Dr. Michelle Robin explains how to surround yourself with people who make you better.
Story by Dr. Michelle Robin
Earlier this summer I was in Atlanta speaking to a college women’s athletic association. The conversation at one point turned to the idea that you become like the six people with whom you hang out the most. This little cadre of friends will influence—consciously and subconsciously—your happiness, health, wealth and interests. They will also sway the way you see the world, how you treat others, and how you treat yourself. All of this influence can lean toward our betterment or our detriment. But in the end we, I, you are the person you hang out with the most. Do you want to be your friend?
Our tribe is such a critical factor in determining who we are, how we are, what we do, and who we become that we should be more conscientious about picking and sticking with our friends. This is true at age four, fourteen, forty, every age in between and beyond. As kids start a new school year, be it first grade or freshman year in college, they’ll be making new friends and reconnecting with the old. Teaching them to be aware of their pack of friends and how they influence isn’t always an easy thing to do. It can sound or feel judgmental or shallow.
So how do you teach your kids, and remind yourself, to choose your friends wisely? You focus on values, actions and feelings.
Values. It isn’t about judging the values others hold or demonstrate. It is about knowing what values you care about living and being. Do you want to be kind, honest and hardworking? Do you value well-being—emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual? Do you value follow-through? Do you value volunteerism, community activism, charity or tolerance? What are the important values you want in yourself and your life that will guide what you think, do and are? Be real with yourself. Get specific. Don’t answer this question like the contestants in “Miss Congeniality” who all want world peace. Of course you want world peace…who doesn’t? But if peace is a value to you, what does that look like granularly in your beliefs and actions?
Actions. How do you live your values? If you value financial well-being, are you mindful of your spending, saving and giving? If you value kindness, does that start with cutting out the negative self-talk? If you value community activism, are you involved in a local initiative or working on a campaign? If you value wellness, do you make conscious choices about what you eat, drink and physical activity? If you value family time, are you making time to be present each day? Saying you hold certain values or that XYZ is important to you is only credible if you live it. It is so easy for each of us to fall in and out of walking the talk and just not living our ideal lifestyle. Be easy on yourself and others, as we all need gentle reminders to keep thoughts, words and actions congruent.
Feelings. We don’t always know what values others hold or what actions they take to live out their values. While it may not be our place to judge the values and actions of others, we do have the right to assess if they’re in alignment with what we believe, hold dear and live out. We do get to determine how we feel when we’re with others, and when we’re with ourselves. You can get a gut reaction to the energy you feel when you are hanging out with someone and know, even if you can’t explain it, that they’re not your people. That doesn’t mean they’re not a good person; it just means they’re not the right for you.
I read a quote from poet Roy Croft that goes something like this: “I love you for not just who you are, but who I am when I am with you.”
When you think of your tribe, your six closest friends and your broader friend group(s), be mindful of whom you choose to make part of your life. If you’re going to be influenced by them are their values and actions in alignment with yours, how you want to live your life, and the person you want to grow into? How do you truly feel about the world, others and yourself when you’re with your friends? These can be profound questions, but they’re also simple. Remember, that this isn’t really about others. It’s about you. Are you the best version of yourself? Would you want to be friends with you?
Dr. Michelle Robin is an author, international speaker, and Founder and CWO of Your Wellness Connection, P.A. She is the author of The E Factor: Engage, Energize, Enrich – Three Steps to Vibrant Health, Wellness on a Shoestring: Seven Habits for a Healthy Life, and co-author of the #1 bestseller Succeeding In Spite of Everything. Dr. Robin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.drmichellerobin.com, and as Dr. Michelle Robin on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.