How Changing Your Environment Changes Who You Are

“Context is decisive.” ~Werner Erhard

In 1964 Harvard professor Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment. He told a set of elementary school teachers that based on an intelligence test, 20 percent of their students were particularly likely to blossom.

Little did the teachers know that the students indicated were chosen at random.

What happened?

Over the next two years, these random students exhibited marked gains in IQ relative to their peers.

Further study revealed that when teachers have positive expectations, they unconsciously give students more time to answer questions, offer more specific feedback and are more affirming in words, touches and facial expressions.

While these little tikes didn’t know it at the time, they were the beneficiaries of an upgraded environment: a set of people and surroundings that encouraged them to perform at their best.

As adults, we stand to benefit from the same strategy: upgrading our environment.

But we’re often unwilling to pay the price that this requires.

Upgrading our environment forces us to reject the one we have now. It drives up FOMO. It requires breakups. Letters of resignation. Declined RSVPs. Sometimes even legal fees.

It also reduces the wiggle room for hanging out in mediocrity.

Our old self-delusions have nowhere to hide.

Yes – upgrading your environment has a high price.

But you’re worth it. Go ahead. Splurge.


1. Wikipedia entry for the Pygmalion effect.

2. NPR: Teachers’ Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform.


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Tara Book CoverHi, I’m Tara
Padua, founder of NextFem. I help high-powered women master their relationships.

As a professional executive coach since 2003, I’ve accrued more than 7,000 client-coaching hours working with 400+ female leaders at organizations like Condé Nast, Cartier, Deutsche Bank, Diesel, Louis Vuitton, Siemens and many, many more.

Healthy relationships are the foundation of a life that works, and my life experiences have fueled my mission to help women get the love they deserve.

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