It’s tough to change your lifestyle.
The challenges of replacing bad habits with good habits can seem daunting. Most people believe they need to exert a high level of willpower to refrain from doing their bad habits and to start doing the good ones.
But there are ways to make it easier – very simple and easy ways that have a huge impact.
The key is to have a social network that supports the change you want to make.
“One study of Dartmouth College students by economist Bruce Sacerdote illustrates how powerful this influence is. He found that when students with low grade-point averages simply began rooming with higher-scoring students, their grade-point averages increased. These students, according to the researchers, “appeared to infect each other with good and bad study habits—such that a roommate with a high grade-point average would drag upward the G.P.A. of his lower-scoring roommate.”
We all like to think that we have the willpower and strength to make whatever changes we want – that we can control our own mind and behaviour – masters of our own destiny.
Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.
The brutal truth is that we are all slaves to context. Our environment shapes us more than anything else. They also shape our habits whether you are aware of that or not. There have been many studies that show we do things out of habits than what we really want to do.
From Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:
“One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.”
This means you can heavily skew the odds in your favour or against your favour by choosing whom you spend your time with. If your goal is to get in shape, lose body fat, and eat a healthier diet but all your friends only eat fast food everyday and binge drink, you’re going to be fighting a losing battle. I’m not saying you can’t pull it off. Perhaps some of you have iron-will determination, but you’re swimming against the current. Contrarily, if you surround yourself with other health-minded individuals, you’ll be swimming with the current. It won’t take as much willpower for you to stick to healthier habits.
I’m not saying you should ditch your fun friends forever, but if they don’t support your health goals, then perhaps you can complement them with a set of friends who are physically active and eat healthier.
Again, you want to manipulate your environment so that it is conducive to achieving your fitness goals.
Think long-term. Even if you can swim against the current, how long can you sustain that for? Weeks, months maybe? How about years? Is it a sustainable?
You want to swim with the current. Build your social support network.
They need you just as much as you need them.