You are, or will become, the average of the five people you associate with the most. ~ Brian Carruthers
That little quote says a whole lot. I heard it for the first time many years ago when I was in training for a side career as an Arbonne Consultant. My business goals may have changed since then, but the principle endures. You will take on traits of people you spend time with – positive or negative – like it or not. So it’s wise to make conscious decisions about who to associate with. This concept, while often overlooked, is not new. Surely you’ve heard your parents (or gasp – your friends’ parents) warn about the dangers of getting caught in the wrong crowd. As teenagers, that advice is never welcome and often ignored. But as adults, we can certainly see what they were getting at. Running with a group of kids who were always skipping school, spending time in detention, and being well known by the local authorities is often a recipe for disaster. Drinking, smoking, drugs – they’re all things most teenagers are exposed to. But whether they’re a small part of high school , or whether they make up the majority of ‘good times’ depends on the quantity and the frequency of exposures. This depends entirely on the people you’re surrounded by.
There are people who love their jobs, enjoy life, and seem to always be happy or positive even when they have plenty of reasons not to be happy! And then there are people who hate their work, complain about their spouses, annoyed by their kids, and always seem to find a dark cloud over their heads. They often have a victim mentality and can find the negative in almost every situation. Even when everything seems to be going right, they’re the people that (assuming they can even recognize that everything’s going right), are quick to say, “Well this can’t last. Knowing my luck, it’s about to get real bad.” Whether it’s money, weather, friends, family, relationships, etc – they’re reluctant to accept a positive status quo and seem to almost instinctively strive for a problem because that’s their normal.
It’s important to know your own ‘normal’ and even more important to decide what you want your own ‘normal’ to become. If you recognize yourself as someone who has the tendency to worry a lot, dwell on the negative, or even just someone that a lot of bad stuff ‘happens to’, then perhaps you want your new normal to become more positive. Maybe you want to be a person that’s happy all the time, or someone for whom life treats favorably. Maybe you just want normal to be fair. Whatever your normal is, decide it and find people who already live that way. Make those the 5 people you surround yourself with. They’ve got traits you want. If you stick with people who bring you down, who act negative, and who live the ‘misery loves company’ motto, you are making a choice to be surrounded with negative people, and that means you’re choosing to become just like them.
Just a few days ago I attended the first Pittsburgh Vegan Drinks Meetup. I’ve been in the Meetup Group for a year now, and this is only my second in-person event! It was not only such a pleasant feeling to be surrounded by other vegans, but it was a real eye opener to see who was in attendance. There were a huge range of vegans – 1 month in, 1 year in, 2 years in, 5+ years in. But there were also people who had toyed with being vegan or vegetarian, but do not currently label themselves as such. What impressed me most were the few people who were just curious. They wanted to know more about being vegan, so they put themselves out there and did the most logical thing possible – they hung out with vegans! They simply spent time with and got to know people who they thought they might want to connect with. They found people whose values they shared and went with it.
It’s the same with almost all aspects of life. If you want to find out about what it’s like to work in a restaurant, you would find people who work in a restaurant and ask them questions. You probably wouldn’t spend time in a shoe store asking employees there what it’s like to be a server. If you want to learn more ab0ut travel, talk to your friends that travel rather than hanging with a crew who has never left their hometown. That crew may think you must have to be rich if you ever want to travel, and if you haven’t already, someday you’ll embrace that limiting belief too. If you want to have pets or babies some day, talk with dog owners or parents, not only your childless friends. If you want to know what it’s like to be an adult without children, make sure you spend some time with childless friends, not just surrounded by couples with children. The ‘normal’ will be strikingly different depending on each person’s perspective. Simply surround yourself with people who share the traits you wish to acquire. It’s so logical and so rarely done!
The vegan meetup was a fabulous experience. Much like the conferences I’ve attended recently, it helped me to feel welcome and normal in a culture where we often feel like the minority. Deep in my heart and certainly in my head I know that it’s normal to avoid animal cruelty. It’s normal to be have a visceral reaction to animal slaughter and chewing on an animal’s flesh. But when I look at many mainstream restaurant menus, it seems normal to eat animals and their secretions. It’s a puzzling thing to wrap my head around our culture and our decisions, and it can be lonely sometimes. Seeking out like-minded people has the ability to nourish the spirit, to feel normal, and it’s a great way to constantly evolve into the best ‘me’ I can be.
Surround yourself with only people who will lift you higher ~ Oprah Winfrey