“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
– Jim Rohn
You’ve probably heard this before, right?
Good, it’s a great quote.
I remember when I first heard it and thought how nice a concept it was: I am who I am because of the people who surround me. I thought of my family, my boyfriend at the time, my closest friends and I thought “yeah, that’s pretty accurate.” I’m a collage of all of their sayings and their mannerisms, their quirks and their traits.
It wasn’t until I was a little older, and I came across the quote again that I realised, it’s actually pretty scary.
Read it again.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Not your five favourite people.
Not your five closest people.
But the ones you spend the most time with. Because, depending on your age and your situation, the people you spend the most time with won’t necessarily be your favourites.
They’re not actually likely to be your best friend, or your parents; in fact, the people I love the most are the ones I probably see the least. The ones we are most often surrounded by are our partner, our friends, and our colleagues.
And maybe they’re all great. Maybe they build you up, support you and make you laugh. They love you and they tell you this everyday and make you feel like you could pick the world up and carry it on your shoulders.
But what if they don’t?
What if your partner controls you and makes you feel so small and stupid and bad about yourself that you walk around feeling like nobody else could ever like you, and so won’t ever feel like you can leave?
What if your “friends” actually always put you down, or spend their time with you talking about stuff that you couldn’t be less interested in but you respond and get dragged in because you’ve got nobody else to hang out with?
What if your colleagues don’t speak to you when you walk into work, don’t ask you about your weekend, gossip about everyone else in the office and make you miserable in your job?
If THIS is the average of the people you are most often exposed to, this is the average of what you will become. Unconfident, withdrawn, nervous, cheated, unloved, stunted. You don’t realise the impact of your circle because it’s not immediate, but the terrifying truth is that the people you surround yourself with on a regular basis will either be the source of your phenomenal growth, or the root of your decay. And guess what?
It’s down to you to decide which one it’s going to be.
It’s Not About Shutting People Out
The more people you meet, the more you realise who your people are. The ones that make you grow, the ones that make you click. You learn to get a feeling about someone pretty quickly and how to figure out who is going to be a positive addition to your life, and who is better off being left at the bar.
That isn’t to say that you should judge someone within the first five seconds. I will always give people a chance: I will always be polite to someone if they approach me and speak to me, but I won’t ever stay in a situation which I don’t like. I won’t ever continue a conversation or relationship where I feel it’s not good for me. I won’t ever invest time nor energy into something which I know won’t serve myself.
Think that sounds selfish?
Good, because it is, and I’m not ashamed about that.
I’m not going to spend my time with a guy who doesn’t remember to text back. Who forgets that I exist when we’re not in the same city as each other. Who doesn’t recognise me the next time that I bump into him because he was too drunk to remember me when we first met.
I’m not going to spend my time with “friends” who don’t get me. Who pressure me to do stuff that I don’t want to do. Who talk shit behind my back as soon as I get up from the table.
I’m not going to spend my time in a job with a boss who doesn’t treat me like a human being. Who stresses me out and makes me lose sleep. Or with colleagues who don’t speak to me when I walk into a room and who complain and create a negative environment around me.
I actually foot-down, full-stop, not-a-chance-in-hell, refuse to spend time with people like this.
Because it’s poisonous.
I value myself, I value my time, I value my energy. I will happily share these pieces of myself with people who need it, with people I love or with people who can reciprocate similar qualities. But if all I’m getting out of a conversation is trivial gossip; if all I’m getting out of a relationship is drama and stress, I’m out.
Because I KNOW the importance of our circle. I SEE the influence and impact our environment has on every single thing that we are and that we do: on our motivation, our outlook, our perspective, our positivity, our goals, our dreams, our happiness. Surround yourself with negative, unambitious, single-minded people and hey guess what? You’re gonna end up just like them. And this might sound brutal, but you need to cut these people OUT.
who’s your circle?
Depending on your age and your situation, you might find that your circle is made up of people out of convenience. Out of circumstance. Your boyfriend because you’ve been together since high school and now you’re 30 and it would be too much drama to break up and start again, even though he cheated on you. Your best friend because you live just down the road from her and you work with her as well and it would just be too awkward to cut her off, even though you know she’s not good for you.
And I get that it’s easy for me to sit here at 23 and say “screw anybody who doesn’t serve you, get RID OF THEM” when I’m young and single and don’t have serious work or relationship commitments to maintain.
It doesn’t matter what age you are: you should constantly be editing your life. Improving it. Enriching it. it’s never too late to lead a life that you deserve. Whether you’re 23 or 53, you have a responsibility to yourself to create the best possible circle that you can. Whether it’s made out of 5 people or 500, all that matters is that these people help you, not hinder you.
The Life Edit
I haven’t had any drama in my life for years because I made an active decision to choose to avoid it, and to avoid anyone who might cause it. There is nobody in my life that causes me stress, because anyone who does either got booted out from the word go, or isn’t important enough for it to matter. The second I sense any bullshit, any lying, any negativity or lack of support, I’m out. That’s it.
And I don’t mean running from a situation as soon as it gets difficult: I don’t mean shying away from sorting out problems with people you love. I mean respecting yourself enough to walk away from negativity. I mean never wasting any of your time dealing with shit from people who aren’t important. Even from people who are important. Anybody who deserves to be in your life wouldn’t give you any shit in the first place.
You don’t realise this, but your time is precious. Stop acting like it’s not. Stop wasting evening after evening, weekend after weekend with people who aren’t right for you. With people who steal. Who take. Who stab knives into your back instead of placing their hands on it and supporting you.
Of course it’s inevitable that you’re going to encounter negative people who try to bring you down, but these people don’t matter. They’re not your tribe. You might have to spend time with them because you work with them or you study with them, but you don’t have to give them anymore than that. You have to be polite, you have to be respectful, but you do not have to give the precious pieces of you to people who don’t get it, who don’t value you.
so HOW do i “edit” the circle?
Do what you can to surround yourself with positive, stress-free energy. Be honest with yourself. Think about who you spend your time with. Think about what they give you and what they bring to your life. The people in your life should leave you feeling inspired, motivated and happy. You should walk away with a skip in your step, smiling about your life and everything that you are and that you have. If you often leave situations feeling tired out, unfulfilled, flat: these are not your people. And cutting someone out isn’t nice, but it’s necessary. It doesn’t have to be a big drama or a fall out. Just back off, stop spending time with them. Start saying no. Distance yourself. Fill your time with people that matter, and with people that better you.
I know you can’t always have the control. There will be times when you are going to be surrounded by people that you don’t like. You can’t shut yourself away in a room for the rest of your life with your chosen 5.
But you can choose to a great extent who you spend the majority of your time with, and this is what matters.
You are too god-damn special to be spending all of your time with people who don’t appreciate you. Your energy and soul is far too precious.
You are a product of your environment, so make it a good one.
Edit your life.
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