Do we shape our environment? Or, does our environment shape us?
It seems nearly everyone admits to some kind of attention deficit today. With 1 million distractions diverting our limited focus, paying attention to anything for longer than 5 minutes seems to be a superpower. That’s because a long attention span is a superpower. (Has anyone bragged to you lately about their long attention span and their ability to focus exclusively on one thing for 2 to 3 hour time blocks?) We chase things like squirrels, and our attention diverts again accordingly. Were we always like this or did we become conditioned to our environment and its accoutrement?
Do we shape our environment or does our environment shape us? We like to think it is the former, that we possess the power over our environment, that we shape it, mold it, have power over it, make it do things for us. Only it is our environment that shapes us. We had it backwards. We don’t like admitting this because it makes it seem that we’re helpless in shaping our environment and its effects over us. While we are not helpless in shaping our environment, it affects us more than we know.
We do not shape Las Vegas. Las Vegas shapes us.
Look at our behavior in bars and clubs. We can get away with doing and saying certain things in bars and clubs that we would never do nor say elsewhere. You can act somewhat crazy (within reason) without getting tossed out. While judgement still happens, people can be more forgiving of others in bars and clubs. We love Las Vegas for these reasons, among others. We get to go there and be someone else for a few days and no one’s the wiser. No one judges us there. And mistakes supposedly stay put in Las Vegas and do not travel home with you. (Your money stays put in Las Vegas as well.) We do not shape Las Vegas. Las Vegas shapes us.
If someone dedicates herself to getting really cut, as in, bodybuilder cut, she’ll join a bodybuilder gym. These gyms are different from the normal gyms, like 24 Hour Fitness. These gyms define gym culture. These places house the most serious fitness equipment, the most dedicated & disciplined meatheads, and the most dedicated & disciplined coaches. They’re scary like that in a way. These folks are not in there to jack around. They’re there to get after it, and will yell at others to do likewise. These environments mold & shape people. These environments require thick skin. These environments demand discipline of their inhabitants. We do not shape the bodybuilder gym. The bodybuilder gym shapes us.
Parents are wise to this. Your mother always told you to hang around good people. She knows the effects others have on our behavior. The cliche, one bad apple spoils the whole bunch, can be especially true when it comes to people. There was always the one kinda, sorta “bad” kid who was always fun to hang out with. He danced the line from good to bad to good to bad to good to bad. You know who this guy is. He could be your friend. He could be your neighbor. He’s probably friends with your kid. Only one day he goes really bad and pushes things too far. Next thing you know, he’s in Juvie. Your mother didn’t want you hanging out with him anyway. He’s a bad influence.
People shape our environment. This is different from place as it is unwitting on our part. We do not give much thought to who we hang out with. We just hang out with people for awhile, consciously or unconsciously. And yet the people who we choose to hang out with shape us. If we choose to play small due to not wanting to hurt or offend those we hang around, this negatively affects us. If we choose to inhibit our ambitions as to not hurt or slam others around us, this negatively affects us. If we choose to only play against others we always dominate, we never get better because we’re never playing up. While it is fun to dominate a game for awhile, it gets old when nobody can come close to competing against you. You’re supposed to strive together, not have one overwhelm the other. We should be grateful for competition because it makes us better.
A timeless personal development maxim is “You are the average of the 5 people you hang around with the most,” and nothing could be more true.