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'You Are the Average of the Five People You Spend The Most Time With' - Can This Be True?

21/10/2015 15:44 BST | Updated 19/10/2016 10:12 BST

I was scrolling through Twitter yesterday and saw that one person I follow shared a quote by Jim Rohn: "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with".

Really?

How could Jim Rohn be so sure about that?

I've heard the quote used over and over again by motivational success speakers. They have even suggested that you must get rid of some of your old friends and family members to reach the next level of success. Is that a sustainable solution for personal development and becoming successful?

Let's look at how we spend our time throughout life. When we are growing up a big chunk of time is spent with parents, carers, siblings, teachers and other people we have around us. After you finish school you have more freedom to decide who you spend time with.

Can you choose your family? No, sorry, it's not possible, and you have a different outlook on life depending on where you grew up. If you want to be more successful should you then ditch your family if they aren't ambitious enough?

A few years ago a friend of mine used this method at a weeklong conference. He told me that he loved the energy he got from hanging around the 'leaders' who were attending the conference. Those of us who were part of his 'normal' peer group found his behaviour pretty annoying; he was acting like a crawling worm around his new friends. Did he increase his success by spending time with people in a leadership position during this conference? No, absolutely not, he was still the same person, but he managed to brand himself as a backscratcher with a brown nose.

When it comes to how we pick friends, it's a complex process. Looking back at life, all the relationships that we've had represent a myriad of connections.

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Image Pixabay by geralt

Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, both scientists, suggest that you choose your friends because you have similar genes.

We also have friends that have been in our lives for a long time. If we stop spending time with them it changes the way we look at ourselves. It is harder to connect to certain memories and experiences. For many people losing a dear friend is very painful, and getting rid of a few friends so you can improve your 'average' and become more successful will cause a lot of mental distress.

One person I know is an injection of energy in many people's lives yet he has suffered from depression for many years. Should his friends say goodbye to him because of that? No, I wouldn't suggest they did so. He has been a lovely friend, sharing his knowledge and wisdom freely, and maybe it's his struggle to find a clear path for himself that makes him a good mentor that other people listen to. And, of course, if someone is totally draining you, you should consider if the relationship is worth keeping.

When a person makes up their mind to change something in their life they need support to make it happen, whether it is starting a business, improving their health or learning how to produce music or become a confident public speaker. It's easier to learn and develop together with others who have the same interests. That's why joining a club, peer group or mastermind group can help a lot to expand your mind and can help you focus. You don't become successful by abandoning your other relationships.

It's time to stop listening to the idea that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The reality is far more complex than that.

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