The 5 People

The 5 People

I once asked a therapist how healthy people deal with difficult people. I thought there was a magic tool that could make those relationships workable. Nope. He said, "healthy people simply don't have those people in their lives." That rocked me on my heels. It never occurred to me that I could make that choice. It was one of the most liberating things anyone has ever said to me.

But that's only part of the story.

The people I have in my life now inspire, encourage, and uplift. They are seekers who live life on their own terms with openness and curiosity. They're playful and fun. They are successful and interesting. That's because I don't invite people who don't embody these qualities into my life.

"Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” Dan Pena

If you hang out with happy people you will be more likely to be happy. If you hang out with successful people you will be more likely to be successful. If you hang out with people with healthy habits you will be more likely to have healthy habits. That's because it becomes the norm in your social circle so you are more likely to follow suit.

Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler conducted the first major study on the breadth of social influence. They poured over the data set from the Framingham Heart Study, one of the largest and most long-running health studies ever done. These researchers found that having one happy friend nearby (within 1.6 kilometers of you) increases your chances of happiness by 25%.

Why is this true? Norms.

“You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with,”  Jim Rohn.
Photo by Andrew Moca

Several years ago I decided to buy a building. Why? I belong to a group for entrepreneurs called, funnily enough, Entrepreneurs Organization. It was a rite of passage to buy a building in that group. Almost everyone bought a building. It was the norm. That's why, in my mid-sixties, I bought a building. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world because everyone around me was doing it.

That was a great lesson for me. It taught me to cultivate friends who are where I want to go.

I love to be inspired by good design. That's why I count among my friends an industrial designer, an architect, and an interior designer. I am constantly discovering cool things and great design ideas I can adopt in my own life through them. Because they all have such high standards for design, my standards are now also higher. All the design in my life is better because I spend time with them.

Last year I met a group of women who travel to see great art as I have been wanting to do. Knowing them has normalized my willingness to travel to see an art exhibit. Even though I was just in the Netherlands in October on an art tour I'm planning to go back this spring. There is a Vermeer exhibit at the Rijksmuseum and I want to see it. Knowing people who would do something like this makes it more likely I will do it myself.

Cultivating intuition is important to me. I feel so grateful to count among my friends several people operating on a whole different level. One friend is surrounded by meaningful "coincidences" involving timing. He will be telling me about someone over coffee and they walk by the window. That's normal for him. I was on the phone with another friend talking about how she was moving into an abundant stance when her calendar blew over (no wind involved) and an email came in involving a huge contract for her firm at the exact same moment. I want some of that! I'm so intrigued by these people and it encourages me to be open to and watch for these moments.

You have a choice about the people you have in your life. The effects of having the right people are dramatic. Whether you want to be happier, fitter, or more well-off, chose the right people and you will naturally become more of who you want to be.

In Practice

Who in your life is taking you closer to what you want and who is taking you farther away?

Grab your journal and do an assessment.

Draw a line down the center of the page. On the left side put headings for the qualities you would like to cultivate and populate it with friends who embody those qualities in spades. On the right, list people who are not contributing to your future or are actively bringing you down.

The goal is for you to have friends that elevate the norm in every category you identified. If you don't, it's time to be on the lookout for someone who does and whom you might like to have as a friend.

You don't necessarily have to exile the people in the right column but you could be more mindful of how much time you spend with them.



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