How Your Environment Influences You

How Your Environment Influences You

Hi team, Mary here! Welcome to 2021. It shouldn’t come as a shock, considering 2020 was one environmentally influencing year, but your environment plays a huge role in what influences you every day. It affects your mental health, including your outlook on life and stress, depression, and anxiety levels. Understanding what in our environment influences us and how is the first step we can take towards combatting negative environmental influence.

Types of Environmental Influence

There are a few types of environmental influence that could be affecting you, including physical and social factors. Physical factors are things having to do with your body and your physical environment around you. Social factors include your family, friends, coworkers, and wider community.

Physical

Check out some examples of physical environmental influence below.

  • Your Home, Office, and Car: These are among the top places you spend your time. How these areas look (meaning, how clean and organized they are) influence your mental health daily. Living in a clean and organized home can increase your positive outlook on life because your immediate surroundings are also positive. Note: When we say “organized” we don’t mean you have to Marie Kondo your home! You might have a ton of stuff and keep it organized in a way that suits your needs. Your process of organization doesn’t have to match others’ processes.
  • Pollution: In case you don’t know already, air pollution affects your health! Psychology Today reports in this article titled The Impact of Air Pollution on Mental Health that air pollution can increase suicide risk and depression.
  • Sleep Deprivation: When you’re sleep deprived, your mental health declines. A good night’s sleep can boost your immune system, act as a light painkiller, prevent weight gain, increase heart health, increase your positive mood, reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve memory. Read more in this article titled 10 Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep by VeryWell Health.
  • Weather: Bad and extreme weather can influence your mental health! Dealing with snowstorms, constant rain, lack of sunshine, and freezing temperatures is never fun for anyone. Seasonal affective disorder, anyone?
  • Smoking: You already know the risks associated with smoking.
  • Eating Habits: If your doctor hasn’t told you already, what you put into your body has a direct effect on your mood and health. Check out this article Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food by Harvard Medical School.

These are just a few examples of physical factors that can influence your mental health. Try to remain mindful of these influences, even if they are negative. What other physical factors do you encounter daily?

Social

Check out some examples of social environmental influence below:

  • Stigmas: People experience racism, sexism, ageism, and other forms of prejudice that can have a serious impact on their mental health.
  • Relationships: Friends, family, lovers, co-workers, and strangers are all part of your relationships. The people you choose to surround yourself with has a major influence on your mental health. Don’t surround yourself with people who will mentally, emotionally, or physically abuse you. Choose relationships that lift you up and make you feel more positive about life.
  • Community: The community in which you live has a tremendous influence on you. Impoverished communities versus wealthy communities have different influences on human beings. No matter where you come from or where you are now, you absolutely have the capability to be a positive influence and have a positive outlook on life.

Social factors influence your mental health so pervasively because humans are social creatures! What other social factors influence you daily?

Conclusion

Realizing that our environments can influence us may help us overcome the negative side effects that can come from negative environments. Your environment doesn’t have to look like someone else’s to be positive or make you feel content. Part of your environment is your outlook, and if you can try to remain mindful of what influences you, you can try to remain mindful of how you see the world. Just remember, it’s okay to have bad days! It’s okay to feel negative and emotional. It’s how you pick yourself back up that defines you. Don’t let your environment drag you down! Instead, lift everyone and your surroundings UP with your positive influence.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Hi team, Mary here! With 2021 right around the corner, now is the time people start considering their New Year’s resolutions. Personally, I prefer to call them New Year’s goals because I think goals are easier for people to deal with, they are less likely to be given up on because they are adaptable, and they can feel more rewarding when reached. Additionally, I think New Year’s resolutions have a negative connotation to them; roughly 80% of people give up on their resolutions by February, so it seems societal norm is to create resolutions but not stick to them. If we start planning goals, perhaps we won’t give up on them. With the new year right around the corner, let’s start creating our S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals now.

Choosing Your Goal

Some of the most common New Year’s goals are:

  • Go to the gym regularly
  • Lose weight/diet
  • Work on mental health
  • Get a new job
  • Buckle down on finances
  • Manage stress
  • Improve a relationship
  • Quit smoking/drinking

So, does that mean you have to set a common goal? Heck no! Choosing your goal is personal and should relate to how you want to grow. It can absolutely be a common goal, because making our minds and bodies healthier is a great way to grow, but it can also be an obscure goal that means something to just you. You may want to learn a new style of cooking, read a book series, go back to school, climb a mountain, run a 10k, practice or learn a new art, or anything you want it to be. Your goals should reflect who you want to be and how you want to grow.

