How Our Environment Shapes Us

by | 7 March 2019 | Personal Development | 1 comment

6 min read

A quote you might have heard of already famously states that we all are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker initially stated it.1

Ever since, it has been the foundation for many successful people to base their life decisions on.2

They have realized how our environment shapes us.

Because of its intangible nature, our perception of the environment around us happens subconsciously most of the times. That makes it difficult to register and evaluate the influence it has on us, especially over a longer period of time. All too often, our environment gets stamped as something that is out of our control, as something that we have to deal with.

This is dangerous, because the way we choose to utilize our environment is probably one of the biggest decisions shaping our life.

Our environment consists of many different factors, many of which we really can’t influence at our will. To cover them all, I would probably have to start this article with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. However, choosing the people we surround ourselves with is a decision that always lies within our control. Even when it doesn’t always seem like it.

Your Environment Affects Your Behavior

We all made our experiences showing us how much impact the people we spend the most time with can have on us.

I’m sure you know that moment when you realize you started using certain words, which haven’t been part of your vocabulary before, after hanging out with another person who is using them a lot. Or the way we adapt our overall pronunciation — even in our mother tongue — when spending time with people speaking different dialects or languages.

While those are just small examples, they show the magnitude of impact that our personal environment has on us.

The truth is, it goes much further than that, and if we are really honest with ourselves, we all know that. Being social beings, the people around us affect almost every aspect of our lives. The thoughts we have, the actions we take, the decisions we make. Every little thing happening is the result of a big equation with an infinite amount of variables, many of which are set by our environment.

That is the reason why we can’t afford to put off our environment as a variable we can’t control. We actually can and should always try to.

Changing Your Environment — So Close Yet So Far

By taking the time to reflect on our current situation, it is not that difficult to figure out if your personal environment and the people around you are helping you to move closer to where you want to be in the future.

Do you feel like you are making progress in your life? Do the people you spend your time with move into a similar direction with similar goals in mind? If not, then it is time to evaluate your relationship with those people and to think about how much time you spend with them and why.

Time is our most valuable resource. We have to spend it wisely.

If you know your environment is not helping you to move forward and your strategy is to wait for something to happen that will allow you to change it, I urge you to change your strategy. Staying in an environment, may it be at a job we don’t enjoy or with friends we just keep in touch with because we know them for so long, simply takes up too much energy. Energy that you need to actually move forward to where you want to be.

Winners often win because their environment makes winning easier.

— James Clear3

I’m learning this lesson myself and actually recently changed my whole environment by moving to another country for some time. One month in, and I know this is one of the best decisions I have ever made.4

You don’t have to move somewhere to start making it a habit to take control of your environment and responsibility for your time. Start small, but start now.

Don’t meet that friend for dinner who is constantly complaining about everything. Pick up that self-improvement book you wanted to read instead of binge-watching the next series.

Changing your environment will induce more changes — that’s the beauty of it. Stop waiting for something to happen. Stop fighting that uphill battle against your surroundings. Change them.

Catalyst or Excuse – What Do You Want Your Environment to Be for Yourself?

In the end it all comes down to one decision that you have to make for yourself – are you going to use your environment as a catalyst to reach your goals or as an excuse to comfort yourself while stagnating where you are currently?

Taking responsibility for your environment means giving up that comfort, but it will reward you with the feeling of growth. You will feel overwhelmed more often than not, but (from my experience) you will start to enjoy that feeling.

There is an endless amount of people to spend your precious time with, without making any step forward towards your goals. There are so many things to do to just comfort you in your current situation and to distract you from the fact that you are not really happy.

There are also plenty of people out there having similar goals and dreams like you have. Many can help you to get to the next level, also some will require your help to make their next step. There’s this beautiful process of growing together going on in this world. You just need to tap into it, if you dare to.

Pick your side.

Looking forward to your comments below this article.


  1. An article highlighting the meaning of this quote on Business Insider.
  2. Tim Ferriss, a strong believer in the truth of this statement, promoting it on his Instagram.
  3. Quote from an article by James Clear on the influence of our environment.
  4. A recent video I took, explaining why it was a great decision to move to Chiang Mai for a while.

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Johnny Ilca

Nice reading, you have some good snippets there