I can remember as a young man this one friend who I had so much fun with (some times so much fun that we got into trouble together), whom my parents forbid me to see. Of course like all children trying to understand, I wanted to know why. The answer would become rather prophetic for me in my life as an adult.
I was told that I could not associate with him because he was the kind of boy who got into trouble, and if I hung out with him, I would probably wind up in trouble as well. I didn’t understand as a young man the importance of this message.
As I got a little older, I found myself associating with the kinds of people my parents had warned me about, and within a few years, my life was spiraling out of control to a point where I was nearing self-destruction. I knew I had to make a change, and I tried several times to move my life back in a positive direction.
It was then, that I remembered the lesson of association my parents had tried in vain to impart to me when I was younger. I had to change the peer group I was associating with in order to create the kind of change I knew I needed to make in my life.
So what does this have to do with developing your full potential and living the life of your dreams? Well, there is this idea I first heard about from Jim Rohn.
YOU ARE THE AVERAGE OF THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU SPEND THE MOST TIME WITH. ~JIM RHON
I was trying to move my life in a new direction, while continuing to associate with the same people. Quite simply, this cannot be done.
Let me offer an example. Let’s say that you run around with a group of people who do casual drugs on a regular basis. The odds are, that you too will engage in casual drug use. If you want to quit using drugs casually, it will be very difficult if you continue to hang out with people who still do.
If I associate with bad people, I’ll probably end up getting into bad things as well. I mean, if I’m an upstanding person of great integrity, I wouldn’t associate with people drastically different from me, because I have little in common with them.
But this works in reverse as well. If I want to make change in my life, say to be a more motivated person, to increase my income or net worth, or to eat healthier, work out more and live a healthy lifestyle, I can accelerate my progress by associating with people who are already in that peer group.
What Jim Rohn states in his quote, is that your life will mirror on average the lives of your five closest friends. Your income. your lifestyle, work, family etc., will be about the average of your five closest friends.
If your closest friends are fanatical about running marathons, you probably will be interested in running too. If all of your closest friends are corporate workers, climbing the corporate ladder, that’s probably the path you will be on as well.
Choose your friends wisely, as they can either be a drag on your life, or boosters which accelerate your progress.
So, I have come up with this idea I like to call the mosaic theory of personality. In many ways this is just an extension of Mr. Rohn’s idea about your life reflecting your five closest friends.
Every one of us is influenced in small ways by the people and mediums we find value in. These can be people, TV shows, radio programs or organizations. Over time, you integrate little mannerisms, sayings and ways of looking at things into your behaviors, and they become little pieces of who you are. They become little tiles in the personality of the mosaic that is you.
My theory then, is that each of us are, as a person, little small pieces of the people and things that influence us over time. These can add to, or take away from you. You get to choose.
LET ME LOOK AT YOUR FRIENDS AND I’LL TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE… ~ANONYMOUS
Some people allow this process to happen by default, rather than with intention. If you are looking to create positive change in your life, you must act intentionally. You must choose carefully those things that influence you, and it is a choice.
When we put these two ideas together, we get a picture that our life will, in many ways be the mean of those we are closest to and that those people we admire influence us in small ways.
If you want to create change, and move your life in a different direction, then you need to associate with people who are already living the change you want to see in your life.
“PEOPLE ARE LIKE DIRT. THEY CAN EITHER NOURISH YOU AND HELP YOU GROW AS A PERSON OR THEY CAN STUNT YOUR GROWTH AND MAKE YOU WILT AND DIE.” ~PLATO
Resolve that from this day forward, you will associate with people who motivate, inspire and bring out the best in you.
So how do you get started?
Here are five ways you can find, network and build relationships that will nourish and encourage you:
So what do your five closest friends say about you?
Do you find yourself daydreaming about traveling to Africa for a safari, Paris to visit the Eiffel Tower or to the Peruvian Andes to visit the ruins of Machu Picchu? Or how about leaving your day job to pursue an entrepreneurial venture working from home? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to pursue writing as a new career, but have never gotten started.
What’s holding you back?
Your “why” isn’t big enough to move you to take action.
“…if you can create a big enough why, your brain will figure out the how.” Tony Robbins
The simple fact is that if you have dreams and goals you haven’t taken action on, your reasons for doing so just aren’t motivating enough to compel you to do so.
