You are the sum of the five people you hang out with.
If it is true – and “hint hint” I think it’s mostly true that we tend to become like the people we hang out and adopt their lifestyle – then you should be very intentional about who you spend time with. In other words, the people in your life should be building you up. You should be aspiring to become a better person because of how awesome your friends are. They should be healthy encouraging relationships who motivate you to become the best version of yourself. You will probably still have “toxic interactions and emotional vampires” in your life – that’s inevitable – but be deliberate about who you spend the majority of your time with.
Here’s what I DON’T mean though – I don’t mean that you should “phase out” anyone you don’t like, that you don’t always agree with, or who is different from you. We NEED people in our life to stretch us to be patient and kind, to learn to agreeably disagree, and to teach us how to coexist with people who think and act differently than we do.
Here’s what I DO mean by this:
Spend time with people who challenge you to be a better person.
In the 1997 movie, As Good as it Gets, Helen Hunt’s character pushes Jack Nicholson’s annoying OCD self-absorbed character to give her a compliment, which she ends up saying is the “best compliment of my life.”
First he goes into a long dialogue about how he hates pills, and how he never took his prescribed medication to control his symptoms until he got to know her. “You make me want to be a better man.” If you haven’t seen the movie, I definitely recommend it, or at least watch the clip on Youtube!
Who makes you want to be a better person? Who do you spend time with that challenges you to be your best? Stretches you intellectually? Creatively? Spiritually? And if you are thinking of that person, when is the last time you spent time with them?
Spend time with people who have lifestyles and habits you want to have.
If you’re the kind of person who is at the gym, working out several times a week, running, jogging, swimming, biking, etc. then chances are you have friends who do the same. For one thing, if you’re doing all that, you probably don’t have much time to hang out EXCEPT while you’re doing those things! (See my last article’s tip on hanging out while you’re doing something you already need to do!)
On the other hand, if you’re sitting around the house eating chips and ice cream, chances are you’re hanging out with others who have those same habits.
The point is, we tend to adopt the habits of those we spend time with. We eat like they do, we develop habits – both good and bad – like they do, and generally “become” like them.
Let me give you an example with some backing. A study of heart health done a few years ago found that obesity is linked to social ties. A person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if he or she had a friend who became obese in a given interval.
Motivational speaker Tony Robbins calls it “peer elevation” and says, “The quality of a person’s life is most often a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group.”
In other words, we “adopt the patterns of the herd.”
So who is your herd?
Make friends, keep friends. Make good choices in friendships.