To some this may seem like a scary, maybe even harsh, question. Yet, truthfully answering this question will greatly affect the quality of your life.
We all belong to a variety of social groups, and while every person we interact with has some kind of effect on us, those we spend most of our time with impact our lives tremendously, because consciously or unconsciously, we start picking up their habits and attitudes. This seems like a no brainer, right? Yet, most of us spend great amounts of time with people that are constantly complaining, blaming others and making excuses for their unfortunate situations; people that don’t have high standards for themselves and therefore will never push us to raise ours; people that judge us when we try to change because it threatens THEM, which can lead us to keep playing small. If this sounds like you, it might be time for you to upgrade your peer group.
Who is your peer group?
Your peer group is anyone that you love (or care about) enough, that you will alter your behavior as a result of what they think or what they expect from you. Let’s narrow it down even more. Your core peer group is the five people that match this criterion, but also the ones that you spend most of your time with. Why? Because proximity is power! You might love your parents greatly and they can certainly influence you, but if you talk to them once a year, the impact that they have on your daily life will not be as significant as the impact that the person you live with has on you.
Now, take a moment to think about these five people in your life, as objectively as you can. Are they a positive influence on you? Do they genuinely want what’s best for you and do they push you to be the best that you can be? Do they inspire you and help you grow? Do they make you a better person? You can start to feel uncomfortable if you realize that your gut reaction to these questions is no; but if you want what’s best for you, this is no time to lie to yourself. After all, no one is forcing you to do anything and who you decide to keep in your life is completely up to you. Yet, you will only benefit from the answers to these questions if instead of making excuses, you focus on being honest.
“You are the average of the five people you spend most time with.” – Jim Rohn
Love your family, choose your peers.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you get rid of all the negative people in your life. Not only is this unrealistic since some of them might be your family or spouse, but also, it’s almost inevitable to encounter people like these as we go through life. However, most of the time, we CAN choose the amount of time and energy we invest in people that drain us through their interactions.
Most importantly, you don’t need to discard anyone in your life in order to start building a new peer group. You just need to change your focus. If you already have empowering people in your life, try to spend more time with them. If you don’t have anyone in your life that is a positive influence on you, focus on creating new friendships. Don’t worry, you can keep in touch with your not-so-encouraging friends and talk to them once in a while, but focus on creating relationships that will inspire you and encourage you to grow.
How? Go meet new people that will uplift your spirit. You can go to self-development seminars and workshops; you can ask the already positive people in your life to introduce you to some of their friends (chances are they know like-minded people); you can volunteer, join clubs or even read empowering books by great leaders (consider these your mentors). There are endless ways you can start networking with new people and start building a better community; all you have to do is be willing to take the first step.
Find people that will challenge you.
While it’s true that a real friend will love you for who you are, a real friend also won’t let you settle for less than you are capable of. Yet, many people stop interacting with the people that will challenge them to step up. Why? Because it’s much easier to be around people that are worse off than we are and therefore make us feel good about ourselves. This, however, will create stagnation.
Think of the people you admire or some of the greatest leaders in the world. Do you think they settle? Do you think they always take the path of least resistance? Do you think they have low standards? Absolutely not. People who become great welcome challenge in their lives. They also allow their peers to hold them accountable for their actions because they know this is the path to growth, progress and greatness.
So, align yourself with powerful people; people that are already doing what you want to do and that will push you to be the best that you can be; people that you can learn from. If you want an extraordinary life, you need friends that won’t allow you to be mediocre.
“People’s lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group.” – Tony Robbins
Life will give you what you settle for.
If you are the person with the highest standards in your group, you are in the wrong group. Why? Because, if the people closest to you don’t expect much from you, it won’t be long before you don’t expect much from yourself either. Basically, as you make it okay for them to have low-standards, you are also making it okay for yourself.
If anything in your life is not the way you want it to be, it is because at some point you made this your standard. You settled and allowed this to be acceptable. Even if you think otherwise and keep complaining about it, the reality is that you are still allowing it; otherwise you would have done everything in your power to change it. NO MORE. Do you want greatness in your life? It’s time to STEP UP. Raise your standards and start spending time with people that have ridiculously high standards for themselves; this will lead you to continuously raise yours.
“I demand more of myself than anyone else could ever expect.” – Julius Erving
Awareness is the key.
How do you know you are spending time with the people that will move you forward? You need awareness and constant self-evaluation in order to stay on track. Constantly ask yourself questions like, does this person inspire me and help me grow? Do I feel uplifted and energized after spending time with this person? Will this person tell me the truth even when I might not want to hear it? Does this person have high standards and will he/she challenge me if I lower mine? There are many ways you can make these assessments. The most important thing is that you actually evaluate, because it’s easy to get comfortable and not even notice it. Maybe those who were once a great group have now lowered their standards and you’ve just stuck around out of habit. Awareness is the key to finding out where you really are. It is what will allow you to make an empowering decision.
Don’t bullshit yourself. Don’t settle. Don’t lower your standards. STEP UP and be the best that you can be. You’ll be glad you did.