Are you the average of the five people you spend most time with?

Are you the average of the five people you spend most time with?

When it comes to self-development, there are a million quotes to inspire us. But one worth exploring is that we are the ‘average of the five people we spend most time with’. A famous quote attributed to Jim Rohn and paraphrased by Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss. Is there an element of truth in it, or are you just a little wary of thinking about it too much!

You can’t argue with the logic really. As humans, we all have the ability and sometimes the need, to adapt according to our surroundings. Consider you are in a group of five people. Four of them may be a bit pessimistic, and so it’s quite possible that as you spend more time with them, you may start feeling a bit more pessimistic. Office environments and the ‘group think’ that pervades the office when everyone is grumpy on a Monday morning, is a great example of this.

It is often a game of the sub-conscious. The words we speak, the acts that follow; we may not remember each and every act of ours consciously, but sub-consciously all of this behavioural data is being stored in our brain. If someone greets us with a smiley “Good Morning!” we will automatically feel better about the day. If someone comes across as sour or rude, it will impact on how we feel. We know this to be true. Among a group of slow and lethargic people, we will adopt the same behaviours unless we proactively notice the behaviour and choose to behave differently.

So, is it time I ditched my negative friends?

Some experts take this advice more literally than others. Peter Sage for example, actively suggests that you end relationships with friends that don’t fit into your model of who you want to be. Whilst this may seem a rather cold suggestion, the fact is that he suggests you outgrow friends and its crucial to review this situation and part company. Even more so with anyone who feels ‘toxic’ and negative, adding no value to your life.

Whilst creating a new social network might help give you the contacts and advice you need to reach the top of your chosen field, there are a few flaws in this advice and a bit more you may need to consider first.

Firstly, the people you spend lots of time with maybe family…not so easy to ditch! And it’s just not the right thing to do. Having a diverse range of friends can also actually be very good for us. We may have friends who have low aspirations and love routine and friends who have high aspirations and are curious about change; they’re great for different things. Having a mixed group of friends ensures we are exposed to alternative ideas and so long as we are alert and mindful to our corresponding behaviours, and don’t follow the crowd, diversity helps.

And of course, friends we’ve had for a long time tend to have a shared history. This can actually strengthen the friendship and lead to fun times reminiscing. Are you just going to ditch that for a friend who can help you be successful? The point is not everything is about being successful. But it is about having a positive, satisfying and fulfilling life, so are your closest five people helping you to carve out that kind of life or keeping you in a routine and with poor habits that are really adding little value.

Why Five People – Why Not Any Other Number?

“What’s all the fuss about number five? What if I’m an introvert and have only two-three friends?” A great question, but you will spend time with more people whether in work, or with family or at a social club or the gym. It covers the number of people you interact with throughout the day.

Just reflect for a moment about the five people you actually spend most time with. The way they live their lives, the decisions they take, the behaviours they display, their reactions to challenge (whether that be positive or negative) will undoubtedly impact on you, if you let it.

Imagine yourself in a perfume shop, absorbing the smells; the scent will permeate irrespective if you buy. Stay with complainers and you’ll end up complaining. Put up too much time with the depressed and you’ll end up feeling the same way. We all have a choice to spend our day with optimistic, cheerful people and feel awesome about life.

So choose to surround yourself with those who align with your view of your future life. Those who are positive, ambitious, supportive and curious and its bound to rub off.

So be wise and choose carefully about how and with whom you spend your time – it will be your greatest investment in yourself and no doubt shape your response to life.

Sally is the Founder of LifeBuddy. She is an Organisational Development consultant and is a Practitioner with the Association for Business Psychology.