We are not merely our biology. As we’ve already discussed in last week’s post, we are not limited to our genetics or natural predispositions. Our environment also shapes us.
We are first shaped by the environment in our childhood. This sets the default programming of who you are and what you think you can achieve. As you grow up, your internal environment (you self-talk) and external environment (society, friends, etc) continue to impact you. However, you can change what you allow to influence you. You can go from being a shy, awkward person to a confident, well-spoken leader. Your base personality doesn't change; how you show up in the world changes. Here are the details.
CHILDHOOD ENVIRONMENT SETS THE FOUNDATION
We are first shaped by the environment of our childhood. So much of who you are depends on your family and where you grew up. (Certain studies indicate that it is a very close 50/50 split between nature and nurture’s influence on your personality). The family, society, country, culture and religion you were raised in dramatically influence what you think of yourself, how you show up in life, and what you believe is possible for yourself.
When we are born into this world, we have very few default programs. Everything else is learned by observing those around us. Most of our default programs are ingrained in us in the first 7-9 years of life. The rest we create as we have our own life experiences. We notice the interactions of the people around us – family, friends, and neighbors. We notice the unspoken rules and create belief systems and habits associated with those rules. That sets the programming of what is “normal” for us
INTERNALIZATION AND SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECIES
We usually internalize those rules and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those default programs are like a thermostat. Say that you set your thermostat to 72°F. If the room goes up to 75°F, the AC will automatically kick in to lower the temperature. Likewise, if your room drops down to 69°F, the heater will kick in to raise the temperature.
This thermostat effect shows up in all areas of our lives. Your environment influences your attitude and belief systems, which then influences the actions you take.
Education: Was education emphasized in your family or was that viewed as optional?
Money: Was money hard to obtain and always in short supply? Or was it easy to make and save money?
Career: What kind of career opportunities were “people like you” supposed to have? What kind of future did most of the kids who looked like you or grew up in your neighborhood end up having?
Relationships: Can you trust people, or do you always need to be on the defensive?
Leadership: Am I leadership material or am I just a follower?
Worth: Do I deserve success, or do I deserve a hard life?
This programming is rooted in our unconscious/subconscious mind. We usually aren’t aware of them because most of us lead such busy, crowded and outside-focused lives. When you don’t take the time to self-observe and introspect, you give more power to your hidden programming to run the show. You might have negative programming that is self-sabotaging you. If you are not self-aware, you are more likely to blame external forces for the circumstances of your life.
For example, if you believe that you do not deserve success and that people like you won’t go far in life, you are highly unlikely to think of yourself as a leader. This means you likely won’t take on the responsibilities of a leader. You won’t be as proactive as other people. You won’t seek out the mentoring or read the books that might help you. Basically, you won’t prepare yourself for leadership. One day, you might get a leadership opportunity come your way. Because you haven’t prepared, you’re likely to perform poorly in that position. Your brain will interpret that as proof that you are not leadership material. The cycle will continue unless you choose to change.
You will act according to the image of the person you believe yourself to be, unless you change your mind or something drastic enough happens to jolt you.
SELF-AWARENESS AND HABIT FORMATION
This isn’t a doomsday article. You are not doomed by your environment. You are INFLUENCED by it. Your environment can either boost you towards leadership and overall success in life, or it could be a serious handicap. However, we all know people who have come from “good” environments but are failures now. Likewise, we know people who have come from “bad” environments who are successes now.
How is this possible?
First, you have to become aware of how your environment has influenced you. Take time daily to unplug from all distractions and quietly observe yourself. This time of introspection will help you gain insight into why you feel the way you do, why you reacted that way with that one person, and why you believe what you do. As Socrates is famed to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living."
If you don’t examine yourself, you are likely living life by just going through the motions. You are living on default. Your programming and habits are running you. Take that time of introspection.
Afterwards, take steps to either change your belief systems or build the skills that you want. If you are not a good public speaker, you can get trained to become an award-winning speaker. If you believe that you are “not smart enough” to be a leader, you can start learning skills to prove to your mind that you are “smart enough”. You then continue building on it. It is not an easy fix. Lasting change requires DEDICATION.
You might have to change your external environment: the people you hang out with, the places you frequent, the city you live in, or the activities you do.
You might have to change your internal environment: the thoughts you think, the music you listen to, the books you read, or the news sources you listen to.
What you feed yourself will create new thought habits in your head, which will create new default programs. You will reset your thermostat.
You can BECOME leadership material. You don’t have to be born with it.
What are your thoughts? Comment below to discuss!