‘You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with,’ says author Richard Koch. While this statement is not to be taken literally or mathematically it plainly contains a disturbingly large grain of truth. For most of us the people we choose to associate with reflect ourselves, our values, our backgrounds, our attitudes and our behaviours. Take a moment to write down the names of the five people that you spend most time with. Who are they and what are they like? Are they people you are friendly with, who share your views and interests and keep you safely within your comfort zone? Do they inspire, encourage or teach you? Do they push you to achieve more? Or are they people who limit your ambition, pull you down or restrict your view? Do they challenge your views and your thinking or simply agree with you and reinforce your views? Can they help you to see a different view of the world or do they view things from the same perspective as you?
If you spend all your time with old people you will end up thinking and acting like an old person. If you spend all your time with dull people you will soon become dull. It follows that you should define your goals and then try to find people who will help you to achieve them. If you want to be a great musician spend time with great musicians. If you want to become a chess grandmaster then associate with chess grandmasters.
Of course you should not drop all your old friends and relatives just because they are not successful. But over a period you should spend less time with the ones who pull you down, who depress you, who denigrate or ignore the things you hold important, who are negative or cynical. You should seek out and spend more time with the high achievers, the ambitious, the successful and the inspirational among your friends. If you want to be a more creative, broad-minded and interesting person you should also move out of your comfort zone by meeting people who will challenge your view of the world, whose experiences are different from yours and who will confront your assumptions. In your conversations it is better to disagree and learn than to agree and reinforce your views and prejudices. Unless of course you are the kind of person who believes they are right all the time!
Paul Sloane gives motivatonal talks and runs workshops on creativity and innovation. He is the author of How to be a Brilliant Thinker.