Editor’s Note: This article was first published in Inc. Magazine here.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose wisely.
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
That’s a well known quote I wish I’d heard growing up.
Because one of the most important, valuable, evergreen lessons I’ve learned is that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. That goes for friends, family, and teammates.
And yet so many of us still ignore this truth.
Most of us fool ourselves by thinking we can surround ourselves with people who don’t have great habits. That we can ignore the qualities we don’t want and focus on the good qualities we want to mimic.
But we can’t. It’s too hard. You end up picking up those bad habits.
There are many studies out there that support this idea, but I recently came across an article by Brad Stulberg in Outside called “Good Vibes Are Contagious” that brought this idea home for me. The article explains how our emotions spread way further than we think. And how emotions from the people around us — like pain, happiness, and sadness — can be contagious.
Sure, a complaining coworker can derail your day. Or if the person you share a desk space with is always in a good mood, that might boost your mood too.
But you know what else the article says is contagious? Motivation.
A 2017 study out of Northwestern University found that sitting within 25 feet of a high performer at work improved an employee’s performance by 15 percent. But sitting within 25 feet of a low performer hurt their performance by 30 percent.
Maybe you can relate to this in your current situation. Do you work closely with a low performer? Are you noticing that the quality of your work is suffering? And on the flip side — do you work closely with a top performer? Does working with them inspire you to up your game?
And it’s not just the people we surround ourselves with. It’s also the books we read, the podcasts we listen to and even the social accounts we follow.
This last one was a big wake up call for me personally. The accounts I follow on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube shape my reality as much as the people I surround myself with in the real world. What I see and hear in these apps becomes my reality.
And we can’t forget about Facebook. I think anyone who has spent even a few minutes on it can agree — it’s a breeding ground for emotions.
Which means that, like it or not, whenever you’re logging onto one of these social media sites, you’re acting as a sponge for the emotions in your news feed.
So here’s my challenge to you. Think about what you want your reality to be. Audit your social media accounts. And be mindful of who you’re following — not just in real life, but online too.
Choose wisely. These accounts will shape your reality.
I pruned my news feeds so that I only follow accounts that I want shaping my reality. Do I miss the ones I cut? Not at all. My feeds are higher quality, and I feel better about the time I spend on these platforms.
Here’s some advice I kept in mind during my own audit that I think can be helpful for yours. When you set out to pick your teammates, role models, mentors and even just who you decide to follow on social media, consider the following:
- Be careful who you take advice from.
- Just because everyone has an opinion, doesn’t mean you should listen.
- It takes practice to filter out the wrong people.
- Choose your role models wisely.
- Role models are different than mentors.
- Mentors are the people who are years ahead of you. They have achieved big things.
- Role models are the people you interact with daily.
- You can keep mentors for years but you should change your role models regularly.
- Changing your role models forces you to learn, grow and evolve.
How do you pick your mentors and role models? What practices do you follow to stay mindful of who you’re surrounding yourself with?
My goal is to come back to these tips every few months to ensure I’m continuing to surround myself with those that inspire me, and I hope you will too.