Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that every object has some sort of pull on every other object. The relative mass and proximity of the objects is what governs the magnitude of the force. The governing equation is as follows:
Where F is the gravitational force acting between two objects, m1 and m2 are the masses of the objects, r is the distance between the centers of their masses, and G is the gravitational constant.
The Proximity Principle
I believe this law has a large correlation to what social scientists call the Proximity Principle or the Social Proximity Effect. Essentially, it’s that you will tend to form interpersonal relations with those who are close by, so your behaviors will mimic theirs as you spend more time with them.
When you think about it, this isn’t terribly surprising. People who hang around with smokers and drinkers are likely to be smokers and drinkers. People who spend time with millionaires are likely to be millionaires.
A Personal Example of Proximity
A few years ago, I got a job at a great company that had a core group of people that would exercise at lunchtime. There were a few of them who would run the class, and it was always challenging. Previous to that, I had made half-hearted attempts to exercise regularly, but I never stuck to it.
Having these people and this resource close by made it possible for me to do this, and becoming friends with these people reinforced the lifestyle of regular exercise. This became so true that even after I left that company, I continued to regularly exercise at lunch time because I had established that habit over years of doing it. This never would have happened on my own, and my proximity to those people was the key to making it happen.
Harness the Power of Proximity
According to the law of gravitation, the proximity of the objects has an even greater effect than the mass of the objects (the distance term “r” is squared). For example, if you reduce the distance between objects by half, the gravitational force multiplies by 4!
When applied to Social Proximity, those you are closer to in both physical presence and emotional closeness will have a much greater effect on you and the kind of person you will become. This means there is opportunity!
If you want to establish a new habit, start a new hobby, or change something else significant in your life, one of the most useful approaches is changing who you spend your time with.
If you want to start a business and get out of the rat race, it may be hard to do that when you’re surrounded by people working in cubicles most of the day. If you are shy and want to be more outgoing, getting around more extroverts can help break you out of your shell.
In many cases you won’t have to work terribly hard on the actual behavior that you want to change, as that will often take care of itself as you spend time with people who exhibit the behaviors you want.
In short, change your life by changing your environment and those you surround yourself with.
Assess and Adjust
So do a quick assessment and ask yourself these questions:
- Who do I spend most of my time with?
- Are these people aiming for and achieving goals that I want to achieve?
- Do I need to make a shift towards spending time with and getting close to people more in-line with my aspirations?
- What will I do about it?
- If necessary, identify people with habits and behaviors you want, and make plans to spend more time with them. Start by reaching out to just one person you admire, and go from there. Do it today.
This should give you extra clarity about changes you might need to make.
Start today to make those changes!
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