My 2020 goals were to figure out grad school, read for an hour every week, write and release one song, and finish my crochet blanket. I’m happy to say, I did figure out grad school! With the help of some trusted friends and loved ones, I enrolled for my master’s in organizational leadership. However, once I realized how hard learning to write music was, I adjusted my goal to continue learning about music. When my hand started cramping up from crocheting, I adjusted my goal to work on my crochet blanket (it’s massive, like king-sized, so finishing it is going to take a long time). I didn’t read fiction for one hour every week, but I didn’t give up on the goal; I still read every week for at least one hour and read my fiction book when I can fit it into my schedule. Don’t be afraid to adjust, but don’t give up.

Specific

Once you have decided on your goal, it’s time to make your goal specific! Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Who is involved in this goal?
  • What do I want to accomplish with this goal?
  • Where will this goal be achieved?
  • When do I want to achieve this goal?
  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?

It’s vital that your goal is specific, otherwise you might lose sight of what you are working towards. It also needs to be specific enough to follow the rest of the S.M.A.R.T. process.

Measurable

If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it. Making sure you have metrics to measure your goal will help you reach your goal. It will also propel you forward towards the end. If you don’t have a way to measure your progress, you may become discouraged half-way through and give up. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, what would your metrics be? For one, you can weigh yourself and tangibly see your weight loss, but you can also measure your calorie intake and how many calories you burn during exercise.

Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • How many/much X will I need?
  • How will I know I have reached my goal?
  • What will I use to be an indicator of progress?

Attainable

Your goal should stretch your abilities without stretching you so thin it makes the goal unattainable. For example, I could set the goal of becoming an astronaut. Becoming an astronaut is certainly attainable. In the S.M.A.R.T. process, attainable and realistic go hand-in-hand so be sure to keep a close eye on these sections. Yes, becoming an astronaut is technically attainable because other people have done it, so I could do it too. But is it realistic?

Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Do I have the funds/resources/capabilities to reach this goal?
  • If not, what am I missing or how can I get it?
  • Are there any roadblocks that could prevent my goal from being attainable?

Realistic

Setting a realistic goal means setting a goal that can be achieved given the resources and time you have. So, continuing our example above, I could, technically, become an astronaut. However, am I in a position to become an astronaut? Am I astronaut material? Am I willing to go back to school, start my career from scratch, and spend more than a decade trying to reach my goal? Probably not. It’s not a realistic goal because I’m not willing to dedicate the time to achieve the goal, I probably wouldn’t be that good at advanced science and math, and even then I may not even get up into space so I would have to be content simply working for NASA or another space related company.

Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Is my goal realistic?
  • Is this goal worth my time?
  • Is this goal worth my money?
  • Is this the right time to try to reach this goal?
  • Does this goal match other efforts/needs?

Timely

All goals need a definitive start and end date. If there is no timeline, there will be no sense of urgency; hence, less motivation to reach the goal. When I set my 2020 goals, they all had a deadline of the end of the year. Looking back, I didn’t create all my goals around S.M.A.R.T. or I would have known that releasing a song would be nearly impossible. However, my hand cramping up during crocheting is not something I could have foreseen, so I adjusted my goal’s timeline. Your timeline should be in line with what you need from that goal.

Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Does my goal have a deadline?
  • When do I want to achieve my goal?
  • What else is going on in my life that could prevent me from hitting this goal in this time frame?

Conclusion

Now’s the time to start planning for your 2021 goals and I want you all to feel like achievers in reaching your goals. Don’t follow society and set goals for yourself just to never see them fulfilled. Doing so will just make setting goals harder and more discouraging because you train yourself to not meet your goals. You literally program yourself to think it’s okay to set goals and not meet them. I promise, once you set a goal and meet that goal, you’ll be changed. Looking back at your past self and knowing you made it is a reward worth having. Trust me, I’m so happy to be in school and at the beginning of 2020, I was sure that was a goal I would give up on.

Showing Gratitude

Showing Gratitude

Hi team, Mary here! We have had a pretty crazy year. Between the pandemic, civil unrest, and elections, it seems emotions are always running high. But in the month of giving thanks, I would like us all to reflect on that which we are grateful for. In times of uncertainty and stress, it can be easy to look at the past or future and wish for better, but that takes us away from the present moment. I implore you to focus on that which you do have, in the now. Showing gratitude for the positive parts of your life will help you remain positive and content overall.

What is Gratitude?

Most individuals believe that showing gratitude is the same as showing thanks. While being thankful is synonymous with showing gratitude, there are some subtle differences. Being thankful is when you acknowledge what someone or something has done or given you. For example, when your co-worker brings coffee to work for everyone, you may respond with, “Thank you!” Gratitude, on the other hand, is a feeling that is much deeper. It goes beyond the simple, verbal “thank you” and involves having a deeper appreciation and love for that person, event, or thing. It’s a deep emotional response that you feel down to your core, and the feeling lingers much longer than the “Thank you!”

