Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker and businessman, famously said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This statement, while not scientific, is widely accepted and acknowledged as true.
What This Means
What this means is that your environment (specifically the people in it) has a huge impact on who you become.
You are a chameleon and peer pressure has an impact on you. And it is not just you — we are all like this. We all become like the people with whom we associate.
You pick up on little things that people do (without even realizing it) and it shapes and changes how you do things and who you become. You are influenced greatly by the people in your inner circle. Whether you are growing and moving toward your goals and living the life you want to live may be a direct result of who you are hanging around.
This means that you need to be intentional with whom you choose to associate if you care about who you become in the future.
Why It Matters
You have the power to control who you become. Not only internally through personal development, but by choosing with whom you associate.
If you associate with people who are smarter than you, wealthier than you, kinder than you, and who are more successful than you, you will become like these people. Conversely, if your inner circle consists of negative, sarcastic people who are irresponsible and lazy, that is what your future holds for you.
You will grow to become like your inner circle in ways you couldn’t through reading books or attending seminars. The power of our environment is so great that you can influence your whole life by taking control of who is in your inner circle.
If you want to become rich, start hanging out with rich people. If you want to be nicer, get nicer friends. If you want to be successful, befriend other successful people. Whatever you want your future to look like, get around people who are already doing it. It’s the easiest and most effective way to shape and change your future.
How to End Some Relationships and Add Others
Intentionally surrounding yourself with people you want to be like means that you are going to have to take control of your current relationships by ending some and starting others.
For example, you may have a friend who you became friends with because she lived near you growing up. But now that you are being intentional with your relationships, you realize she is actually a financial disaster and makes bad personal choices. Being so close to her is not supporting the values you believe in and are striving toward. In fact, after you think about it, you realize she is bringing you down. In this case, you would not want to strengthen your relationship with this friend. It may mean directly confronting this friend and ending the relationship, or it may just mean that you spend less time with her and gradually distance yourself from her.
The point here is to be intentional with your relationships. Think about the people you let into your inner circle and whether you want to be like them, because that is where you are headed.
It is important to make tough choices with respect to your inner circle. While it may tough to think about relationships this way, it is extremely beneficial to be mindful of the relationships you are engaging in. Choosing your relationships carefully and intentionally is one of the best things you can do for yourself because you then begin to live life with people who you want to be like, who support you, and who have common values as you.
While ending some relationships may seem hard, you may be thinking that it is even harder to form new ones.
If you have someone in mind who fits what you want in a new friend / colleague, invite her to lunch. After that, keep in touch and put effort into developing the relationship until it becomes stronger. If you cannot think of anyone who really fits what you are looking for in your inner circle, be open to new relationships in social settings as well as at work. Also, look for online sites where you can join groups that have similar values as you (meetup.com is a popular site, for example). Although it may seem like a challenge, ultimately, there are always ways to make new, meaningful connections even if you are starting from scratch.
Why This Isn’t Being Too Harsh
You may be thinking that choosing to end relationships based on people’s personal choices or values is judgmental or wrong. This could not be further from the truth.
In order to grow and become who you want to become, you have to end certain relationships and start new ones. It is just part of life. Because your friends have a huge impact on you, it is absolutely necessary that you choose with whom you associate because they will impact your future. You are going to become the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. It is a disservice to yourself to be unintentional with your relationships.
Not everyone is meant for everyone. If you were in a romantic relationship with someone, you would not stay in it if you determined that your values conflicted with his. You would not think you were being judgmental either. And this is how you should view your inner circle — as people you are intentionally keeping in your life; people who you admire, respect, love, and want to be like.
Of course, I am not suggesting you dump your poor friends for rich ones!
Nor am I suggesting you leave friends who are struggling.
And do not go on a search for “perfect” friends.
That is not what I am saying. What I am suggesting is that you think about the roles your friends have in your life, especially the people in your inner circle, and either intentionally keep them there or move on to better, more supportive relationships that are in line with your values and what you want for your future. There is a big difference between the friend who is struggling but trying to move in a positive, supportive direction and the friend who continuously makes really bad, unsupportive decisions with no intention of changing. You know the difference; use your judgment.
Look At Yourself, Too
It will be a lot easier to connect with people you want to be like if you start the process from within.
If you are bad with money but you really want to be financially well off, start reading personal finance blogs and books to get started on your own. Although you grow fastest from surrounding yourself with like-minded people, there is nothing stopping you from starting the process slowly.
As you grow and change into the person you want to become, similar people will want to be around you. People with similar values are attracted to each other. Be the person that the person you want to be like wants to be like (a line I took from the brilliant speaker and pastor, Andy Stanley). Think of the saying “birds of a feather flock together”.
What This Can Do For Your Future
Finally, when you are thinking about your inner circle, think about your future relationships. By intentionally choosing and fostering relationships that you personally value, you will move in the direction you want your life to go. You will choose a life of purpose and direction as opposed to a life of reacting.
The opportunities and growth that you discover through supportive relationships that you intentionally choose will give back tenfold. No doubt, you will change the course of your life by surrounding yourself with people who you intentionally chose to be there.
Natalie Bacon is the blogger behind Financegirl, where she writes about finance and intentional living for young, professional women. Natalie is an attorney by day and a blogger by night. When she’s not reading all things personal finance, you can find her Follow Natalie on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram.