Are you protecting yourself from mental contagion?

Who you hang around with can make or break your goals

Are you protecting yourself from mental contagion?
Photo by Papaioannou Kostas / Unsplash

Back in 2007, scientists discovered that obesity was socially contagious

Reporting in the July 26 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers found that obesity spreads through social ties. When an individual gains weight, it dramatically increases the chances that their friends, siblings, and spouses will likewise gain weight. The closer two people are in a social network, the stronger the effect. Interestingly, geographical distance between persons in a social network appears to have no effect.

“What we see here is that one person’s obesity can influence numerous others to whom he or she is connected both directly and indirectly,” says Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, a professor in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy. “In other words, it’s not that obese or non-obese people simply find other similar people to hang out with. Rather, there is a direct, causal relationship.”

What goes for obesity goes for lots of other things. Smoking, drinking, happiness, depression, and suicide rates can all be contagious through social groups.

You'd best believe that this goes for the people you hang out with in other parts of your life, too.

As a professional writer, you're one part creative and one part entrepreneur.

If you hang out with other writers, that can put you in a bad place.

Writers as a group aren't the most savvy businesspeople

That's no crime.

But it's something you ought to think about if you have ambitions to sell books.

Not worrying about a one-star review that you got on Amazon.

Not LARPing Game of Thrones intrigues with cliques on Goodreads.

Not taking your advice from other beginners as you skip hand in hand into a pit of failure.

It should go without saying that if you want to succeed, then you study the people  succeeding in what you want to do.

Like so many things that go without saying, this one needs to be said over and over again.

If you want to succeed, then you study the people  succeeding in what you want to do.

But if you're hanging around the wrong people, you might get an ugly surprise.

They might call this a stupid idea. They might make fun of you or it or both.

It might be that you're hanging around fundamentally unserious people.

You'll know the type.

In love with their own voices.

Always ready with snark like an angry teenager (even in their 30s/40s and older)

Doesn't matter that you have a common interest or shared hobby.

Avoid unserious people who aren't interested in learning and improving

If you hang around fat people, you're going to find it hard not to gain weight.

If you hang around sad people, you can bank on your own sadness.

If you hang around unserious people, what do you think happens to you?

A few days ago Your Host wrote:

The words in your world you affect you on a level you can't consciously sense.

That "harmless" pop or hip-hop that you keep on in the background affects your mood in ways that you don't notice.

Then you wonder why you're miserable.

Yes, even the words in the music. And if that can trip you up, what do you imagine happens when your peer group is full of negative minded people with bad attitudes?

Think about these questions:

How do you describe yourself?

How do you talk about yourself?

About your work? About your business? About your career?

What image do you carry of yourself and your abilities?

What goals seem realistic to you? What goals seem impossible or ridiculous?

Now ask yourself this:

How do the unserious people around you influence your answers?

This is hard. I'm asking you to see the invisible. But try this.

What expressions, phrases, terms, and concepts have you picked up from them?

What beliefs have you learned from them?

What are you absolutely certain must be true thanks to time spent hanging around these people?

What is impossible in their world?

Spend 15 minutes with a pen and a piece of paper and see what you come up with.

It might surprise you.

The major issue with peer groups is a simple truth about people.

Most human beings are incapable of thinking past their own egos

When you walk around your life, most of the people you see are lost in a dream-like state of self-absorption.

If you could listen in to their thoughts, it would sound like "Me, me, me, me me me!"

This isn't all bad. We all have needs to take care of.

But egotism has a limit. It blinds you to the world right underneath your own nose.

Iris Murdoch, the philosopher and novelist, once wrote that most people cannot see the light of the sun because they are so taken by the bonfire of their own narcissism.

An apt truth if there ever was one.

The ego feeds on attention from others. Selfishness fueled by vanity and pride leads us to crave validation from others. This fact alone explains the frothing dysfunction of social media platforms.

The people caught in this trap have lives that reflect it.

Their lives suffer for this.

If you insist on hanging out with the ego-afflicted, your life is going to suffer with them.

You've got better than average odds of falling into their attention-seeking status games.

You'll fall for the myths and pretty lies of the group's created reality.

You'll sabotage your goals.

Take care of what you allow in your mind... and who you allow in your world


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