When I was still in my twenties, I went to Parris Island, South Carolina, to see my brother Mark graduate with his classmates (I am pretty sure they would all be horrified to know I just called them that) from Marine Corps boot camp.
I don't pretend to know what going through boot camp was like for my brother Mark. He has told me some stories, but I have a feeling this is a secret society you can only fully understand if you have been there yourself.
What I do know is this: I saw the transformation boot camp wrought in Mark's life, and in the lives of all the young men who were part of his graduating class…
What was it, I have often wondered, that had such a powerful effect on my brother and those other men? Externally enforced discipline, for sure, had a lot to do with it. But I don't think that's the whole story.
The real difference, the lasting difference, the difference that made most of them hold on and finish the course even when I'm sure they all felt like giving up at some point… was the peer group.
We tend to think of “bad influences” when we think about peer groups. We call it “peer pressure”.
But is peer pressure always bad? I don't think so.
I think there is such a thing as positive peer pressure. It's caused by something you never learned about in physics class…
The Power Of Emotional Gravity
In physics, we learn that the more mass an object has, the more gravitational pull it exerts on objects nearby. The same is true of peer groups.
If the mass majority of people around you are slovenly, unhealthy, eat poorly, and lack financial discipline, chances are you will be a lot like those other people. Given enough time with them, the emotional gravity of being in their presence all the time will eventually, quite literally, weigh you down.
On the other hand, if the mass majority of people you spend time with are focused, cheerful, optimistic, disciplined, and diligent… so you will be, too.
Because of emotional gravity, your peer group will either lift you up, or it will drag you down.
How You Can Use This Phenomena To Your Advantage
Knowing this should give you a great deal of hope. If you have not achieved the outcomes you want from your life, whether it be in personal or business matters (or both), the first place to start is with examining your peer group.
Are they lifting you up? Or are they dragging you down?
If it is the latter, it's time for you to choose a new peer group.
This doesn't mean you have to discard family and close personal friends (although sometimes that might be in order). More often, it simply means developing a “consciously chosen peer group”. An intentional peer group.
These might be people that you don't actually spend the most time with physically, but you do spend the most intentional times of your life with them. You meet with them regularly, receive feedback and ideas, and they hold you accountable to your highest, best self.
If it's time for you to become part of a new peer group, here's how to do it. It's very simple. There are only three steps…
- Decide what you want to achieve. This might be a personal fitness goal, a business goal, or even a general outlook and approach to life. Just be clear about what it is you really want to change in your life. Know the outcome you're looking for. Next…
- Look for a group who is already achieving it. Ideally, you don't want a randomly selected group of people that don't know one another. Look for a group that has been naturally drawn together already. People who are achieving the fitness goals, the business goals, the outlook on life that you want for yourself. Be careful here: satisfy yourself that they actually are achieving the outcomes you want, and not merely giving the appearance of having done so. Once you know they have the life or qualities of character that you desire for yourself…
- Become a part of that group. That may sound overly simplistic, but it is the real answer. Do whatever you must, as long as it's legal, moral, and ethical, to become a part of this group. Be intentional about absorbing their standards and attitudes. If you've chosen your group well, especially if you've chosen a group that is filled with people who are more advanced than you, you will begin to feel the effects of gravity almost immediately. They will automatically pull you up to new levels of achievement and excellence.
By the way… I was taught a long time ago that there are two ways to get into these groups: you can either earn your way in (through accomplishment and reputation), or you can buy your way in (through paying a membership fee, much like the country clubs of yore). This may sound crass, but… I chose to buy my way in. I intentionally sought out mastermind groups filled with people who were more accomplished than I at achieving the outcomes I really wanted most for my life. I still do this.
You may want to consider doing the same.
In any event, however you manage to do it, find the group that will exert positive peer pressure on you. Let the gravity from your “intentional companions” lift you up, instead of letting the inertia of the mediocre masses drag you down.