If you’re someone who doesn’t have or express a lot of emotions, the differences between showing gratitude and being thankful might be difficult to grasp. You can still show gratitude and be mindful about how you conduct yourself in showing thanks while not feeling the deep emotional sense of gratefulness. Showing gratitude for the things and people in your life requires that you remain mindful of yourself and your surroundings. So, if you’re someone who has difficultly feeling or expressing emotion, meditation and mindfulness might be the solution for you showing gratitude.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a school of thought that can be expressed in several ways but boiled down it’s just about remaining aware of yourself, how you’re feeling inside, and remaining cognizant of the influence you have. Some people practice mindfulness by meditating while others may practice mindfulness by reading self-help books or engaging in self-education. Mindfulness is kind of what you want it to be, as long as you can stay grounded in who you are and how you influence the world around you. Staying mindful just means that you stay aware. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect because none of us are. It means that if you identify an opportunity for growth, you try to grow positively.

Being Humble

Being humble goes hand-in-hand with showing gratitude. If you are boastful, you are certainly not being mindful. You might have a little or you might have a lot, but no matter what you have, it’s important to remain humble in those feelings. There are always going to be those who are less fortunate than you. Remaining humble and showing gratitude for what you do have in life will help you remain more content. Instead of constantly chasing greener grass or looking back on better times, find peace in where you are at in life. By showing gratitude, and feeling the weight of that gratefulness, you will inherently become humbler. Gratitude itself is a humbling feeling.

Conclusion

Focusing on what we do have rather than what we don’t have is how we can all live more content lives and spread a positive influence. When we feel grounded with where we are, we feel better about ourselves. When we feel good, we spread that good feeling to those around us. In the month of thanks, take some time to show deep gratitude towards those who have positively influenced you. You may even show some gratitude towards those who have been a negative influence in your life; sometimes negativity can make us better as humans and that is something to be grateful for. If you’re looking for more ways to be a positive influence and help spread the love, check out our Influence page! We have tons of examples of positive influence for children, your professional life, and your personal life.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to anyone out there who has read this blog, our book, followed us on social media, watched our vlogcast, and supported our efforts to spread a positive influence by teaching people how to be better leaders. You’re the reason I get up in the morning and why the sun will shine again tomorrow. You give my life purpose and meaning, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to help anyone grow in their positive influence. So, how about you? What are you grateful for? Namaste, team.

How to Build Healthy Habits

How to Build Healthy Habits

Hi team, Mary here! With 2021 right around the corner, I’m sure some of you are looking ahead to better and brighter days. One of the things I love most about a new year is how excited people get about their new year’s goals! (Notice how I said “goals” and not “resolutions.”) Unfortunately, approximately 80% of people give up on their new year’s goals by February! Hence, why I refuse to call them resolutions.

Creating new year’s resolutions is usually about building healthier habits. One of the most popular is going to the gym regularly. Habits take discipline and dedication to take root in your life, so they become automated. It’s estimated that actions take 21-60 days of repetition to firmly become habits. Usually, these habit-forming resolutions are abandoned, for one reason or another, and forgotten about until the next new year comes along.

I believe creating healthy habits starts with dedication to yourself. You start forming new habits because you know they will be good for you but can become discouraged if you miss a day or multiple days, giving up on the habit creation altogether. When dedicating yourself to making new and healthy habits, you need to employ some empathy for yourself too. Don’t feel discouraged for not being perfect. Instead, feel uplifted and remember why you set out to start creating a new habit in the first place. One of the best ways to start creating new habits is to evaluate the ones you currently have.

Evaluate Current Habits

When you decide it’s time to add new habits into your routine, the first thing you need to do is evaluate your current habits. Some habits are completely automated and perhaps even subconscious (like, biting your nails) while others are intentional (like going to the gym). Subconscious habits are usually harder to spot as they are typically performed while in the subconscious-mode state. Nonetheless, write down and evaluate all your current habits that come to mind. You can add to this list over time as you discover some of the smaller subconscious habits you have. After you have your list, you will want to determine which of those habits are negative influences on you. Do away with negative habits to make room for positive, healthy ones.

Build Healthy Habits

Building healthy habits starts with dedication to yourself and pursuing a better life. It might be helpful for you, when you decide to create a new habit, to write yourself a note to encourage your future self to stick with it! We often forget why we set out to create new habits but reading a letter from your past self could help keep you on the right path. Even if you make a mistake, pick yourself back up and keep trying. The only person you let down by not sticking to better habit development is yourself. Wayne Dyer once said, “You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, ‘I release the need for this in my life.’”

