Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.— Oprah Winfrey
When I talk about “relationships” in our “30 Steps to a Better You,” don’t get too focused on the romantic kind. Your love life isn’t always the thing that needs a kick start. Friends, family – those relationships are just as important and at certain times, even more so. The health of the relationships we forge platonically involve the same kind of time, energy and devotion. They can either grow to a point of mutual benefit and respect, or they can wither and disintegrate. And we’re affected either way, deeply.
Entrepreneur, author and motivation speaker Jim Rohn once said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” and this is something I’ve lived by. The people who you have in your life influence you, for good and for bad, and are one of the greatest determining factors of your success.
Because, ultimately, you are who you hang out with.
You can’t spend time with someone, real impactful time, without there being an influence. You can want to believe that certain friendships can transcend all life changes and situations, but the reality is we change, we grow apart, and we outgrow our friends. We have to be honest with ourselves and seriously assess whether the people in our life are there for good, or are there for a reason and a season.
This article for Lifehacker makes some good points about what we need to do when we do this next exercise where we take a hard look at those closest to us, our five closest friends, and how they stack up.
- Who are the 5 people in your life that you spend time with? As in, if your day has 24 hours, how many of those hours are spent with which people. (I’m guessing amongst people will be some members of your family, your spouse, co-workers and some close friends.) Write those 5 people on a piece of paper. (It’s ok if they are less than 5.)
- Once you have a list of those 3-5 people, ask yourself this: Who are they? What do they do with their lives? How ambitious are they, how successful have they been, how happy, optimistic, and enthusiastic are they?
- Evaluate carefully if those people will really be those that will help you get to the next level you want to get to. Do they push you forward when you come to them with new ideas, no matter what? Or do they tell you that what you have in mind won’t work? Do they inspire you?
- Make a choice of who in your list you want to continue spending time with. Don’t be afraid if none or only 1 or 2 amongst your 5 people today meet the standard of excellence you want to set for yourself. Keep going, decrease the time you spend, and increase the amount of time you keep your eyes looking for people that you want to have as one of your 5 closest people.
Once you’ve gone through the list don’t be discouraged if you find yourself short a few folks.
If you surround yourself around supportive, caring, dynamic people, you will find yourself better grounded, stable and successful. If you have friends that are toxic, that are unreliable, that are bitterly critical or bring out behavior in you you’re less than proud of, these are friends who you may have out-grown, or don’t make sense for you anymore.
But ending friendships though can be just as traumatic as getting out of a relationship. In this article for The New York Times, the phenomenon of “defriending” is the topic, a term that entered our lexicon thanks to Facebook, but is really more about how we decide who stays and who goes in our lives.
From The New York Times:
Thanks to Facebook, the concept of “defriending” has become part of the online culture. With a click of a mouse, you can remove someone from your friends roster and never again see an annoying status update or another vacation photo from a person you want out of your life.
Not so in the real world. Even though research shows that it is natural, and perhaps inevitable, for people to prune the weeds from their social groups as they move through adulthood, those who actually attempt to defriend in real life find that it often plays out like a divorce in miniature — a tangle of awkward exchanges, made-up excuses, hurt feelings and lingering ill will.
Even the most omnivorous collectors of friends acknowledge that sometimes it is necessary to cross out some names from their little black book.
Not all friendships end with a casual drifting apart and a mutual understanding that the relationship has run its course. Sometimes for these relationships we have to have a real conversation, write a letter, or sit down face to face to reach a point of closure as we would do in a romantic relationship. Don’t be afraid to reach out and have a frank discussion about the friendship and why it should cool off or discontinue. By being honest with those we have cared for we become more honest with ourselves and, in the end, become better, more successful people.
Don’t be afraid to let go of the relationships that hold you back.
This week’s homework? It’s right there in the post, it’s time to take a hard look at your friends and make some assessments. For those friends who are truly supportive and we’re bonded with, we keep, for those we’ve outgrown, it’s time to find the diplomatic way to move apart.
For more information fostering healthy relationships (romantic or otherwise), read my book “It’s Complicated” or check out Lifehacker’s post on the five friend assessment, “How the People Around You Affect Personal Success.”
If you haven’t read the previous Step (#6) on how to declutter your life, click here.