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#6: The Law of Environment

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

Growth Thrives in Conducive Surroundings


“If we want to grow to reach our potential, we must be in the right environment. That usually requires us to make changes in our life." — John C. Maxwell

I don’t know much about gardening or houseplants. You can ask anyone who knows me well that the only kind of plant I manage to keep alive is a fake one. But in admitting this, I can also admit that I do understand what I am doing wrong — I don’t provide them with the right environment to thrive.

Unlike those poor plants, if you want to grow, you have a choice to make. Nido Qubein, Lebanese American businessman and motivational speaker, sums it up perfectly when he says, “whether you are a success or a failure in life has little to do with your circumstances; it has much more to do with your choices.”

John Maxwell’s, Law of Environment says that if we want to grow we need to be willing to make the right changes to better position us to reach our potential.

What changes do you need to make?

1) Assess Your Current Environment

Change just for the sake of change isn’t going to help you. If you want to make changes, you have to makes sure that they’re the right ones. But I can hear your question already, “Natalie, what if I don’t know what the right ones are?” The key is to start by assessing where you are now and why you want to change. I’ve provided you with three links below for different assessment tools that you may find beneficial in choosing the right changes for you. The first one is the State of Your Life Assessment; this is a free assessment to anyone who wants to gauge where they are today. The other two are links to facilitated assessment services I offer to my clients; these help to define what you do really well and what your personal preferences and styles are. The main idea is to know yourself and to assess whether you’re getting what you need in your current environment to thrive and grow.

2) Change Yourself and Your Environment

You can choose to change yourself, but not your environment and your growth will be slow and difficult. You can choose to change your environment, but not yourself and your growth will be slow and less difficult. Or you can choose to change yourself and your environment and your growth will be faster and more successful. According to John Maxwell, there are 10 elements that create a conducive growth environment:

  • Growth is the soil we grow in:

    • Others are ahead of me.

    • I am continually challenged.

    • My focus is forward.

  • Purpose is the air we breathe in:

    • I wake up excited.

    • I am often outside of my comfort zone.

    • Failure is not my enemy.

  • People are the climate we live in:

    • The atmosphere is affirming.

    • Others are growing.

    • People desire change.

    • Growth is modeled and expected.

Do these statements apply to your current situation? What choices do you need to make in order to change yourself and your environment to ensure that you are not hampered in your growth? They say if you put a pumpkin in a jug when it’s the size of a walnut, it will grow to the size and shape of the jug and never grow beyond that. That can happen to a person’s thinking. Don’t allow that to happen to you.

“If you want to grow, then spend time with great people; visit great places; attend great events; read great books, listen to great tapes.” — Elmer Towns

3) Change Who You Spend Your Time With

According to research conducted by social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, “the people with whom you habitually associate… determine as much as 95% of your success or failure in life.” Another way to look at this is that the people in your life can be divided into three tiers:

  • The Bottom - these people suck the life out of you because nothing is ever good enough for them. They take energy and motivation out of the environment.

  • The Middle - these people are happy and positive when things are going well, but down when adversity strikes. Circumstances dictate their attitude.

  • The Top - these people maintain a positive attitude even through the storms. They are the kind of people we should try to be and spend our time with.

Remember the first element on the list of a conducive environment: “others are ahead of me”? It’s not always comfortable to spend time with people who are “larger” than ourselves, but it is always beneficial. These are people of integrity with positive attitudes. They are ahead of us professionally, but who also lift us up instead of knocking us down. These people take the high road and never the low. And above all, they are continuously growing! Make a list of the people who are currently most influential in your life: friends, family, colleagues, employers, mentors, and so on. Be sure to also include anyone you spend a substantial amount of time with. Scan the list and determine who is “larger” than you. If the majority of the people on your list are not stretching you, you need to find additional people who will help you change and grow. You may also need to consider minimizing your time with people who you know have a negative impact on your attitude or growth, if not pulling them out of your garden altogether.

4) Challenge Yourself in Your New Environment

A better growth environment won’t help you much if you don’t do everything in your power to make the most of it! Significant growth will not happen in your life if you are not intentional about finding and creating growth opportunities. This means that you need to be continuously challenged. Set specific goals for yourself that are beyond your current capabilities and look for the best potential growth opportunity each week, follow through on it, and learn from it!

  • What are you looking to learn?

  • How can you be positively influenced by someone else?

  • What can you apply to your current situation to make it better?

  • Who do others know, what have they read, or what have they done that can help you find more growth opportunities?

  • What feedback or advice can others who are “larger” than you offer that might support your growth?

5) Move Forward Despite Criticism

Growth always comes from taking action, but taking action almost always brings criticism from others. Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed that “whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right.” Before making a major change, seek wise counsel if you can and from someone in that “larger than me” list, but make your own decisions. You are accountable for the choices you make in your life, not anyone else. Some will support you, some will criticize you; some will try to lift you up, some will try to pull you down — but “someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.” Move forward anyway. To reach your potential, you must do what others believe you can’t, and you must do what even you believe you can’t. Most people underestimate themselves, but if you don’t try to create the future you want, you must endure the future you get.

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