Sometimes building new, healthy habits is hard if you don’t know where to start! One of the programs we are part of, ProHabits, makes healthy habit development a breeze. ProHabits sends you a daily MicroAction, either in a text or email, and you focus on performing that small action that day. Each MicroAction takes only 5-10 minutes per day and it corresponds to the habit track you choose. Some examples of tracks they have include leadership, mindfulness, and empowerment. They have a basic program with their stock tracks, but we partnered with them through IA Business Advisors to bring our clients specialized tracks based on The I in Team Series. If you want some help learning where to start with healthy habit development, ProHabits is the place for you. Just ask us how you can sign up!

Make a Routine

Once you know what healthy habits to put in place, you will want to schedule them into your daily routine. If you can fit in these new habits with ones you already have or during a time when you are already doing stuff for yourself (like, getting ready in the morning), you will have an easier time remembering to perform the habit each morning. For example, when I wanted to make the habit of taking my new vitamins every morning, I put my vitamin container next to my contact lens case. Therefore, when I put my contacts in, I would see the vitamins and remember to take them. Consider writing a sticky note to yourself and sticking it somewhere, like your bathroom mirror! Or, if you’re addicted to your phone like many of us are, finding a habit tracking/creating app or using your calendar or reminder app to help you might be your best route!

Conclusion

Habit development isn’t an easy task. It takes time, discipline, and desire to change. With the new year right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start considering your current habits and some goals you have for your future. Keep in mind that you’re only human, and all humans make mistakes. Making a mistake is not a license to throw your entire habit development plan out the window. Instead, show yourself some kindness and keep moving forward towards your goals. Adjust these goals as needed to keep them relevant in your life. If you need help with healthy habit development, contact us about ProHabits!

Take Control of Your Influence

Take Control of Your Influence

Hi team, Mary here! Now is the time to take control of your influence. If you have been following us for a while, you know that Brian and I have the philosophy that your influence is your single greatest responsibility as a human being. If you’re new, welcome! We want to help you find your influence, use your influence in a positive way, and develop that which makes you unique. We recognize that each individual has something to offer this world that separates them from the rest, and the world needs your unique, positive influence!

Find Yourself

In order to tap into that which makes you individual, and therefore which makes your influence individual, you must first find yourself. I wish I could tell you there is an easy path to step on for you to do this, but, alas, there is not. I can only offer my wisdom on how you can find yourself. Finding yourself always starts with two things: slowing down and being honest. If you can slow down and be honest with yourself while you are trying to find yourself, down to your very core being, your journey will be easier.

Our first book, Individual Advantages: Find the “I” in Team, takes you on this extensive journey of finding yourself. To keep it concise, for blog purposes, you need to do some self-reflection. Slow down, bring your senses into the present moment, focus on the now, and start to reflect. My hope is that the following list of questions will help you start to ponder who you are as a unique human being. Take the time that you deserve to do this because Brian and I both truly believe that you are doing this world a disservice if you do not choose to influence it with that which makes you wholly individual.

  • Who do you think you are?
  • Who do you want to be?
  • Who do you want to be perceived as?
  • Who do you think you are perceived as now?
  • What makes you feel happy?
  • What are your core, personal values?
  • What do you like and dislike most about yourself?

Be Yourself

Once you have found yourself, who you are and who you want to be, you finally have the chance to be yourself—to be a positive influence on the world around you. Being a positive influence, even to yourself, doesn’t require you to change anything. It only requires that you think pragmatically, as a leader should, about situations and people. We cover being a positive influence extensively in our second book, Individual Advantages: Be the “I” in Team, due to be released in January 2021.

Being a positive influence means understanding how you communicate and trying to understand how others communicate with you. It means taking the high road, weighing your choices to make decisions, being accountable for those decisions, finding balance and striving to keep that balance, staying humble, and staying positive. This certainly doesn’t exhaust the list, however, being yourself and being a positive influence means looking for ways to stay true to yourself that also benefits as many people as possible.

Your Greatest Responsibility

Your influence is your greatest responsibility. How you choose to treat yourself, the people around you, and your environment all play a pivotal role in your influence. Your influence is comprised of your actions, words, and thoughts. How you treat yourself in your mind influences who you are and how you treat others. As we like to say, “What’s inside influences what’s outside.” Treat yourself kindly and you will be more inclined to treat others kindly. If you can understand your worth and what you can contribute to this world just by being yourself, you will feel the full weight of your responsibility on your shoulders. How you choose to wield that responsibility is yours alone, we hope that we can influence you to choose to use it positively.