“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” —Jim Rohn
We are much more influenced by the people we hang out with than we imagine. Others don’t just give us ideas and feedback about ourselves; they can affect our energy, too.
Because of this, I take stock of the people in my life every year, sometimes reflecting on my relationships in the moment as well. I categorize them according to who lifts me up, who brings me down and who does neither. I make a conscious point to spend more time with the people who inspire me and less time with the people who either hold me back or don’t positively impact me.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop hanging out with anyone who isn’t a Nobel Prize winner—inspiration and positivity come in a variety of forms. I was very inspired by my Uber driver the other day, for example. He told me that he was working 14 hours a day in the military while driving for Uber on the side. His above-and-beyond work ethic inspired me.
It’s crucial to be curious about other people and to try to understand what makes them tick. Find other people who are passionate about life and what they do, and always stay open to new relationships by being curious about people.
Seeking out new connections inevitably means reducing time spent with some of the older ones. You don’t need to cut ties completely unless they’re truly toxic. The key is to understand the value of each of your relationships. You certainly don’t need to be spending time with people who drain your energy or seed doubt in your ability to execute. The more you surround yourself with amazing people, the more you’re called to step into greatness.
The law of averages tells us that in order to increase your wins, you have to increase your losses. This theory fits perfectly with the practice of taking stock of your relationships. Think about it: You have to meet many people in order to find the ones who have a truly positive influence on your life. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find those influential relationships, personal and professional. It involves putting yourself out there and engaging with some people who might offer you nothing.
I call this process of evaluating existing relationships a “personal audit.” If a relationship isn’t helping you grow or making you happy, it might be better to significantly reduce your contact or even sever ties completely. My personal audits help me identify who’s a positive influence. Making a conscious effort to consider my relationships has been extremely rewarding.
I am constantly evaluating who’s emotionally draining me and who’s giving me energy. If you aren’t motivated, inspired or challenged by the people you spend time with, it’s harder to be successful and happy. Being with people who believe in you and provide the strength you need to turn your dreams into reality is critical because wherever they’re going, you’re going, too. These audits help me better understand my relationships and the roles different people have in my life, as well as my role in the lives of others.
Start with three key steps to make your personal and professional relationships the best they can be:
1. Proactively seek new relationships.
You should seek out those who inspire you at work and spend time with them. Build relationships with them apart from your job. Send a note, ask them to coffee or simply approach them at a work event. Connect with new people outside of work, too. Attend industrywide events and explore personal hobbies. After all, to surround yourself with inspiring people, you have to connect with them first.
2. Associate with people who are different from you.
Find people who succeed where you fail and try to learn from their journeys. Chances are you have something to offer them, too. Although our instinct is to surround ourselves with people who are similar to us, it’s also important to branch out and converse with people who might have a different approach.
3. Keep your standards high.
Remember, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. As new people enter your life, ask yourself who strengthens you and who drains you. Who helps you succeed and who highlights your failures? Does the idea of spending time with a person excite your spirit or sap your energy? Decide who’s worth your time and who isn’t. Time is your most valuable asset, so use what you do have on the people who bring out the positive in you.
At first, the idea of removing people from your life or limiting your interactions with them might seem ruthless. It might sound like the coldhearted behavior of someone who doesn’t care about people, but it’s actually a heart-centered process that allows you to create healthy relationships. Through it, you can create a more productive, inspiring and emotionally fulfilling life.