“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours, and you’ll drift in that direction.” Warren Buffett
“You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” Jim Rohn
If we are striving to improve in any area of our life, it would be a great idea to take Warren’s advise and spend time with people that are better than us in that particular discipline or skill. We are all influenced by group norms and expectations more than we would care to admit.
We must remain ever vigilant. We live in a world of negativity; surrounded by negative influences. Approximately 65% of American’s are overweight. Group norms and expectations have a huge impact on behavior. The clear majority want to fit in and avoid the ire of those around them.
Group norms and expectations influence our behavior for the better or worse. With most people making poor choices in the areas of diet and exercise it is easy to allow ourselves to be negatively influenced by them. If we have four overweight friends, the chances are excellent that we are the fifth overweight person in our circle. We tend to flow in the direction of our friends.
We can make group norms work for us or against us. You can’t hope to change the people around you, but you can change the people you choose to be around. The only person you can hope to change is yourself. That is difficult enough; don’t intentionally make it more difficult. I am not suggesting you cut all ties with your overweight friends, but the more time you spend with them, the more likely you will fall back into old habits. The more time you spend with people that lead an unhealthy lifestyle, the more motivation, and discipline you’ll need to stay the course.
The more time you spend with them, the more you are choosing to remain trapped in your current body. In my book, The Fat Loss Habit, I provide a lot of evidence to substantiate these claims, but for the sake of brevity, I am asking you to accept, what you already know in your heart is true. Our friend’s attitudes and behaviors can either lift us up or drag us down. Why not spend the majority of our time with people that will inspire us to live better and do better?
We need to realize that the more time we spend with people who don’t value being healthy; the more difficult we are going to make our journey. It is like putting pebbles in our shoes, and rocks in our backpack. These people are going to constantly be tempting us to eat poorly and drink. They may not tempt us directly by offering unhealthy food, but their mere example is enough to make our journey infinitely more difficult. Why would we intentionally make our weight loss journey more difficult? It is like choosing to pick-up our morning cup of coffee at a donut shop or going to a sports bar to eat dinner if we were a recovering alcoholic. We want to shape our environment to make our journey easier, not harder.
I am not suggesting we divorce our unhealthy friends, but we will want to minimize the time we spend with them, and I certainly don’t recommend we meet them for dinner unless we are mentally prepared to overcome the temptation they are going to create. One way to mentally prepare for these events is to have a plan. When others are having alcoholic drinks, I’ll drink Topo Chico or another mineral water with a piece of lime in it instead. It makes not drinking a lot easier. We don’t feel like we are standing out as the one not drinking because we have a bottle in our hand. We must be serious. We must equate our old behaviors with pain and our new lifestyle with pleasure. Our old behaviors will produce our old results. Better decisions, better results.
If we want to improve our odds of success, we should seek out a support group. Seek out people that will inspire us to live a healthier lifestyle and support us along the way with encouragement. This will make our journey to becoming leaner and stronger easier, faster, and more enjoyable. Social contagion is a powerful influencer of our behavior. You will not feel alone on your journey to becoming fitter. You’ll be inspired by others who are sharing their workouts and progress with the group. This support group could be on social media or a group that meets regularly.
An easy way to find motivated, like-minded people, is to join a club. Part of CrossFit’s allure is that it makes getting in shape a team sport. Members bond with each other and encourage each other to achieve new personal records. You can join a running or biking club. You can participate in instructor-led spin classes, which are often offered free with a gym membership. Being part of a group makes our journey to becoming leaner and stronger easier, faster, and more enjoyable. Social contagion is a powerful influencer of our behavior. You will not feel alone on your journey to becoming fitter. You’ll be inspired by others who are sharing their workouts and progress with the group.
If possible, find a mentor or workout partner that will inspire you. Ideally, it would be a person that has triumph over the same challenges you are now facing. A good training partner can help motivate you not only to work out more consistently; they can also encourage you to push harder during your workouts. Workout partners can challenge each other to set new personal records. A workout partner adds an extra layer of accountability since no one wants to let the other person down.
With social media and the internet, it is easier than ever to join a group of fitness enthusiast. You can add friends that support your goals to your MyFitnessPal profile as an additional layer of accountability and encouragement. They will be able to view your progress, workouts, and provide messages of encouragement. A Northwestern University study found that dieters that checked into an online weight-loss website to log meals and friend other dieters lost 8% more weight after six months than their less-connected peers.[i] Here are just a few of the weight loss forums you can choose from Weight Loss Buddy, Fat Secret, SparkPeople, and Diet.com.
Celebrate the completion of a tough workout, preparing all your meals for the week, losing two more pounds, sticking to your diet, increasing your strength on the leg press, or completing a mile in record time. Post a photo of your progress so your friends can offer congratulations and encouragement. You can customize your privacy settings on Facebook so that you can control who sees the post. You can celebrate milestones, like losing the first five pounds and continue celebrating every five pounds lost, until you celebrate reaching your ultimate goal. The encouragement you receive will help fuel your determination and build your belief in yourself and your program.
Best Wishes and Best Health!
Start SMALL, dream BIG, build MOMENTUM! Do BETTER today, be BETTER tomorrow. Change your habits, change your life!
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[i] Erin Spain, “’Friending’ Your Way Thin,” Northwestern University, Northwestern University, January 28, 2015.