We are influenced by the people, with whom we spend most of our time. They may be our relatives, friends & colleagues. Birds of a feather flock together. The people with whom you habitually associate are called your “reference group.” According to research by social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, your “reference group” determines as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.
Who do you spend the most time with? Who are the people you most admire? Are those two groups of people exactly the same? If not, why not? Jim Rohn taught that we become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most. The people with whom we spend our time determine what conversations dominate our attention, along with the attitudes and opinions we are regularly exposed to. Eventually, we start to eat what they eat, talk like they talk, read what they read, think like they think, watch what they watch, treat people how they treat them, even dress like they dress. The funny thing is, more often than not, we are completely unaware of the similarities between us and our circle of five.
Slow & Steady Impact
How are we not aware? Because your associations don’t shove you in a direction; they nudge you ever so slightly over time. Their influence is so subtle that it’s like being on an inner tube out in the ocean, feeling like you’re floating in place. That is, until you look up and realize the gentle current has pushed you a half-mile down the shore.
Think of your friends who order fatty appetizers or a cocktail before dinner, and that’s their routine. Hang out with them enough, and you’ll find yourself grabbing for cheese dish and potato skins, and joining them for that extra beer or glass of wine. Your pace will suddenly match their pace. Meanwhile, your other friends order healthy food and talk about the inspiring books they’re reading, their new goals, and business aspirations. Soon you begin to assimilate their behaviours and habits. You read and talk about what they talk about. You see the movies they’re excited about and you go to the places they recommend. The influence your friends have over you is subtle and can be positive or negative. Either way, the impact is incredibly powerful. Watch out! You cannot hang out with negative people and expect to live a positive life.
What About You?
So, what is the combined average income, health, or attitudes of the five people you spend most of your time with? Does the answer frighten you? If so, the best way to increase the potential for whatever traits you desire is to spend the majority of your time with people who already possess those traits. You will then see the power of influence work for you, rather than against you. The behaviours and attitudes that helped them acquire the success you admire will begin to become part of your daily routine. Hang around them long enough and you’re likely to realize similar successful outcomes in your life.
If you haven’t already, jot down the names of those five people you hang around the most. Also write down their main characteristics, both positive and negative. It doesn’t matter who they are. It could be your spouse, your brother, your neighbour, or your assistant. Now, average them out. What’s their average health and bank balance? What’s their average relationship like? As you look at the results, ask yourself, “Is this list okay for me? Is this where I want to go?”
It’s time to reappraise and reprioritize the people you spend time with. These relationships can nurture you, starve you, or keep you stuck. Now let’s understand the type of associations & how to change them for your own growth?
Basically, we can have three categories of associations: dissociations, limited associations, and expanded associations.
You guard against the influences your children are exposed to and the people they hang around. You are aware of the influence these people could have on your children and the choices they might make as a result. I believe this same principle should apply to you! You already know this: There are some people you might need to break away from. Completely. This might not be an easy step to take, but it’s essential. You have to make the hard choice not to let certain negative influences affect you anymore. Determine the quality of life you want to have and then surround yourself with the people who represent and support that vision.
You need to weed out people who refuse to grow and live positively. Growing and changing your associations is a lifelong process. When you make the tough decision to put up boundaries between you and people who drag you down, realize that they’ll fight you—especially those closest to you. Your decision to live a more positive, goal-oriented life will hold a mirror up to their own poor choices. You will make them uncomfortable and they will attempt to pull you back down to their level. Their resistance doesn’t mean they don’t love you or want the best for you—it’s actually not about you at all. It’s about their fear and guilt about their own poor choices and lack of discipline. Just know that breaking away won’t be easy.
There are some people you can spend three hours with, but not three days. Others you can spend three minutes with, but not three hours. Always remember that the influence of associations is both powerful and subtle. The person you’re walking with can determine whether you slow your pace or quicken it, literally and figuratively. Similarly, you can’t help but be touched by the dominant attitudes, actions, and behaviours of the people with whom you spend time.
Decide how much you can “afford” to be influenced, based on how those people represent themselves. This is difficult but many a time you need to decide your threshold limit on several occasions, even with close family members.
We’ve just talked about weeding out negative influencers. While you’re doing that, you’ll also want to reach out. Identify people who have positive qualities in the areas of life where you want to improve—people with the financial and business success you desire, the parenting skills you want, the relationships you yearn for, the lifestyle you love. And then spend more time with them. Join organizations, businesses, and health clubs where these people gather and make friends.
If you want to have a better, deeper, more meaningful relationship, ask yourself, “Who has the type of relationship I want? How can I spend (more) time with that person? Who can I meet who can positively influence me?” Befriend the person you think is the most successful person in your field. What do they read? Where do they go for lunch? How can that association influence you? You can build these expanded associations by joining networking groups and even online communities. (Content is inspired from The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success by Darren Hardy)
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” – Mark Ambrose