The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Patching Cracks


June 12, 2019

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This quote, from motivational speaker Jim Rohn has made the rounds in the world of self-improvement for years, and it’s worth taking a moment to consider, because it has a great deal of truth imbedded in it.

The way we think and view the world is shaped by what we read, hear, watch, and interact with. Our attitudes rise or sink to the level of the folks we associate with.

This is an unconscious drift that is built into people as a byproduct of being social creatures. We naturally want to identify with the folks around us, so if they complain about their work environment constantly, we will be inclined to commiserate. Most folks have experienced waking up to a house full of cranky children and family members only to find themselves growing increasingly cranky as their day wears on.

I had a good friend who forbade her children from reading from a particular author, because his books were very gloomy, and they were becoming more and more whiney the more of his work they read. I find that when I am trying to focus on being motivated to get things done, certain types of books and reading materials help.

This is certainly not an absolute rule, but daily exposure to any type of message or idea will eventually influence us.

In the 90s, motivational posters featuring inspirational phrases attached to words like “hope” or “perseverance” were popular. The idea for this sort of messaging originated in a study done during WWII, when researchers found that showing short films with different motivational messages to soldiers rarely resulted in their agreeing with the message in the first few hours.

However, over the course of weeks of exposure resulted in the subjects accepting and endorsing the messages they encountered. If this is true, simply encountering a message enough will shape who you are. This prompts an important question: What are you being shaped by?

Do you gravitate toward people or entertainment that complains or encourages you to simply ‘give up trying to be better’? Are you surrounded by people who are striving to build a better life? Do you listen to angry messages about politics or society every day? Who are you becoming as a result of the type of messaging you consume?

I know plenty of folks who carefully monitor the kinds of food they eat, ensuring they avoid excess sugar or trans-fats, but rarely sidestep filling their lives with miserable people that pull them toward misery. Often, the question we fail to ask ourselves is: Do I want to be like the people I am surrounding myself with?

Of course, this is a double-edged sword. If we are influenced by the folks around us, we should also ask ourselves how we are shaping the people we are spending time with. This is especially true of parents, who will eventually produce children that act and think surprisingly like them. If everything in life is an excuse to complain, then we will raise kids who complain a lot.

If your first response is to shout and rage at everything, then you will raise kids who shout at the people around them when they get angry. If you get drunk to avoid dealing with problems, your kids will duplicate the behavior or find a similar vice to cope with life.

So, the second important idea to take away from this concept is: How am I shaping the people I spend time with? Do I make people around me better or worse?


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