We have all heard of the famous quote “Show me your friends and I will show you your future” by the powerful Dena Peña, but what exactly does this mean? What do my friends have to do with my future? Or a better question – What type of friends and environment are you regularly associating yourself with? Are they bringing the best or worst out of you? These are important questions that we often fail to ask ourselves, yet reveal and explain why we behave the way we do and think the way we do. Let’s say you have 3 close friends who you regularly see, they spend the majority of their time drinking alcohol, eating unhealthy food, staying up late and getting into trouble. What do you think will happen to you? You would gradually and inevitably turn into that person yourself. What would your future look like if you became that person? On the other hand, suppose that you started a new job. You become friends with your co-workers who get up at 5am and go to the gym before work every morning. They also eat relatively healthy and choose not to drink every weekend. What do you think would happen to you? How much easier would it be to do those things if your peers did it also? What would that do for your future?

See, we eventually become the people that we give most of our time to, whether we want to or not. Most of the time our problem isn’t that we set our goals too high, but it’s that our environment isn’t in line with our goals. For example how much harder it would be to stay away from chocolate if you’re constantly around people that have it. Or how much harder would it be to stop smoking if you’re around people that encourage you to smoke. You might object and say “‘I can’t just change my friends because they smoke’’. Well you might not need to if they truly respect and support your decisions, but why would a friend that supposedly loves you, encourage you to do the wrong thing, knowing that you wish to lead a healthy lifestyle? There are two reasons: The first reason is due to envy. Certain people tend to feel envy towards those who are doing better than them because they feel as if they can’t do it themselves. So their solution is to bring you back down to their level. It’s a projection of themselves. Observing positive change in others highlights our own inadequacies, we see what we’re not doing right, the steps that we’re not taking and therefore get upset at ourselves and take it on others. We may not be aware of this cognitive process but it occurs in all of us naturally. An example of this is what is known as the “crab mentality”. This is best described as the phrase “if i can’t have it, neither can you”. If you grab a bucket and place a couple of crabs in there, you will notice that none of them will be able to get out. Not because they can’t but because they’re held down by other crabs. If a crab makes an attempt to climb out of the bucket, another crab will simply drag it down. It cannot handle seeing others succeed and prefers to make everyone suffer equally. This is a powerful metaphor for what can happen if we’re around the wrong types of people. The second reason is that they fear that the person they love may outgrow them and as a result realise how weak and pessimistic they’re. They fear that they will find new friends or a new partner and potentially leave them behind. So they may say to you “you don’t need to lose weight, you already look good” or “what’s an unhealthy meal gonna do, besides you’ve been at work all day”. While it may seem that this person is complimenting you, they’re saying this to comfort themselves. These are signs of manipulation, insecurity and low self-esteem. Their way of thinking is “if you don’t exercise, i don’t need to either”.

There are two solutions to improve your circle of influence. The first is – be the source of inspiration for your group. You may not have anyone in your group who has accomplished big goals, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to. People can often feel mentally stuck with how life is and crave a more personal inspiration source. Someone who they can frequently communicate with and create a visible path for them to follow. You can be that person, who leads by example and demonstrates that if you can improve they can also improve. Once people see some sort of results within you, they will immediately be more attracted to the idea of change and rising up to your level. It’s also important to avoid pestering people on how good you are doing, that will only create envy and have the opposite effect. It’s much more powerful to show people what you have done than what you’re planning to do. Influencing people occurs naturally, it is not opposed forcefully by the influencer. The same way a good salesman won’t constantly pester you to buy their product. Think of all the athletes or celebrities that inspire you. I’m sure none of them forced you to follow them, you choose to on your own.
The other solution is by joining communities of interest. This could be any activity that you’re interested in, for example if your goal is to get fit, join a gym and make connections with the members that train there. This will give you the opportunity to focus on new people, start fresh and reinvent yourself. The goal here is to build strong relationships so that you guys feel comfortable to hang out outside the gym. The same can be said about starting a new job, sport, university and school. Analyze the people that you meet and ask yourself ‘out of all these people, which should i be friends with, that will also benefit my future?’

In summary, look at your goals, ask yourself, what do you want to achieve? What’s stopping me? Re-evaluate the people who you spend the most time with. Will they help you get to your goal? Or will they pull you down (be honest with yourself? If the people you know are more likely to bring you down, then apply one of those two strategies to help you. Remember, if you’re not happy with the results you’re getting then change your actions. The worst thing we can do is not change our actions but expect a different outcome to occur. – Bruno Valente