Carefully Select the People Who Influence Your Life

Posted by Todd Smith

When I was a kid growing up, my mom gave me all sorts of advice. Today, I can still hear her saying “Todd, choose your friends carefully. Don’t get mixed up with the wrong group.” Mom knew that children are easily influenced by their peers and that if I ran with the wrong crowd, they’d have a negative influence on my life.

Mom’s lesson holds true for children, teens, college students, and adults. It is well documented that our fundamental beliefs and attitudes are greatly influenced by the people we allow into our lives. If we associate with people who gossip, we are likely to gossip. If we are around people who swear and use inappropriate language, we’re likely to exhibit the same behavior.

Dr. David McClelland of Harvard University concluded after 25 years of research that the choice of a negative “reference group” was in itself enough to condemn a person to failure and underachievement in life.

Your associations are some of the most powerful factors in determining who you become and what you accomplish in your life. As an example, if we hang out with pessimistic people who are critical of us, their negative comments will likely impact how we view our abilities and our self-image.

My mentor, Jim Rohn, said, “You will become the combined average of the five people you hang around the most. You will have their combined attitude, health, and income.”

When I first heard this statement 20 years ago, I questioned whether it was true. Now, today, I know it is undeniably accurate.

Recognizing this truth, how do we use it to our advantage? It’s simple. If we want to advance our lives personally and professionally, we must associate ourselves with people who will be a positive influence on our lives.

Do you play sports? If so, do you notice how you play better when you play with better players?

Do you play board or card games? Again, do you notice how you step up your game when you play with better competitors?

When we associate with others who have a greater skill set or have achieved more, we are challenged. It brings out the best in us and inspires us to do better. Observing and modeling someone’s positive example will help us reach new heights. We’re not just talking sports and games here. This applies to everything we do.

Surrounding ourselves with optimistic and uplifting people has a direct cause and effect on our demeanor, confidence level, and performance. It’s all positive!

The legendary Zig Ziglar said it best: “If you want to fly with the eagles, you can’t continue to scratch with the turkeys.”

I encourage you to take ten minutes right now and think about the people who you spend a lot of time at home, in the workplace, and socially. Who are they? Who are the positive influences? Who are the negative ones?

Oh, and don’t think you can prevent the negative ones from influencing you. They influence you whether you are consciously aware of it or not. EVERYONE in your life influences you in some capacity.

If you’ve characterized some of your friends as a negative influence, let me encourage you to begin to slowly reduce the amount of time you spend in those relationships.

If your family members say negative and discouraging things to you, have a conversation with them. Help them understand how their statements are damaging and ask them to focus on encouraging you rather than tearing you down.

If you work in an environment that is not healthy, read my post How to Get Any Job You Want and find a new place to work. Life is too short to work in a negative environment.

I realize these suggestions may represent radical changes in your life. They may not be easy to accomplish all at once, but if enjoying your life and achieving your personal best is a priority, surrounding yourself with people who can help you reach your full potential is a necessity.

Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are.” – Author Unknown

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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