The people who you most closely associate with undoubtedly have a major impact on every aspect of yourself. Your beliefs, habits, and emotional mindsets are greatly shaped by the people that you spend the most amount of time with. If you don’t feel fulfilled with your life, and want to improve circumstances, one of the first steps that you can take is to evaluate your associations. By understanding how people influence you and identifying what life-affirming relationships are supposed to look like, you gain the ability to find and cultivate relationships that bring you more success, happiness, and fulfillment.
Your Associations Shape Who You Are:
The late great self-help expert Jim Rohn is famously quoted as saying, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Basing this conclusion on the Law of Averages, which states that any given outcome is dependent upon the average of inputs, Rohn brought to our attention the vastly important truth of social influence.
For many of us, the idea of evaluating our associations has never crossed our minds yet we feel a dissatisfaction with our role in society and our life in general. We want more but find ourselves continuously repeating the very actions that keep us stuck in our current situation. There is no doubting that our family, friends, co-workers, and significant others play a role in shaping the person that we are. At the most basic level, this is easily recognizable by observing how a group of friends begin using vocabulary that was introduced by one of the group members. And while modeling the language of others may not seem like a big deal, this truth just begins to show how influential we can be on others.
If you think about the 5 people you spend the most time with, you will easily recognize how you share similar beliefs and habits which greatly affect your personal well-being. If you spend the vast majority of your time with individuals who carry a negative outlook about life, you can be assured that you too will develop a similarly pessimistic perspective. There isn’t much debating the fact that your eating habits, spending habits, ways of thinkings, emotional states, beliefs, and desire to become a better person are greatly influenced by your closest associations. This is the primary reason that the first steps recovering alcoholic are told to take is to cut ties with their drinking buddies.
The fact that others greatly influence our personal evolution often remains hidden to us, because we were not given the chance to freely choose many of our primary associations. For example, you didn’t have the ability to choose who your parents, siblings, coworkers, and even childhood friends were. By bringing this truth into your awareness, you can put yourself in a better position to evaluate your associations, cultivate life-affirming relationships, and ultimately live life with higher levels of fulfillment.
If you are feeling unsatisfied with your current circumstances and want to experience greater levels of success and happiness, one of the first things you need to do is to evaluate your associations. To take this a step further, it is equally important to evaluate how you are influencing those who you spend the most time with. We will look at how you can create a life-affirming circle of close associations, but you should first use the following 5 questions to evaluate the people closest to you (3-5 people who you spend the most time with).
Questions to Evaluate Your Associations:
There are a number of useful tips that can help you accurately assess the quality of your associations as well as the quality of your own role in these relationships. As you run through these 5 questions, it is important to try to view each of your relationships from a 3rd person perspective. Do your best to leave your biases and emotions out of the evaluation. Act as if you are a social psychologist who is observing how you and your close acquaintances influence each other. Another important concept to remember is the law of averages. Just as Jim Rohn used this law to show how we are influenced by others, you can use it to determine how life-affirming your closest associations actually are. If an individual has behaved negatively once or twice, that doesn’t mean they aren’t positive influences. Take the average sum of your relationship into account as you go along. Finally, make sure to evaluate each person as you go through the questions one by one, before repeating the process for your other associations and yourself.
1.) Do they add value to my life?
For many people, staying in the problematic relationships, wether sexual or not, is due to heighten levels of comfortability and habit. It is much easier for us to remain within the same circles of associations even though they may not fit our needs or desired lifestyle. It is vital for you to associate with people who you are genuinely excited to spend time with. When you leave this person after each encounter, you should also feel a sense of rejuvenation. You can greatly increase your levels of happiness by associating with those that make you feel upbeat.
2.) Do they bring positive or negative energy to our relationship?
Western societies are primarily, and unfortunately, built upon a deep level of dissatisfaction and discontent. The continuous barrage of negative media in the west creates negative mental mindsets in individuals, and this greatly affects society’s overall states of well-being. While it may not possible for us to completely remove the associations who bring negative energy into our lives, it is important to become aware of it and consciously work towards changing the relationship dynamics.
3.) Is our relationship built upon mutual aims or individual aspirations?
When you are evaluating your associations, it’s important to determine if the relationship is valued more than individual aspirations or desires. If you believe that a particular individual would undermine the relationship, and hurt you, in order to gain personal satisfaction, it is probably best to stay weary of that person. Truly beneficial relationships are built on the mutual respect and trust of ever individual involved. Remember, the whole is always greater than the parts.
4.) Do they make me want to become a better person?
The paradox that is American culture is built around ideas of wanting more sex, money, and status, while actually doing less. All that a vast majority of the American population wants to do is lazily watch TV with all of their free time, yet remain dissatisfied with what they have in life. If you want to experience greater things, it is imperative that you find associations who push you to be a try new things and improve yourself in a variety of ways.
5.) Is our relationship valuable enough that we are willing to work through shortcomings and mistakes without holding grudges against one another?
As you examined the first 4 questions, I’m sure that you came to the conclusion that it would be a lot to ask anyone to meet the criteria on a continual basis. The truth is that we are humans and we make mistakes, and for that reason the best relationships are built upon unconditional support, honesty, and forgiveness. Our closest relationships must be built on the deepest levels of compassion, respect, and love. And this may mean that true love isn’t always exhibited in positive and affectionate ways.
Finding Fulfillment through your Associations:
Because we are human and regularly make mistakes, it is important to not look at these questions from the perspective of absolute. Like we talked about previously, it is important for you to evaluate your associations using the law of averages to determine how individuals influence on us. You may also find that a number of your main associations meet the criteria for a number of questions, while falling short on others. By first remembering that relationships, just like ourselves, are a continuous work in progress, you can direct your actions in a way that builds up the downfalls, while also maintaining the life-affirming aspects. If you do find major issues with your current associations, there are a number of ways to handle the given relationship, depending upon who the person is, to ensure that you are not being negatively influenced by their behavior.
For many people, there will be certain negative relationships that they are unable to free themselves from. These difficult circumstances are typically presented through family associations. Even if an individual could rid themselves of their negative family relationships, they typically would chose not to out of unconditional love. To create a more life-affirming relational environment in situations such as these, it is important to consciously take the time to strategize and work through the relationship’s persistent problems. This may mean talking to them directly about the shortcomings in the relationship, or it may mean changing your own behavior in a way that changes theirs. In any relationship, we are always afforded the opportunity to creatively look for solutions to change the negative aspects.
There are obviously additional steps for you to take if you don’t feel overly attached to your negative associations. If a relationship is causing you more pain and anxiety then happiness, you may be better off separating yourself from it completely. If you find that this would be to drastic of a change, you can treat them similarly to negative associations that you cannot rid yourself of and either talk openly with them about the shortcomings or change your own behavior in a way that changes theirs. If neither of these work, you can take the steps to limit the amount of time that you spend with them in hopes of eventually freeing yourself from their negative bondage.
When you limit the time you spend with negative associations, or remove them completely, you are giving yourself the chance to find relationships that create more happiness, success, and fulfillment in your life. While getting to know new individuals on a personal level can be a tedious and nerving process, the benefits that you will receive from revamping your associations will be well worth it. Whatever route you take, you need to remember to continuously evaluate yourself and your associations. You can use the 5 previous questions as a reference for finding and cultivating relationships that will bring you much greater levels of happiness, success, and fulfillment.