Have you heard the saying ‘you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with’?
Most people like to think of themselves as independent and in control of their own lives.
To me, this is a flawed belief.
I believe the influence of friends has an absolutely huge impact on your thoughts, your behaviours and ultimately your success in life, more than almost anything else.
In this article I’ll share with you why I believe this is the case, using examples from my own life.
More importantly, I’ll share with you how you can spin the influence of friends to your advantage, and which tried- and tested methods you can use create a life for yourself that is full of meaningful and interesting opportunities.
How my life has been shaped by the people closest to me
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have parents and teachers who urged me to work and study hard. Therefore, the motto I lived by was:
‘Study hard, get good grades and then get a sensible job’.
As a result, I made sure I got good grades (hooray) and was able to get into a great University, Warwick University.
This is where things went slightly more pear-shaped. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by other fun loving, slightly rebellious people, and within a matter of weeks my whole outlook on the purpose of life had changed dramatically.
For the next 3 years, the motto I lived by can be summed up like this:
‘The point of life is to have as much fun as possible’.
I joined the Wine & Cheese Society, took fencing classes and danced at Top Banana Club Night every Monday. You read that right, Mondays, not Saturdays.
I remember feeling like I was ‘living life on my own terms’, whereas looking back, I was just doing what all my other mates were doing.
Soon however graduation loomed and it became time to get a proper job. While the influence of my parents and teachers to get onto a graduate scheme still kept playing at the back of my mind, I didn’t spend as much time with them as I once had, so their influence became less pronounced.
Instead, I got a brilliant idea to travel to India and work as a marketing intern in a PR company. It definitely felt like my own amazing idea at the time, but in hindsight, going to a developing country for a year of adventure was a very popular thing to do amongst the people I was hanging out with at university.
Do you get the idea?
I’m not trying to say I didn’t have a choice in any of this, or that I’m not grateful that I got my education and work ethic. But the truth is –
You rarely notice at the time, just how much you’re influenced by the people close to you.
If you’re interested in the science behind, the Ted Talk (you might have noticed I’m slightly obsessed with Ted Talks) ‘The Hidden Influence of Social Networks’ gives a really good insight into this. Just to give one example, people are 45% more likely to be obese if their friends are, and 25% more likely to be obese if their friends of friends are.
The point is, as humans we are highly social beings. When I watch animal programmes it always amazes me how clever especially bee hives and ant colonies interact. However this is nothing compared to the cultural and societal structures people have built. I love the saying:
‘Standing on the shoulder of giants’
… meaning people discover truth by building on previous people’s discoveries.
Flip this around, and then consider the power that bad relationships can have on you. If you are close to people that have negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviours, this is slowly but surely going to rub off on you.
Do you recognise the feeling of meeting a friend, and feeling completely drained afterwards?
Or meeting another, who leaves you with a feeling of excitement and positivity?
The influence of friends is so powerful, that if you want to create the best life for yourself, you should surround yourself with people who have lots of the qualities you admire.
To me, this includes people who
- Display positivity
- Show gratitude
- Take responsibility for their lives
- Go after their dreams
In today’s age, the friends we surround ourselves with include all the people we follow and admire online. So take a close look at your social media accounts, as well as all the friends you see on evenings and weekends.
If you’re interested in reading more about how your thoughts literally become your reality, check out my article ‘Re-frame your mind and turn your thoughts into action in 3 simple steps’.
Are you ready to give your circle of friends a big health check?
First, ask yourself…
1. What kind of person would you love to be?
What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?
Note down all the qualities you’d love to possess.
Then ask yourself honestly –
2. Are these qualities present in the 5 people I spend the most time with? And in the people I follow on social media?
Is there someone who is taking more energy and pleasure from you than they give?
Everyone goes through bad phases, so before you end a friendship, you should of course try to help that person overcome their negative beliefs. But you have to also be realistic, look at past patterns and ultimately think about taking your own precious life into your hands.
3. Surround yourself with new, inspiring people
How do you do this?
- Do you have any acquaintances (ie friends of friends), you have a great impression of, but haven’t gotten to know as well as you’d like? Invite them home for dinner, or offer to buy them a drink. Always think about how you can add value to their life, what can you educate them on, and who can you connect them to. You’ll not only feel great and will have made a new friend, but they will likely return the favour in the future.
- Are there any public figures you really admire, or would like to get to know better? Read their biography, and follow them on social media. Don’t just read, try and implement some of their teachings, interact with them online and thank them for the value they’ve added to your life.
- Do you know of someone who has the job or business you’d die for? Reach out to them, be humble and tell them what you admire about them. Ask if they have 10 min to speak to you on the phone. I did this very successfully when I started out as a coach, in fact more than 50% of the people I emailed agreed to give me their time. It made me incredibly inspired and I learned a lot.
- Try to make it a habit to read more, and watch less TV. What about starting a new habit of reading 30 min before bedtime? Also, have an educational podcast ready for when you’re commuting. This is going to add up and add a lot of knowledge and value to your life in the long run.
Be honest and specific with yourself about what qualities you’d like to possess, and what you’d like to be known for.
Then cast a critical eye on your friends (online and offline), and ask yourself to what extent they are adding these qualities to your life.
Be creative about adding new, inspirational people to your circle of friends , by trying out one of my 4 methods described above.
I hope I have given you some food for thought.
You literally shape your future by selecting the people you spend the most time with, carefully. So my advice is to take your life into your own hands, and maximise the time you spend with inspirational and positive people, while minimising time spent with the wrong kind of people.
PS: I’d love to know which of the 4 methods you have used, to add more inspirational people to your life?
Or if you have your own, secret method?
Please share with us in the comments below 🙂