Ask anyone in the personal growth and development industry, and they can probably quote this famous line from Jim Rohn,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Perhaps Rohn was making reference to the old English proverb, “ You are the company you keep.” Undoubtedly, he believed that success attracts success. He was encouraging us to choose to spend time with others that had the level and type of success we desired to create – and perhaps warning us that the reverse would also be true.
Over the past several years, I’ve become more and more intentional about the people I choose to surround myself with. I’ve realized the impact other people’s energy, ambitions, and values have on my own. Despite my belief in the value of what Rohn was imparting, I’ve also come to appreciate some of the critical ‘people’ that inevitably follow me wherever I go. They truly are the ones I ‘spend the most time with’.
Who are these loyal friends?
I’m talking about the little voices inside my head – those thoughts that whisper when I wonder and scream when I’m stuck. On the best of days, they are an intuitive knowing, and the worst of times the realization of my fear and self-limiting beliefs.
Although I’m aware of the impact my surroundings and chosen companions have on them, they are the ones that ultimately determine who I become and the kind of life I get to lead.
(If you find yourself wondering, “which voice is she talking about?” – I mean the one that just asked that question.)
I used to think I only had one. I called her my “inner mean girl” because she seemed to be screaming the loudest, and she was kind of a bully! I don’t know that I fully appreciated the others – until that fateful day several years ago when one of them screamed, “Go!” It happened to be the day I was deciding whether to stay in my cushy corporate job, or venture out into the unknown!
Since that day, I’ve come to realize the “five people I spend the most time with” are a council of my internal elders. (I’ve recently named them “elders,” reflecting my intention to listen to their wisdom from a perspective of trust and self-compassion.)
Let me introduce you to the five ‘people’ I spend the most time with…
Joyful Judy came into my life the day a life coached asked me, “What brings you joy?” My sadness at not knowing the answer to that simple question set me on a path straight to the heart of her! Since that day, I’ve discovered just how powerful her words can be in helping me know if I’m on the right path. She also encourages me to try new things and play in new sandboxes. Spending time with this voice helps me make joy a priority, rather than simply a nice or surprising side effect.
I didn’t know I needed a ‘friend’ like Possibility Paul, until I started to question my own definition of success. I didn’t realize I had been looking at my options through the lens of my ‘reality’. Paul dares me to believe the saying, “if you can dream it, you can achieve it”. He not only encourages me to live my own dreams, he reminds me to turn my “I can’t” into “I don’t know how, yet!” This brave elder challenges my excuses and guides me toward other courageous souls who are proving what is truly possible.
Angry Andy is one of those ‘friends’ I thought I could live my entire life without – one that I’d be best ignoring or at least repressing. It wasn’t until I learned I could leverage his voice to make important choices and critical discernments that I understood his value. As I became more and more aware of my attachments to the words and actions of others, I realized how much energy I was wasting. Shifting that energy allows me to process his feedback in a more productive way. People and situations that cause me a lot of anger or frustration tell me a lot about my values and desires – about what I want to avoid, and when it’s worth staying, to fight for a worthy cause.
Although I used to refer to her as my ‘inner mean girl’, Critical Cathy was the one voice I’ve never been able to ignore. Now, the main difference is how I translate her messages. It’s easy to get in the habit of believing her incessant need to point out my failures and mistakes as a measure of my worthiness. It has taken me longer (and still requires a lot of practice) to embrace the idea that she is providing me an opportunity for growth and development. She taught me the phrase, “You either win, or you learn!” She reminds me to accept that I never truly fail when I can find the lesson in the experience.
Truthful Terry sings a song in my ear, over and over – “Be you, everyone else is already taken!” He is the one who encourages me to step into my vulnerability, speak my truth, and own my crazy! Although he can also be pragmatically tough, passing along messages I need to hear, he will wrap them in compassion and self-love (when I let him). This is the voice that inspires me to play bigger and live (unapologetically) out loud!
This inner council I hold with my own personal wisdom mentors is an evolving and dynamic process. As I endeavour to create an external environment to support my growth and accentuate my ability to live my best life, I know deep down that these are the relationships that will forge the experience with which I live it.
So today, I give gratitude and pay homage to the wise advice of Jim Rohn, while humbly requesting he cut me a little slack for my loose interpretation of his famous words!
Who are you spending your time with these days?
What messages are they whispering into your life?
Executive Business Strategist and Empowerment Coach