Who are you mixed up with?

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Choose-Your-Friends-WiselyMy Father didn’t have a psychology degree or even a library of well read self-improvement books. What he did have was plenty of dispensable wisdom when it came to most aspects of life. I remember, in particular, him talking to me one evening just before I started secondary school (“way back in the last century”, as my kids frequently remind me!):

“Fall in with the right crowd”, he said.
“It’s really important, your friends will make a difference to your future.”

Of course what he was talking about is the power of association. I’m sure we can all think of examples of how those around us have influenced us for better or worse.

Jim Rohn famously said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Clearly, we can’t always control who we surround ourselves with. For example, we don’t choose our family (partners excepted) and certainly in our work and business environments, there are limits too. However, in many respects, it’s worth thinking about who we mix with. Which people nurture us and which people have the opposite effect? What can we do about it?

This short exercise might help:

  • Think about who the 5 people in your life are that you spend the most time with? How many hours each day/week are spent with which people. (I’m guessing these will include some members of your family, co-workers and some close friends.) Write those 5 people on a piece of paper. (It’s ok if there are less than 5.)
  • Once you have a list of those people, ask yourself this: Who are they? What do they do with their lives? What do you like about them? How do you feel after you’ve spent some time with them? Can you be yourself with them? How ambitious (using your own definition of ambition) are they, how successful (ditto) have they been, how happy, optimistic, and enthusiastic are they?
  • Evaluate carefully if those people will really be those that will help you get to the next level you want to get to. For example, do they encourage you and push you forward when you come to them with new ideas, no matter what? Or do they tell you that what you have in mind won’t work?
  • Make a choice of who in your list you want to continue spending time with*. This can be hard to do. Don’t be afraid if none or only 1 or 2 among your 5 people today meet the standard you want to set for yourself. Keep going, decrease the time you spend, and increase the amount of time you keep looking for people who you want to have as one of your 5 closest. Developing your awareness has a powerful way of making things happen when it comes to spending time with the people who are right for you.

There are so many stories of how famous (and not so famous) groups of people have created success through collaboration, sharing of purpose, vision and values. For me, these stories have the principles of positive association at their core.

And it makes me think: “What will I tell my grandchildren, one day, about who I got mixed up with?”


IMPORTANT: Don’t be too quick to “write off” those who aren’t scoring well above – particularly your family. Consider talking to them first. Explain how you’re feeling, how you believe what they say or do (or don’t say or do) might be hindering you, and also how they help you and what it is you appreciate about them. Give them a chance to think about things. Often our nearest and dearest don’t deliberately bring us down, they just don’t have the awareness of the negative impact they may be having on us. Many times, they will strive to change when they realise how you feel.




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