Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Inertia and the Positive Push

The article from my previous post, Inertia: From Theory to Praxis, got me thinking about pressure, and what people refer to as "positive pressure." As the article above states, what you want to do does not always relate to what you actually do. I have said before that there is no such thing as positive pressure, but I would like to clarify that peer influence can be positive if you find that an extra push helps you to accomplish tasks.

A lot of people find pressure useful when they are having a hard time doing something. I know many people who work better if they're part of a study group, because having to prepare for the group motivates them to get their work done earlier.  Lots of people like to exercise regularly with a friend because meeting the friend ensures that they will exercise. Some people just function better if they are around other people who are functioning a certain way, like using a roommate's schedule to help you stay on schedule. In all of these cases, pressure is positive assuming that:
1. It helps the person to do something that they wanted to do.
2. The person chose to join a study group or have a work-out buddy or a roommate because they work better that way.

Another kind of positive influence is the kind that helps people to do things they would like to do by reducing inertia. For example: if you and some friends decide to collect food for the homeless or volunteer at the elementary school and you ask other friends if they'd like to join you, you will probably get a lot of volunteers who would love to help out but wouldn't necessarily organize or look into something on their own. You also might bring up an issue that makes someone think, "Wow, I didn't realize that was such a big problem. I want to try to fix it." As long as you just ask people without pressuring, this is a positive influence because you're suggesting ways to help out that other people might not have thought of or pursued.

Peer influence can be positive. Very positive, depending on how you work. When I say that "positive pressure" isn't really positive, I'm talking about unwanted pressure to do objectively positive things. Like, someone pushing you to join a study group, go to the gym, or attend an event when you don't want to, and claiming that they are doing the right thing because they've pushed you into something positive. Whether pressure is good or bad has nothing to do with whether you're being pushed to get drunk or get your haircut or get involved in your community - it's about whether you actually want to do something, and how you work best when getting it done.

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