The longer a tea bag is steeped, the stronger the drink becomes. So too it is with us and our surroundings. The longer we’re immersed in any environment, the more likely we are to develop the attitudes, habits, and standards of those around us. The effect can be positive or negative.
Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Even though this quote is repeated over and over again, Rohn’s words are as powerful today as they were when he first spoke them.
Just take a look around and you’ll see how true this statement is. Scary true!
I remember a cheerful young man who accepted a position in a department filled with negative thinkers. He was energetic, intelligent, and ready to take on the world. Several of us remarked that this gentleman’s attitude was exactly what the office needed to brighten the place up a little.
After six months, a change was clearly evident. But sadly, the opposite reaction occurred. It was the young man who had changed. The smile he once had was gone. He started coming in late. The big plans he spoke of in the beginning were nothing but a memory. He didn’t even look like the same person. In. Six. Months.
Assess the Impact
How are those around you influencing you? Take a look at the people you spend a great deal of time with and observe the following:
- the way they dress
- the food they eat
- their exercise habits or lack thereof
- the way they think
- the way they spend their time
- their economic status
Now, take a good, long look in the mirror and ask yourself:
- Have you picked up their habits, viewpoints, and leisure time activities?
- Has your time with them been a wise investment?
- Are those around you supportive of your growth and encourage you to stretch or do they minimize your goals?
Next, assess your environment, workplace, and community. Here are a few questions to ask:
- Are you challenged at work?
- Do you feel valued?
- Are your contributions making a difference?
- Do you look forward to spending time with your friends, co-workers, and neighbors?
- Are you eager to go to work each day?
- Does the community support the kind of lifestyle you want?
The Power of Choice
Visualize your life a year from now, five years from now, and decades down the road. How will things be if you stay in the same environment. Will you be better or worse off?
If better, that’s great! If not, you have a choice. You can change your environment or you can reduce the amount of time spent with negative influencers.
That’s a big and difficult step to contemplate. Leaving behind those you care about is not easy to do. Some won’t understand. But you have no obligation to stay around people who hold you down. Your responsibility to care for yourself first is not selfish.
You can find a better environment and seek out a community of people who will encourage and push you to become better tomorrow than you are today.
It is a deliberate choice.
Learning and Moving Forward
The power of our associations has been the hardest lesson I’ve learned so far. Looking back, I see how my surroundings shaped my life personally and professionally.
In recent years, I’ve become much more purposeful about investing my time with people who challenge and propel me forward. It’s been incredibly difficult to distance myself from those I cared about but who were a negative influence. And I’ve also learned it’s a continual process, much like cultivating and weeding a garden. But this one change has made a remarkable difference.
It’s so easy to be influenced by those around us. That’s why we must be intentional with our environment. You can’t change your past or the influences you had growing up. You can do something about today and the future. You get to choose.
What step will you take today to evaluate the impact of influencers in your life?