If there is one thing every child learns in elementary school, it’s the dangers of peer pressure. I remember watching countless film strips (yes, film strips – complete with an accompanying audio recording on a cassette tape) on how kids on the playground were subversively trying to get me to smoke a cigarette. Like any good millennial, I learned the power of just saying no.
Peer pressure can definitely have a negative influence on our lives. Who hasn’t done something stupid in an effort to fit in, avoid public ridicule, or join the “in” crowd? I dare you to find an episode of Full House, Saved by the Bell, or The Wonder Years (which should be called The Extremely Awkward Years) where the plot line doesn’t feature some aspect of negative peer pressure.
Positive Peer Pressure
But, peer pressure isn’t always negative. From a social science perspective, peer pressure is more about the way people work – how relational creatures can be powerfully motivated by and through relationships. So, your friends can definitely hold you back. But, it also means your friends can propel you forward.
A great example of this is the show, The Biggest Loser. If you’re not familiar with the concept, contestants are removed from their everyday lives and taken to “the ranch,” where trainers and other contestants create a community bent on healthy living as they compete to lose weight. I love watching it (even though I always second guess my dinner choice that night). This show puts positive peer pressure on display.
Here’s what you see:
When you join a community like the one featured on The Biggest Loser, you can’t help but inspire one another. If that person can run that fast on a treadmill, lift that barbell, or stop drinking soda, why can’t I? It’s the same for us. If you know someone close to you who has withstood adversity, given up a bad habit, or taken a big step of faith, isn’t that way more inspiring than simply reading a self-help book?
Because they put people on teams, The Biggest Loser capitalizes on competition and accountability. It’s one thing for me to deal with my own consequences; it’s a whole new level when my actions affect those around me. It’s why we run a faster time when we’re on a running team or why we do an all-nighter to perfect a group project. Being accountable to others is extremely motivating.
It’s not nearly as much fun to celebrate on your own, or as rewarding. But, when others come together to either recognize what we did individually or collectively, those are the memory-maker moments that can fuel us for years to come.
If you don’t have any close peers in your life, you are missing out on some powerful sources of influence. It’s a fact of life – you and I are affected by our relationships. And, while many of us probably know this is true, do we act like it? Are we all that intentional about the people we invite into our lives?
How To Make Peer Pressure Work for You
Knowing the importance of relationships in accomplishing goals, we need to make peer pressure work for us. Here are two ways to start:
1. Choose your friends wisely.
Most people choose friends or even romantic relationships based on convenience – they live close to us, work in the same place, or like similar things. But, what would happen if you looked for friends who were just a little further down the road where you want to go? According to research, there would be a great chance you’d get going down that path faster and more effectively.
2. Invest in relationships.
In the business world, ROI is a familiar acronym that means return on investment. When businesses talk about ROI, they want to see their investments produce results, so they ask questions about how they use their resources: time, money, or people.
We should ask the ROI question in our personal lives too. So, ask yourself – if you want to see significant changes in your life, what is the best ROI you can get? If research and experience are correct, investing in a significant relationship is the most effective use of your time when it comes to accomplishing big things in your life. It’s much more important than what you read, watch, or try to do on your own.
Make a wise investment in a critical friendship or two today. Chances are it’s the best thing you can do to improve your life. So, as you think through your week, prioritize a relationship or two – people who inspire, hold you accountable to your goals, and will celebrate positive momentum with you.
Peer pressure matters. It can obviously hurt us – we need to limit or cut out the influence of toxic people in our life. But it can powerfully help us. The thing that will influence us the most is a person or two – a “who” more than a “what.” So, give into some positive peer pressure today.