Recently, I re-read Atomic Habits by James Clear (it’s a fantastic book about behaviour change for anyone interested). And one of the chapters – ‘The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits’ – really stuck out to me.
James discusses our desire to fit in with those around us. He describes humans as ‘herd animals’ and that our desire to belong to a tribe was essential to survival. Being cast out of a tribe or becoming separated from them, was a sure-fire way die early.
The earliest habits in our life are not really dictated by us. They’re chosen by the people around us. We follow the people closest to us because that’s ‘normal.’ Growing up in a family that values health and fitness, will likely result in you being physically fit also. If your family values music or intelligence, it’s likely that you’ll see these things as important.
James argues that we imitate the habits of three groups;
Today our focus is on the close but future articles may go into 2 and 3.
Our social environment has a huge effect on our behaviour. Consciously or unconsciously, the closer we are to the people around us, the more we tend to act like them. If you’ve ever travelled overseas and found yourself mimicking the local accent without knowing it or realised you’ve started talking like the people you live with, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
This is important to know because if you choose to spend more time around those with similar habits that you admire, the more likely you are to achieve the same things. But the opposite is also true – if you’re a smoker that spends majority of their time around other smokers, quitting is going to be that much harder!
So, what should you do from here?
1. Joining a culture where your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour
2. Joining a culture where you already have something in common with the group
If you’re a stay-at-home mum with young kids, then maybe the bootcamp around the corner with other mums is for you.
If you’re a ex-triathlete wanting to get back into it, then maybe taking some swim classes, joining a running club or a cycling group would suit you best.
And if you want to build strength, capacity and resilience, all while having a laugh, then maybe our gym is right for you.
You may be able to start a new habit or behaviour by yourself. You could potentially keep this up for a while, if not forever. But to help sustain this behaviour and enjoy the process at the same time, it’s important to find a group of like-minded individuals to share the ride with.
"Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to a tribe… it’s friendship and community that embed a new identity and help behaviours last over the long run.” – James Clear.