You Are Your 5
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn has been quoted as saying, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”. I have heard this quote many times but never really put a lot of thought into it until recently. Over the past few years, I have taken a significantly more intentional approach to my life. Through reading, meditating, and some self-reflection, I have learned to give a lot fewer fucks about most things. I don’t have the time, patience, tolerance, or desire to do so.
Two areas that I felt were really draining my energy and making me feel like shit were my business and personal relationships. There is just so much negativity about everything today. My social media feeds and social circles were filled with people bitching about anything and everything, including me. People seem to create drama where there isn’t or shouldn’t be any. They feed off of the chaos. It surrounds me, even now. Work, youth sports, family, pretty much everywhere is filled with negative bullshit and drama.
So I started to think about it the way I think about most things. Less is more. I decided to purge my life of the things and people that don’t bring me happiness. This is how I did it and how you can too.
Choose The 5 Wisely
Examine all aspects of my life and be honest with myself about what made me happy and what didn’t. In addition to people, I applied this to money, things, activities, and more. I made the intentional choice to opt-out of anything that didn’t make me happy or make me feel fulfilled. These same criteria were then applied to the people in my life. It sounds cruel, but it isn’t. If they weren’t making me happy or were bringing negativity into my life, they had to go.
Obviously, 5 is not a number fixed in stone, but the number should be small. You can have more or less, but you need to be selective and honest when going through this process. If you are not, you will end up where you were before. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. If they make you feel bad, they probably don’t care about you anyway.
Eliminate The Rest
This is the hard part; eliminate the rest. It isn’t like breaking up with a girlfriend. At least it wasn’t for me. It was more like “ghosting,” but nicely. A choice to do one thing or be with someone is at the same time a choice not to be with someone or do something else. So that is what I did. I started to choose to do something else. Sometimes that meant being with someone else, and sometimes it just meant going home.
It doesn’t have to be a total shut-off of the spigot; keep it to a drip. I still see these people and spend time with them, just not enough to allow their negativity to affect me. After a while, they stop asking you to do as many things together without even realizing it. The goal is not to be a jerk or a recluse. The goal is to make very intentional decisions about how and with whom I want to spend my time. I now choose to spend time with people who give me energy, share my values, give and receive equally, and who don’t have negativity as their default setting.
My Work 5
Finding your work 5 can be hard. Most people don’t get to choose who they work with. We can, however, choose who we spend time with at work. If you are the person who hires, you should be looking to hire people you think can make you and your team better, create a positive culture, and who don’t drain your energy or the office’s energy.
In my case, I have been fortunate. My office is filled with great people. Each of them brings something unique that helps make me a better employee, person, friend, and colleague. As a group, we push each other to be better in all aspects of our lives. There is a level of psychological safety amongst our group that permits us to discuss anything and everything with complete openness and no fear of ridicule (some shaming, but only in good fun). My work 5 is truly who I spend the most time with, and I am grateful for that.
Outside of my immediate work 5 lies a bigger institution filled with negativity, blame, resentment, and unhappiness. After years of dealing with this culture, I chose to remove myself from the nonsense. I had no more time for it. In the books, The Magic of Thinking Big (David J. Schwartz) and Think & Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill), the authors speak a lot about thinking results into reality. In my case, I fully believe I did this when it came to my work. I started to think and be the culture I wanted, and through a series of “fortuitous” events, it came into existence. Over a few short years, I was in a new building that I love and surrounded by co-workers who inspire me. Together we have created a culture that we all grow and thrive in.
My Personal 5
Honestly, my personal 5 has evolved and continues to do so. Outside of my family and co-workers, there is not much time left in the day for more. My wife and I have cultivated a small but reliably great group of friends. There are truly 5 or fewer people/couples that we give our energy to. We have a bigger circle that we associate with, but our true friends are intentionally limited. The bigger that group gets, the more time and energy it takes to maintain, and I don’t want that anymore. This small group of people brings me a level of joy and fulfillment that I never felt when my social group was significantly larger. Looking back at it, I don’t think I could really build meaningful relationships because my energy and give a shit level were being stretched way too thin.
I am naturally an introvert, so it may be easier for me to have a small inner circle. But even for the extroverts out there, I would caution you about expanding your 5 to larger numbers. We all only have so much energy and headspace to give daily. If you are stretched too thin, you can never really be present for those who matter most. It is OK to set some boundaries, choose to opt-out of some relationships, and focus your energy on building a smaller but stronger inner circle.
Who Are Your 5?
It is not an easy process, but it is a great thought experiment. Who are your 5? Think about work, personal, and other areas of your life. Having a 5 in each area of your life will bring you peace and fulfillment. Your 5 can and should change over time, as people do. Part of designing your optimal life involves intentionally choosing who you spend and give time to.
I would love to hear what you look for in your 5. Please leave some thoughts in the comment section below.