Our view of the world – and of our part in it – is largely informed by the people around us. Our friends, family, and culture all play a part in shaping our idea of how the world works. We learn by social means, so when we grow up seeing everyone around us going to school, then off to college, university, a workplace, or whatever, we don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, we don’t tend to give it a second thought; it’s just how things are. Same goes for so many aspects of your daily life.
On a more personal level, our beliefs regarding things like our self-concept, our morality, and other deeply held ideas, are also informed by the people around us – at least in part. It’s likely that, at least up to a certain age, you held the beliefs and values of your immediate family. After a point though, we begin to really question the world for ourselves – often through the new filters of our expanding social world.
Going off to high school opens your world up to a whole barrage of experiences, and thanks to your still-developing brain, you’re able to see the world from so many more angles. You begin to question things you might not have before, and perhaps feel estranged from your family values (who didn’t have an angsty teen phase? Be honest).
As we move through life, our social circle comes to inform more and more of our own identity. I won’t go to deep in to the psychology of why this all works (unless somebody really wants to know) but essentially what it boils down to is the options we see. Say a young impressionable teen, whose time is split between family-life and socialising with his friends. His family are maybe very much against shoplifting, and have raised him to know it’s wrong. Yet his new friends sometimes steal sweets or whatever from the shop, and they get away with it, and in the end get what they want.
So there’s a weighing up of options: whereas before the mind only knew “shoplifting is bad” there is now a competitor which seems to be saying “but look, you can get things!”
So it comes down to the individual to decide, what’s my stance on it? Where do my morals lie? Most people don’t dig down to that level, generally. They stick to one or the other pre-set options, and roll with it. It seems to often boil down to the ratio of these beliefs we are exposed to (say, for and against shoplifting) that determine the action we take. The perceived risk or benefit pays a large role, too, since people can learn not only from their own wins and losses, but from seeing other people’s outcomes.
Hopefully you’ve realised already that this applies to way more than just a misguided kid deciding whether to steal some sweets or not. We can take this concept in to our daily lives, and see for ourselves how we are influenced by all sorts of other people’s ideas.
In the day-and-age we live in, the people we come cross in our daily life are only a fraction of our social world. With the number of people on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and whatever other social media platforms, combined with the number of hours we all spend each day online, our meta social life in the world wide web is fairly significant. It can play a vital role in who we believe ourselves to be, which can come with some problems if we don’t pay it any attention.
With what turned out to be uncanny timing, I was invited to a live webinar which I’d heard a bit about earlier in the day. I knew there was going to be a special guest, and I try to make it to all the mastermind calls I can, so I hopped on. The special guest was David Caldicott, and what a conversation it turned out to be.
I say uncanny, because what David was talking to us about was our online life, just as I’m in the middle of writing this article. He provided so much value in the hour-or-so and really gave me some things to mull over as a part of this topic.
For a long time, I really didn’t bother much with social media. I saw it as quite vapid, and just for people who were desperate for attention, so while I’ve always used it I was dubious. I didn’t see the connections that we could make online as real or as genuine as an in-person connection. I didn’t see the way that we could use it as a tool to help guide and build our social lives in interesting ways, to be creative and connect with people we want to ‘be around’.
Over the years, my views have of course changed. When I came to see how I could utilize social media, rather than just be bombarded with whatever was by-default in my newsfeed, I lost that gripe I had with it. I saw that it was all really just some reflection of how I socialised in general, and was actually a big learning point for me in my personal development. Our newsfeeds are completely personalised, and really are just a reflection of our ‘self’ in a way (which is a whole other topic, that I’d like to go deep in to another time).
It was when I really got in to making and selling my art that I bothered with much of an online presence that was actually me. I had been writing for my blog for a while before that, although back then my writing was totally different and while it was pretty personal, there wasn’t as much me in there as there is now.
I had a Facebook page for letting people see my art, and I let people in to the creative process too: I’d post videos of me in the middle of working on a piece, and people could see it for sale later. It was amazing how much appreciation and acknowledgement my work got and it really pushed me to keep going, and I even made a few good sales.
The nice thing here is that I didn’t have a social network of artists in ‘real life’, nor any way to let people in to my studio (at the time my kitchen, I’ve since moved to a place where we have a studio room) or my head, yet I was now able to showcase my work and connect to people who wanted to see it.
More recently, I’ve found some amazing online communities which have really challenged my thinking, and flooded my social media platforms with incredible, valuable content.
One of these was a group dedicated to metaphysics and the way we can use more philosophical and spiritual notions practically in our lives for positive change, aptly named Practical Metaphysics. This meant I had over 26,000 other people all interested in similar topics to me who I could bounce ideas around with, which massively impacted my own thinking and challenged me to grow in many ways.
The other is a group of self-made online entrepreneurs – Project Q1 – where I’ve really seen my world open up in action-orientated ways. It’s given me such a grounded path to really following through on all of the online work that I’ve been doing lately. The people I’m networking with are on the same level as me, and again help challenge and support the changes I’m making in my life right now. They’ve also connected me with the means to start making ripples for myself, and as of today I’m affiliated with an amazing company. This will actually allow me to go out and make sales, honing my online business skills even further and radically impacting my lifestyle in amazing ways.
The way that all the aspects of myself have come together, reflecting the shifts I’ve been making in my online world, has brought me to a much more integrated sense of what I’m doing in my life. I used to feel life the spiritual and creative aspects of my life (or of me) were somehow not compatible with my more business orientated, or material life. You’ll no doubt have heard me talk a lot about limiting beliefs, and for me there were definitely some at play there: spiritual people don’t worry about money, you can’t be an artist and a marketer. I wasn’t allowing these two apparently opposing forces to come together in my life, and flow out in whatever way was called for.
One further point I would make in how other people can help us to sculpt our life is that of being mentored. One thing that radically changed my life was when I started seeing my first mentor. I’ve written a little about it here, but I could go on forever about how this changed my mind-set and facilitated unreal changes in my life circumstances.
That’s another thing about Project Q1: it has given me access to mentoring, training, live calls throughout the week, and a massive network of people on a similar path to myself. It’s given me an outlet to express myself in ways that I never saw coming.
Something that comes up a lot is the concern of other people holding us back, criticising the decisions we’re making in our lives, and with the added vulnerability of such an exposed online life this can be a real problem. When we start to weigh up these negative opinions, beliefs and so on against our own values (messing with our ratio of positive to negative beliefs) it can impact the outcomes we decide on. Fortunately, we don’t have to be surrounded by negativity online; unlike, unfriend, unfollow – do what you have to do.
Fortunately, we can become conscious of our influences and of our decision making process.
The same goes for our physical lives too. We can choose who we socialize with, and move away from people who are dragging us down. I do want to warn against becoming one of those good vibes only people. We can’t simply run from all the things that might pull in to question the decisions we are making, or become defensive or every source of criticism.
In fact, some of the most profound learning and self-growth can come from acknowledging these inflection points, if you choose to do the inner-work involved. Learning to integrate and learn from these apparent ‘negatives’ is a very powerful step in your self-development. Still, you get to choose. You are the creator here.