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15,000 Years of Success!

By Philip E. Humbert, PhD

This week I re-read Jared Diamond's remarkable, Pulitzer- winning book on the rise and fall of human societies. The book caused quite a stir because he examined over 15,000 years of history to understand why some peoples succeed while others advance slowly and die quickly. Unfortunately, I suspect the book also caused a stir, in part, because of its title, "Guns, Germs and Steel."

I mention this for a very, very important reason that has everything to do with success and failure in life. In the preface, Diamond writes, "History followed different courses for different people because of differences among people's environments, not because of biological differences among people themselves" (p. 25). Think about that!

The greatest predictor of success is not the people, but their environment! As a coach and Psychologist, I've long known that our Personal Eco-Systems' the micro-environment we create around ourselves every day, is the best predictor of our long-term success, health, wealth and happiness.

Many people have noted that "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." I suspect there is truth in that.

I also suspect that if I look at your library, your home, your office, your car and the music you listen to, I can predict with some accuracy how well you're getting along in life. How could it be any other way?

We constantly interact with our environment. When we are surrounded by sights, sounds, textures and tools that stimulate or motivate us, we become energized, creative and productive. Conversely, when we are surrounded by things that annoy or distract us, we quickly become discouraged. There is no surprise in this!

Charlie "Tremendous!" Jones was famous for noting that, "Five years from now, you will be the same person you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet." Environment matters! And, regarding Jones' observation, I would add that you will be the same person you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet, along with the programs, classes and workshops you attend and the challenges that enrich your life. But the principle remains.

The fact is that we change because of our environment far more than we change because of conscious decisions or will- power. The Law of Homeostasis says we tend to remain the same. We like our habits, our traditions and routines. We say we "want to change" but over the long-haul, we rarely do. We all know this.

Here are two powerful steps to achieve change in your life or circumstances:

1. Decide exactly what you want. This is called goal-setting or personal honesty. It's about dreams and desires, about values, priorities and having the courage to choose. Be clear about what you want!

2. Create an environment that pulls you forward. Surround yourself with people, books, situations and activities that reflect your desires. Talk with experts. Listen to the programs and music they listen to. Take the classes, read the books, dress and talk and think like they do. It'll rub off on you!

As Diamond notes, the difference between success and failure has little to do with talent, ability, or even interests or intelligence. The key to achieving the things you want in life is the environment in which you live. The good news is you control this! The bad news is that few of us do.

Fortunately, it requires little or no money to change your world! A library card is free. Inspiration and information on the internet is free! Exercise is free, and an apple costs less than a burger. Posters, pictures, good music and an organized office cost very little. Having lunch with successful people costs a few dollars. The bad news is that so few of us rigorously monitor these things. We're "too busy" and they are "too small" to be worth our time and effort.

To change your life, change your world. Change your personal environment, the little habits and daily activities that fill your time, and your life must (and will!) change for you. Will-power won't do it. You are largely the product of your environment, so make sure your world nurtures the person you want to become tomorrow even more than the person you are today.

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