Reality Check: Positive Peer Pressure

I’ve organized my desk! Well, technically, that’s not true. I haven’t organized it. Yet.
However, my friend Emma has organized her desk, and is delighted with the result. She can now find her stamps, labels, scissors, stapler and that hole-punch gadget. Out of chaos comes order! Why would Emma’s desk-cleaning activity matter to me?
As she and I were chatting, I had a glance at my desk. Hmmm. A lot of papers laying around; all things that I will deal with “soon.” That’s why they’re on the desk, you see. I need quick access. Do not be misled by the fact that they’ve been available for easy access for weeks. Months, if you want to be picky about it.
Then there are the cards and the calendars and the reminder notes. And let’s not even consider delving into the In box!
Thus, Emma’s contentment about the result of having sat down, sorted, cleansed, and organized this one piece of furniture sent a message to me. It’s the message of, “You can have that feeling too, if you do what Emma did.”
Peer pressure on children can be negative—peers sometimes encourage good kids to do bad things. But we have peers at any stage in life: work peers, neighbours, friends, family. They are the folks we spend time with, but also people we “visit” on social media, by phone, or interact with in other ways. Any of them can influence us, even if it’s not intentional.
Influence can be subtle, as it happens not only through comments but also through actions and examples. If a friend told me that she spent the day shopping, I might think, “Maybe I should go shopping.” Another peer has joined a helpful volunteer organization—that sounds like a satisfying thing to do.
One peer complains constantly about spouse and co-workers. Huh. I also have some of those aggravations! Another friend shows optimism and composure when faced with worries and bad news. I see how she does that and I could try it myself.
The influence of our peers can act to make our lives more satisfying, more productive, more helpful. Or they can act the other way, leading us to find more faults, have more unfruitful worries, and feel more helpless.
Even if we think that we’ve grown out of the stage where we’re subject to peer pressure, it’s likely that we still have influences. It’s worthwhile to pay attention to who is influencing us, and to choose those influences carefully.
I’m not suggesting that we cut out all negative influences. There’s little point in thinking that we can surround ourselves with only positive, inspiring people. However, it’s useful to be aware that we’re affected by the positive and negative influences around us.
The Choice Theory process of self-evaluation is useful here. Ask yourself, “Is this interaction making my life, or anyone’s life, better or worse? Does this help me draw closer to my goals and wishes, or does it lead me further away?”
We can reduce the impact of poor influences and enhance the impact of positive influences. The process starts by recognizing that we are susceptible to being influenced, whether we want to be or not.
I’d write more about this, but right now, I have a desk to organize. Do your peers exert positive peer pressure on you? Do you influence your peers in positive ways?

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