March 22, 2017
Law Seven: Our Surroundings Matter
Wouldn’t it be strange to visit Antarctica and find vibrant, healthy flowers growing out of the ice? Or, imagine a heavy ocean creature covered in long and dense fur. Or, a landscape with only one kind of bird, one kind of mammal, and one kind of insect.
None of this seems very likely, right? That is because certain environments produce certain things.
Therefore, everything is a co-creation of its environment. As hard as one may try, ice does not create flowers; however, soil does. And, when it does so, it does it effortlessly. Everything—including us—is a co-production of its surroundings. We evolve out of our environment, we are a part of it/it is a part of us.
Our surroundings have an instinctive way of weeding out what doesn’t make sense there. This applies not only to the natural world, but also to our social and mental environments as well.
Humans affect humans, it’s as plain as that. We are, in fact, vital components of one another’s environment. Imagine, for example, how hard it would be for someone to stay passionate and driven when everyone around them is dreary and pessimistic. It’s common enough. That passion over time gets heavier and heavier to hold when they are the only one carrying it.
We grow and evolve in direct relationship with our surroundings. Our environments produce the limits—on both ends—of our potential. For this reason, we have a common cultural story of the small town kid moving to New York or Los Angeles in order to become the person they want to be. In that narrative, the person wants/needs to be exposed to variety and diversity in order to expand—they need to be challenged in order to change. It’s a question of inner resources (perspective) being paired with outer resources (horizons).
If we are not aware and intentional about whom we surround ourselves with as well as the ideas we expose ourselves to repeatedly, we run the risk of becoming like boiling crabs.
That is, when a pot of crabs is brought to boil over a stove the animals, understandably, begin to panic. As this happens, every so often one of them will get its claw over the side of the pot and begins to pull itself out of the deadly water. In that moment, the other crabs do not help him escape, instead they pull him immediately back inside where they all boil.
This can be what happens to us if we are not wise about our environment. It’s that whole “misery loves company” thing.
The flipside, however, is to be like the migrating ducks who, famously, take turns being at the head of the V—where it’s hardest—and then cheer one another on turn by turn.
Because we are, to a large extent, the co-creation of our environment, it matters who and what we surround ourselves with. Since we cannot control everything that goes on around us, we are left with one line of defense, one essential tool, and that is: awareness. And, only after we’ve become aware can we take direct, calculated, and effective action.
Questions we can ask ourselves are: Who are the five people I surround myself most with? Do they promote greater and greater versions of me, or do they want to keep me the same? Do I have access to resources where I am? What do I feel is missing from my environment? How can I put myself in touch with people, ideas, and perspectives that promote my highest self?
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.
Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com
His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.