Let me ask you a question: Who do you spend the most time with?
Then here’s the next question: Who are the people you most admire?
Take the time to think about these two questions. Then answer this: Are those two groups of people exactly the same? If not, why not?
Let’s see why by taking a look at the power of associations.
. . .
The Power of Associations
I bet that if you’ll take a close look at the people you spend the most time with, you’re going to be startled at the similarities between you. Why? Because as the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together.
You may not be satisfied with where you’re right now in your life, and you may not know the reason why. Well, you might be surprised to know that one of the reasons can be found in the people you choose to associate with on a daily basis.
In fact, according to research done over a 30 year period by Dr. David McClelland, the people you habitually associate with determines as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.
That’s mind-boggling! 95 percent…
Others studies show that one could easily tell the quality of your health, income, relationships, attitude and your level of happiness by looking at the people around you. This happens because social influence is extremely powerful.
The fact of the matter is that we’re social animals and we always respond to the environments we’re in.
Countless studies also suggest that if you take a good person and put them in a bad environment, that person will do bad things. But if you take a person who performed bad acts, whom the group doesn’t trust, and you put them in a good environment, that person is capable of turning his life around and become a remarkable member of society.
In other words, it’s not the person, it’s the environment. That’s how powerful social influence is.
The environment we live in and the people we choose to surround ourselves with will shape our character, our views on different subjects, and our attitude towards life. They influence our quality of thinking, the choices we make, and the beliefs we have.
Many times we don’t even realize we’re being strongly affected because that influence generally develops over an extended period of time.
How are we not aware? Because this powerful force, called peer pressure, is so subtle. As Jim Rohn put it:
People can keep nudging us off course a little at a time until, finally, we find ourselves asking, “How did I get here?” Those subtle influences need to be studied carefully if we really want our lives to turn out the way we’ve planned.
Given that the people with whom we choose to associate are a major source of influence in our life, let’s consider three key questions we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis.
These three questions come from a wonderful book, Leading an Inspired Life, written by America’s Foremost Business Philosopher, Jim Rohn.
. . .
Question #1: Who am I around?
Make a mental note of the people with whom you most often associate. You’ve got to evaluate everybody who is able to influence you in any way.
. . .
Question #2: What effect are they having on me?
What have they got me doing? What have they got me listening to? What have they got me reading? Where have they got me going? What have they got me thinking? How have they got me talking? How have they got me feeling? What have they got me saying? And most important, what do they have me becoming?
You’ve got to make a serious study of how others are influencing you, both negatively and positively.
. . .
Question #3: Is that OK?
Maybe everyone you associate with has been a positive, energizing influence. Then again, maybe there are some bad apples in the bunch. All I’m suggesting here is that you take a close and objective look. Everything is worth a second look, especially the power of influence. Positive influence can have an incredible effect on your life… but so can negative influence. Both will take you somewhere, but only one will take you in the direction you truly wish to go.
After making this serious analysis, take the next important step of evaluating and shifting your associations into three categories:
- Limited association
- Expanded association
. . .
Sometimes, you need to take the hard decision of actually cutting off people from your life.
This can be a hard and scary thing to do. That’s mostly because of our fundamental human need to be socially accepted. We feel an intrinsic need to belong to a group of people who share the same values, ideas and beliefs.
The problem occurs, however, whenever you make a choice that’s not consistent with the beliefs of the group. In that moment, you’re faced with resistance, and often times — with rejection.
And as humans, we don’t like to be rejected.
So when you decide that it’s time to elevate your current condition or you choose to embark on a new journey in life, you’ll often be faced with the same resistance (whether that’s from one single person, or a group of people).
The truth is that people rarely choose to get out of their comfort zones. That’s why when you take the bold decision to do so, you’re confronted with, “You’re not one of us anymore” kind of remark.
When looked from this perspective, it can be frightening to take the decision of disassociating, isn’t it?
Despite that, almost all “self-help gurus” out there tell you to avoid certain types of people: “You shouldn’t hang around unsuccessful people, poor people, fat people, crazy people,” and on and on…
This is obviously a flawed way of thinking. That’s seeing things in black or white terms. Please remember than whenever you go into extremes, more often than not you’re going to be deceived, coming up with the wrong decisions and actions.
I’d suggest that you rarely need to cut off people completely from your life. Many times, you just need to put them in their right place.
The thing is that you should never judge a person by where he is right now. Instead, I’d invite you to see where he can be and who he can become.
