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Choose Who You Spend Time With Carefully

"The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become."

I guess this should come as little surprise these days (particularly in light of all the hoo-ha around behavioural economics) but I continue to be amazed by the sheer range and degree of influence that the company we choose to keep plays on so many different (and critical) aspects of our lives. This post by Eric Barker pulls some of those different aspects together nicely.

Eric quotes from The Longevity Project, a landmark eight-decade study that tracked the lives and loves of 1500 Amercians from childhood to death. The project exposes what really impacts our lifespan and in the process busts a few myths about subjects such as health. Contrary to popular belief, for example, giving people lists of health recommendations (stop smoking, eat well, do exercise etc) is highly unlikely to get people to change anything. People associating with other healthy people on the other hand, is "usually the strongest and most direct path of change". 

This reminded me of that study that found that obesity "can spread from person to person, much like a virus…when one person gains weight, close friends tend to gain weight, too". Which in turn reminded me of Mark writing about happiness, suicide and binge drinking in a similar vein. Eric goes on to quote a 1994 Harvard study that features in Charles Duhigg's recent book The Power Of Habit and which looked at people who had radically changed their lives. For some, this change followed a big life event such as a personal tragedy, a significant health problem or divorce. For others it was after they witnessed someone close to them going through a particularly challenging time. But interestingly there were just as many people who changed because "they were embedded in social groups that made change easier".

As Eric suggests, manipulating context, changing the environment, and changing who we spend time with may just be the most powerful way to change behaviour, whether we're conscious of it or not. All this left me thinking about the significance of who we spend (such a lot of) our time with in our working lives. Seems like this could be more significant than we ever appreciated.

6 responses to “Choose Who You Spend Time With Carefully”

  1. Gavin Heaton Avatar
    Gavin Heaton

    Like that old quote – you can’t fly with eagles if you hang out with pigeons. Our innate desire to belong can sometimes lead us into behaviours that we might otherwise spurn.

  2. Gavin Heaton Avatar
    Gavin Heaton

    Like that old quote – you can’t fly with eagles if you hang out with pigeons. Our innate desire to belong can sometimes lead us into behaviours that we might otherwise spurn.

  3. Jeremy Hill Avatar
    Jeremy Hill

    I think I mentioned it before but did you ever see the Exactitude work by Ari Versluis. Similar vein. Nuts when you consider none of the people knew each other, the artists just found the “Exactitude”
    http://www.exactitudes.com/index.php?/series/all/136/5

  4. Jeremy Hill Avatar
    Jeremy Hill

    I think I mentioned it before but did you ever see the Exactitude work by Ari Versluis. Similar vein. Nuts when you consider none of the people knew each other, the artists just found the “Exactitude”
    http://www.exactitudes.com/index.php?/series/all/136/5

  5. neilperkin Avatar
    neilperkin

    Yes, thanks Jeremy – I remember you mentioning it

  6. neilperkin Avatar
    neilperkin

    Yes, thanks Jeremy – I remember you mentioning it

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