You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

The first time I heard this quote, an acquaintance told me that he could guess my income based on knowing the income of my 5 closest friends. He said that is why he associates primarily with millionaires. Even though he himself was not one, he believed that by hanging out with them, whatever led to their financial success would rub off on him.

I’ve heard this phrase again over the years, not just in relation to income but also in relation to : appearance, personality, attitude, weight.

(Yes there was a study that stated if your friends are overweight, you are likely to be overweight as well.)

Let’s think about it this way:

When you’re growing up, your immediate family makes up a portion of these five people. You are an amalgamation of their views, behavioural quirks, and morality.

Then in high school, you form bonds with peers which influence your personality further. This is why in high school, cliques are so prevalent. The punks associate with each other, the goths, the band kids, the druggies. You find safety in assuming the identity of those closest to you.

Once you’re out of high school and university, however, you have a much larger role in choosing your 5 people. Your schedule outside of work is determined by you. Your friends do not have to remain the same people you worked on group projects with, or people who are your friends by association.

It’s for this reason that I implore you to carefully select your friends, and the time allotment you give to each one.

1. How is their work ethic? Are they ambitious or more laid-back? Are they conscientious or spontaneous?
2. How do they treat themselves? Are they confident or insecure? Do they know what they want or do they people-please?
3. What is their personality like? Are they cheerful and optimistic? Or are they cynical and pessimistic?
4. How do they treat those around them? Are they respectful of others’ time? Or are they selfish and put themselves first?
5. Do they share the same values as you? Are they risk-loving and adventurous? Are they loyal and faithful?
6. How do they treat their 5 closest people? Do they spread malicious gossip? Do they help out their friends in times of need?

 

It’s easy for us to choose people like ourselves, and you might find your 5 closest friends are all similar in personality, but this can create a dangerous echo chamber in which your own views are constantly reinforced by your friends and you become not as susceptible to other points of view. In addition, be wary when you stop being the average of your group and find yourself at the top. Be wary when you find yourself being the highest-earning, the most diligent and accomplished, the most healthy, the most enriched personal life. It’s in situations like these when your 5 can actually start weighing you down.

Either you purposely associate with people not as accomplished as yourself to boost your own self-esteem (do you have that one friend who just can’t seem to get it together? For years you’ve acted in an advisory role but they just make the same mistakes over and over again!), or your pace of growth has drastically overshadowed your current social group (which can and lead to resentment and negativity from said friends, it’s not their fault, we are all programmed to regress to the mean). Either way, being at the top means you are giving more than you are receiving. It will make you complacent and stagnate your growth.

As we age, we find that we have more and more financial freedom, but less and less time. Therefore it’s doubly important to figure out just whom we should allot that time to. Even though it can sound cold and calculating when it’s presented this way, (“oh I prefer my friendships to be organic, things just happen if they’re meant to be”) think about it in terms of your romantic relationship. When you get into a relationship, there are all kinds of things to consider aside from just initial attraction and chemistry. You consider their background, their upbringing, their personality, their religious views, views on children, politics, their long-term compatibility, their treatment towards you.

Why should our friendships be any different? Why should we give any less regard to them?

Let me know if you consciously choose your ‘5’ and what qualities attracted you to them.

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