You are the Average of the 5 People Closest to You

Average of the 5 people

Humans are wired to recognize and mimic group norms. If our closest contacts are bitter and angry, we’ll adopt that way of thinking. Our brain doesn’t care which mindset helps to achieve our potential. All it cares about is mimicking whatever behavior ensures we don’t get rejected from the group (a death warrant for the thousands of years that we lived in the wild).

This simple truth is why it’s important to choose who we let into our lives. Here’s what James Swansick, a well known proponent of healthy living and sobriety, has to say,

You will be the average of the five people you spend the most time around. If you’re consistently surrounding yourself with friends who bring you down or don’t share your perspective on life, you’re not going to get to where you actually want to be.

The Gently Boiled Water

A bad influence is difficult to notice when the changes are so gradual

A danger is that we’re rarely aware of how other people are influencing us. It’s not a radical event, like jumping into a freezing lake. It’s more similar to the frog in room temperature water, who never notices that he’s being boiled to death. A group can take months or years to influence a person, but it will happen eventually. Here what others can affect,

  • Your salary and your expectations about your future salary / promotions
  • Whether you’re pessimistic or optimistic about the future
  • How hard you work and your level of self-efficacy
  • What kind of food you eat, whether you do drugs or binge drink
  • How much you exercise
  • How long you’re willing to stick with a difficult project
  • Which laws you consider it acceptable to break
  • Etc.

Clearly others have a massive influence on us. I’m not the only one who believes this. Here are some notable gentlemen talking about it.

The Next Step

Look at the people in your life and ask: what kind of influence is this person having on me? Maybe there are a few people who you need to spend less time with. Maybe you need to make a proactive effort to bring new people into your life. Ideally the 5 people closest to you are positive, ambitious and supportive. It might not always work out like that, however, it’s a good ideal to move towards.

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