the best for us, but on some level they’re invested in us staying the same as we ever were. It’s not malicious and something they’re likely not even aware of, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. A very big percentage of us are scared of change—change in ourselves, change in the world, and change in the people we love.
In the past year, I’ve traveled several times to attend retreats with my coach and fellow coachees, and every time I’ve come back more empowered and more authentic. It’s just so much easier to try on new ways of thinking and being when you’re a) liberated from your daily duties and b) surrounded by people who are committed to growth—theirs, yours, and the world at large’s.
Marshall McLuhan (who said “the medium is the message”) really nailed what I’m talking about when he said, “I don’t know who discovered water, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a fish.” You just can’t see the true nature of things when you’re immersed in your same-old, same-old.
There are two main prongs to changing your environment:
First, prune: Really think and re-think who you spend time with regularly. If they make you feel stymied, agitated, or misunderstood…why do that to yourself? (Sometimes those folks are your family and you can’t exactly cut them off, but you can abso-freaking-lutely draw better boundaries with them – and if you don’t believe me or can’t imagine it, email me and we can discuss.) Research has shown that smoking, obesity, and depression run in social circles. And the adage states that, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Be very selective about whose energy you share.
Then, fertilize: If you want to evolve (and you want to do it faster than glacial speed), prioritize spending time with people who help you grow. Think of them as human nitrogen. You may have to travel to do it, or proactively cultivate a new circle of friends in your hometown, or you may find your uplifting community online. I find that plunking down some money – for a class tuition, or a plane ticket – is a great way to hold myself accountable for actually getting ‘out there’ and being with my people. (And overcoming the lure of that cozy, cozy couch.)
What’ll you commit to doing to make your literal and metaphorical environment conducive to ever-increasing happiness? Leave a comment below—sharing your intentions gives them power.