So instead of criticizing your friends because they’re not on the same path as you are, try showing them what’s possible. And who knows, maybe you can persuade them to go on this journey alongside you.
But don’t forget one critical aspect: You CANNOT change people.
They can change themselves, but YOU can’t change them. All you can do is show them what’s possible. If they’re not willing to follow through, it’s their choice. Just be at peace with that.
With that in mind, let’s step back for a while.
There may be a time and a place in your life where the situation asks for disassociation. In that case, you have the obligation to take a close look and take a responsible decision.
Especially, try avoiding negative people and insecure people. These are the anchors in your life and they’ll never let you grow.
Why take such drastic action? Because as we’ve seen earlier, the power of influence is just too big to be ignored.
Just as positive influence can have a strong effect on your life, so can negative influence. It can be too threatening.
The biggest issue with the power of influence, however, is that it has the power to change us. And change can be difficult to reverse, especially if it’s for the worse.
So make sure to go through the questions offered earlier. Evaluate your peers carefully and then come up with a decision. And by the way, you need to take this decision yourself.
I’m not saying that it will be easy. Just know that sooner or later, it is going to creep up on you. Better cut off these weeds completely before they take out your garden.
. . .
B) LIMITED ASSOCIATION
Another option we have at our disposal is called limited association.
This one is pretty obvious.
Basically, you and I know that we cannot always avoid talking with certain people in our lives (acquaintances, relatives, co-workers, even some of our friends etc.). But we can limit the time we actually spend with these people. By doing so, we can limit their ability to influence us. As Jim Rohn put it:
There are some people with whom we can spend a few minutes, but not a few hours. There are some people with whom we can spend a few hours, but not a few days. Not when the achievement of our dreams is at stake.
That’s good advice. Take a look at your relationships and make sure you’re not spending three hours with a three-minute person.
The 80/20 Rule applies here as well: We should discipline ourselves to spend 80 percent of our time with the 20 percent who are helping us generate 80 percent of the results, and vice versa. We should spend 20 percent of our time with the 80 percent who are generating only 20 percent of the results.
That’s not an easy task, but it’s certainly worth striving for. So let me ask you: Do you already have an idea in regards to which of your friends should go into this category? 🙂
. . .
C) EXPANDED ASSOCIATION
Finally, this is the one I’d encourage you to start with and pay close attention to. It refers to expanding your associations.
That means spending more time with the right people.
Put simply, you should find valuable people and arrange your life in order to be able to spend more time with them.
My own life experience taught me that even a small amount of time spent around the right people can make a great deal of a difference.
Surround yourself with people who empower and inspire you; with people who encourage and support you moving in the direction of your dreams.
Identify people who have the qualities you admire in the areas of life where you want to improve — people with the financial and business success you aim for, the health you desire, the parenting skills you want, the relationships you aspire to, the lifestyle you love. And then do whatever it takes to spend more time with them.
Join organizations, social groups, communities and health clubs where these people gather and make new friends.
Remember that you’ll always attract in your life what you are.
So associating with the people you most admire might not be possible right now because they’re at a whole different level. They also understand the power of associations and they choose carefully with whom to spend their time with.
But don’t get discouraged by that. Focus on becoming the kind of person who is worth being around those kinds of people.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes you can’t have the luxury of being around the people you most admire.
Maybe they are dead already. But guess what? They probably left some books, or audio programs behind.
All the wisdom of the ages has been collected since the ancient times in books. In the modern world, all the knowledge you need is at a click of a button.
And still, people complain about the world we live in today.
Despite everything that’s happening around us, we’re the luckiest people on Earth. We’re living in the best time that was ever known to human civilization. Those who complain probably never studied their history books.
So I’d invite you to leave your excuses behind and go work on yourself. You have all the means you’d ever need to do that.
Find a mentor. Read some books. Listen to audio-books / podcasts. Watch online educational videos. Buy CD/DVD/online programs. Go to seminars and conferences. Attend masterminds.
Be like a sponge. Feed your mind continuously with empowering messages. Study, learn, expand, grow!
. . .
Remember the story of the little bird?
The little bird had his wing over his eye and he was crying. The owl said to the little bird:
— You are crying.
— Yes, said the little bird, and he pulled his wing away from his eye.
— Oh, I see, said the owl. You’re crying because the big bird pecked out your eye.
And the little bird said:
— No, I’m not crying because the big bird pecked out my eye. I’m crying because I let him.
It’s the same thing in life. We can either let influences shape our lives, let our associations determine our direction, or we can take hold of our own life.
Your time is limited, so spend it wisely with the people that matter.
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