Why Choosing Our Friends Wisely Matters
It has been said that we are the average of the 5 friends we associate with the most. I am a big believer in this adage, but that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, it took me a while to come to grips with this truth and implement it in my life.
Having a wide circle of friends is perfectly OK, but most people spend the majority of their time with a small minority of this group. I am no exception and tend to allocate my time to 4 or 5 specific people. Unlike many years ago, I am now much more discriminate about who I choose to associate with regularly and I am glad that I made this change.
I am very fortunate to have many friends who are kind, inspirational, patient, and positive influences in my life. I am grateful for these gifts and probably do not tell them enough how much I appreciate them. I learn a lot from these wonderful people and, in turn, I hope they learn from me.
The fact of the matter is, however, that most of my time is spent with the small group of people whom I am closest to. These friends share many of the same goals and values that I subscribe to and they make me a better person. It is only natural that we gravitate towards one another because of these commonalities.
In contrast to this, however, I also have a few friends who do not share most of the same values, goals and aspirations. This is not to say that these people people are wrong and I am right in the way we each think. It also does not mean that I am better than them or that they are better than I am. It is just that we are different. In other words, our goals and ideals are not congruent. Our desired paths are too divergent and, consequently, by choice, we have drifted apart.
I believe that it is only logical that we are influenced by who we associate with the most. If we surround ourselves with smokers, it increases the chances that we will smoke. If we mingle often with friends who do not set goals, it raises the likelihood that we, too, will forgo goal-setting. If our closest friends drink alcohol heavily, it increases the odds that we will follow suit. If our closest friends have no discipline nor desire to better themselves, we boost the chances of us doing the same. That is why it matters who your closest 4 or 5 friends are.
We are fortunate that we have a choice of who we associate with the most. Good parents realize this power of influence and advise their children to choose their friends wisely. As adults, we, too, get to choose. This gift of free choice is powerful because it helps us determine who our biggest influencers are. There are some people who overlook and do not take advantage of this freedom to choose, unfortunately, and they ultimately suffer the consequences.
Personally, I prefer to surround myself with friends who:
- Are disciplined
- Set lofty goals and are ambitious
- Have a desire to better themselves
- Care about their health
- Do not create unnecessary problems
- Love and value themselves
- Make the effort to overcome fear and challenge themselves
- Are kind and patient
- Are honest
- Have good work ethic
Why do I choose to surround myself with people who possess those aforementioned traits? Quite simply, it is because those are values and characteristics that I strongly believe in and admire. It increases the chances of us being positive influences on one another. It affords me the luxury of learning from and being inspired by them. Since we share many common goals, we are better able to understand and support one another. These friends influence my life in a positive way and help me achieve my goals, and, hopefully, vice versa.
It is important to keep in mind that our closest friends do not necessarily have to share every single goal and value that we have. There is bound to be some diversity and discrepancy, and that is a good thing. For example, not all of my 4 or 5 closest friends exercise regularly, something I try to do (but all of them care to varying degrees about their health). Or I may not be as patient as some of them are (I am working on it!). In addition to this, some of these closest friends have made me think about things that I never would have contemplated on my own. They have taught me things that I never knew. We sometimes disagree on matters. But, in general, while we have some differences, our overall philosophies overlap sufficiently to make us compatible friends. That is important.
Think about your own goals and values. Who are you and what do you hope to achieve in your life? What is truly important to you?
Do you value charity work and believe in helping others who are less fortunate? Then it would help if your closest friends shared the characteristic of giving and supported you in your endeavor.
Do you want to lose weight, exercise and become healthy? Then it would make a difference if the people you are closest to share those goals and influence you positively. Conversely, having close friends who do not care about being healthy would not be the best support group for you.
Are you keen on studying hard and doing well in school in order to better your life? Then hanging out often with the party crowd that gives little weight to academics would lower your chances of success. Instead, you would do better by choosing friends who value doing well in school.
Do you place emphasis on family values? Then it is advantageous if your closest friends share this trait, understand and support you.
Are honesty and integrity important to you? Then it would be best if your closest friends are honest and principled in their actions and words.
Do you cherish hard work, a good work ethic and being the best you can be in your career? Then you would be best served by having friends who are not lazy and who work hard.
This does not mean that you ditch every friend who does not share your aspirations and values. You can still maintain your friendships and have a large circle of friends. But I have learned that it also possible (and, sometimes, preferable) to love or care about someone from a distance. It is the 4 or 5 closest friends whom you spend the most time with that influence you the most.
We really are a product of our environment and our closest friends greatly influence this environment. Human beings are naturally swayed by others so it is important to envelop ourselves with people who are positive influences. As I mentioned before, your close friends and you will never agree on everything or share the exact same values and goals. That is impossible because each one of us is different and unique. However, it certainly helps if your friends are compatible with the goals and values that matter the most to you.
Choosing our closest friends whom we spend the most time with is one of the most important and empowering decisions we can make. It is important that we choose wisely.