Most successful people reached their position when they were in the right place at the right time and with the right people. In other words, your social environment is essential for your creativity and productivity.
What can I change in my social environment?
There are always some things in your social environment that you may not be able to change in the short-run. But as my professors said in Economics class last week: Nothing is definite in the long-run. This theory is not only valid for economic phenomena but for life in general. Never consider yourself as stuck, or it only reveals that you have made a wrong decision in the first place. Regardless, there are a few things in the immediate that can have a tremendous impact on your being.
Trial and error
Some argue that the most important is the level of cleanliness around you. For example a clean desk will help you focus more than one full of clutter. Others say that the level of lighting is key or whether you have snacks and a drink available or not. However, these are all examples which I think are too individual to make a general rule or advice. It also depends on the project you have at hand. If I know that I have to produce an academic text I prefer to have complete silence and solitude, while a creative piece will spring to life in a more crowded and noisy environment. The only thing i can say is: Trial and error. Try to work with music and try without. Try to work with company and try without and you will see what works best for you!
Choose who you spend time with
Something that I think is even more crucial for a positive environment is the people you surround yourself with. Even here, you may not be able to choose it all… You cannot decide who your colleagues or classmates are. But you can choose who you spend time with after work or school. No one can force you to go out with anyone whom you don’t want, even if the “convention” is that you should be a part of whatever group you’re in.
I remember when I first arrived to Paris and University I was out to parties every weekend like all other first-year students. But truth is, I felt miserable. The experience made me re-evaluate what makes me feel good and productive. To be surrounded by people who’s focus is to get drunk and high was clearly not the optimal environment for me. Other may think that to go out to a bar boosts creativity, but for me it didn’t. I struggled with questions like: “Why don’t I like to party?”, “Why am I different?”.
Today I look back and I can see how I was negatively affected by the environment, in which the norms and values didn’t go in line with my own. I would even dare to argue that I am not alone in feeling “different” for not wanting to go out. The question is rather whether you are strong enough to say NO to the conventions. You can read more about learning how to say no here.
“You become like the people you spend time with”
If you are true to yourself today you will make yourself a favour for the future. It is always harder to end relationships and “memberships” than to say no from the start. Now I’ve learnt my lesson and can actively decline before I fall too deep into the wrong social circle. Yes, your friends do matter as well. It’s not just a question of conventions of “how you should live”, but also whether you are surrounded by other people that have similar aspirations and attitudes like yourself. I think the old saying “You become like the people you spend time with”, is very true. You may not want to admit it at first, “No, not me”. But it’s true that we all get influenced by those we spend the most time with. So make sure to choose your friends wisely.
For example, I’ve never been as productive as since I met Charles. He inspires me to challenge myself in my creativity and productions by his positive and open mindset. Furthermore, he has learnt me to appreciate and focus on the present and to not worry too much about what can happen in the future. because truth is, there is no future if you don’t take care of the now. If you work hard in the present, things have a tendency to always work out for the best. I’m also highly privileged with a supportive family that I know have my back regardless of what happens. Now, family is not something you can choose, but once you move from home, your partner and friends become like an immediate second family.
Be true to yourself
Take a look around you. Does your second family limit or boost your creativity and productivity? Do they support you when you say no? Are they there for you in both success and failure?
Greg McKeown pointed out another valid point: Your true friends will respect you more if you are true to yourself and dare to say no. If you are honest, it might well be the very reason why they want to surround themselves with you – because you inspire them to be more true to themselves as well. A positive environment with the right people is contagious. Your success is their success and vice versa. This feeling of trust is truly amazing and can make you create things you could never image before.