How Friendship Makes You More Successful
By : Carlin Flora
Date : Jan. 16, 2013
Back in college, my dorm-mate Sofia and I invented a ritual we called “Power Wednesdays.” Every week, we headed to the campus fitness center for a workout, and then to the library for four hours of hard studying. We would stride back to our dorm with a huge feeling of accomplishment. But that uplifting cocktail of virtuousness, productivity and sore muscles — rewarding as it was — wasn’t what kept us repeating Power Wednesdays. Our real motivation was each other’s company. I’ve been immersed in the study of friendship for the past several years, and among the many things I’ve learned, one idea stands out: If you truly want to change some aspect of your life, developing friendships with people who aspire to the same goals as you do — like I did with Sofia 15-plus years ago — can lead to more successful endeavors than embarking on solitary efforts. Shortly after we make a decision to change our behavior, we often sense a softening of what at first felt like ironclad conviction. We chastise ourselves for our inability to summon motivation and return to the poor habits we’re trying to break to comfort us, actively undermining our goals. What a disheartening cycle. But research shows that having friends with the same goal can interrupt that cycle. Researchers James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis have demonstrated that weight loss (and gain) spreads through friend groups, most likely via a process of altered norms. For example, if you meet your friends at an all-you-can-eat brunch every Sunday, but then one pal starts to beg off after starting a diet, you might suddenly question whether the practice is best for you. It’s not that you’ll necessarily adopt your friend’s new habits right away, but the seed will be planted. If you want to continue to feel close to her, you might even start tweaking your own routines (perhaps unconsciously) to align them more with hers. The same type of...
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