There are two things you must do if you want to overcome the initial resistance we all feel when trying to move ourselves in a new direction. You must get clear on what you want first. Then you need to create some big, bold “whys” to get out of your rut.
“Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid…” Dorothea Brande
If you’ve ever driven in a bad rut, you know that to get out of it, you have to turn the wheel hard to get out. This is a great metaphor for how hard change can be. You have to take bold action, based on clarity of purpose, with some compelling why, to get out of the ruts in your life.
Define your what:
What are the changes you want to make in your life? A change in your diet to live healthier, a change in your career to be able to earn money working from home, or stepping out of your comfort zone to travel more and see the world. Whatever it is, you need to define it clearly so that you can measure progress. If we have no yardstick to measure progress, we can’t tell whether we’re making progress, or even moving in the right direction for that matter.
Write a paragraph “why”:
After you’ve defined your what, sit down and write your paragraph “why.” This must be compelling and personal. There are two motivating factors in all of life. The drive to gain pleasure and to avoid pain. Of the two, fear of loss is a more powerful motivator than the drive to gain pleasure. What will you lose if you don’t change. What will it cost you in time, health, unhappiness?
Make your plan and start taking action immediately:
This step is perhaps the most important. Now, you know what you want and you’ve created some compelling, motivating reasons why you must make a change in your life. It’s time to plan a course of action and start today with some small action you can take to get the ball rolling.
There are two mental laws you need to be aware of. The first law is called the law of speed of implementation (which I learned about here, big thanks to Stefan Pylarinos) which states that the sooner you take action (swift, bold, outrageous action is better) the greater the likelihood you will achieve your end. The reason for this can be found in the second law, called the law of diminishing intent. This law states that if you don’t act immediately on an idea, the intent to do so diminishes over time.
Have you ever been inspired to start exercising regularly, reading more or to start a new routine in your life? You thought about how great it would be. You might have even done a little planning, but you didn’t take action right away. Life and circumstance happen and the next thing you know, it’s lost. Months later, your talking with someone and BAM, the idea comes back in a rush.
Peter Gollwitzer  did a series of studies looking at the strength of intention in goal attainment. His studies showed that when a person developed an if__then plan, they were significantly more likely to achieve their goals. If your goal is to start eating healthier, your plan might include things like “if I slip and and eat McDonalds for lunch, then I will make sure to eat a salad with water for dinner. The development of this plan led to what Dr. Gollwitzer called implementation intentions. These two disciplines allow you to overcome the most significant reasons why people fail to achieve their goals. These two factors are
The last thing you have to do, is to commit to someone else that you will make this change. Committing to others helps to provide additional pressure to follow through and push through the adversity we all face when making changes.
Remember, clarity is power. When you get really clear on your what, you can focus the power of your intention on it. Taking a trip is such a great analogy for this. A goal is a destination for where you want to be in some area of your life in the future. If you are not clear on what you want, how can you know if you’re making progress, or if you’ve arrived at your destination.
A powerful, personal why is the best catalyst for moving your life in a new direction. Life altering change can be difficult, so you’ve got to know why you’re doing it. Don’t skimp here. Make your why personal and compelling, and remember, avoiding pain is a bigger motivator than gaining comfort/pleasure.
Develop a plan but be ready to make changes along the way. The path to achieving your dreams often takes detours and side roads. Be ready to adapt and adjust. This doesn’t mean the goal changes, just the path along the way there. This can sometimes be difficult because we attach our identity to the path we lay out. If it doesn’t go exactly as we plan, we think of this as failure. Instead, take the new information and use it to improve the plan to reach your goals.
Make sure you take some small action immediately. This has been shown in several research studies to be one of the most critical parts of goal attainment. Taking action, even wrong action, gives us feedback to be able to improve our aim. In addition, once you begin taking action, things develop their own inertia and it get easier as you go.
Finally, commit to someone else what your goals are. This creates pressure and accountability, so that you keep going when you face the inevitable challenge you will face on the way to achieving your goals.
And our “secret sauce” recipe for goal attainment:
Mix all of these together in a bowl and bake in the furnace of adversity and, Voila!
1. Gollwitzer, P. M., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Implementation intentions and goal achievement: A meta-analysis of effects and processes. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 69-119).