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Pick Social Influences That Are Positive

You're more likely to lose weight if your friends are losing too. Want to quit smoking? You'll have a better chance if you associate with quitters. And you'll be a better worker if you admire a person with a great work ethic.

A new study by the University of Georgia shows that even thinking about someone with good self–control makes others more likely to have it. This was the first study to show that self–control is contagious in social or work groups.

The effect was so powerful that just seeing the name of someone with good or bad self–control flashed on a screen changed the behavior of volunteers.

By exhibiting self–control yourself, you can help people around you. If you stick to an exercise program, your self–control could help others develop the habit. Your example could urge someone to stick with their health, financial or career goals, say the psychologists.

But the opposite is true as well. Those with poor self–control influence others negatively. Because people mimic the behavior of others, their examples could result in the spread of characteristics such as smoking, drug use and obesity through their social networks.

As always, the decisions about what you will or will not do are up to you. You can't blame your overweight pal if you take a second piece of cake.

Fortunately, you don't have to change all of your social or work contacts in order to take advantage of the new findings. Thinking about someone with good self–control, whether it be a friend or a person in history, will inspire you to develop the same trait.

Who will influence you in a positive way?