It can sometimes be a painful truth, but a truth nonetheless. The people you surround yourself with have a direct effect on the life you lead and the work you are able to produce. To better understand this concept, I want you to think of anyone successful. Literally anyone. The likelihood of this person reaching their level of success completely independently is highly unlikely (dare I say it – near-impossible). They will have had their own sources for inspiration, their own confidants, their own contemporaries on whom to bounce ideas (sometimes even vehemently disagree with), and most likely a stream of mentors to help spark their creativity or view things in a different light.
As Isaac Asimov brilliantly said “education isn’t something you can finish”, and whoever you’re picturing right now fully understood this. For us to reach success in our lives we must constantly be learning, growing and absorbing the world around us, and the most direct way to do it is to surround yourself with inspirational people who challenge you and teach you and who can open your eyes to new ways of thinking. A great quote to this effect – “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. We’d like to give this phrase a slight twist to suit our needs. If you inspire and bring joy to those around you but it is not reciprocated – why not?
Your time is currency – spend it wisely
How you spend your time is a very important part of personal growth. Hard work and focus are an important part of this, as is self-care, learning, and reflection. To be frank, spending your time should be viewed as exactly that. Spending. When you spend your time on the wrong things you are not setting a high enough price for your own time and you’re giving yourself less value than you deserve. If your time can be spent with anyone, should it not be with others of high value? You should spend time with people whose presence and knowledge and positivity increase your own value just by being around them.
Is this true of your current circle? Be honest with yourself. If you truly want to succeed, you have to treat your time as the valuable commodity it is, and make sure that for the most part you are spending it wisely. Start by looking forward to the person you want to be, rather than the person you are. How would that person value themselves and who would they spend their time with? It is a simple exercise, but one that can be highly effective.
Defying Drains and Actualizing Radiators
When thought about in very simple terms, the people you surround yourself can fit into two very different categories. To use a plumbing analogy; they are either operating as a radiator or they are a drain. A radiator is someone who is flowing with good energy, good lessons, thought-provoking questions and intelligent discussions. This person sets a good example of behavior and shows compassion and empathy and challenges you in ways that serve a purpose in your life. They have many characteristics that you wish to aspire to yourself.
A drain is someone who, as you may have already guessed, ‘drains’ your energy and requires extra effort on your part to appease their needs. This person can sometimes to be toxic to your well-being, and they certainly do not set a good example to the person you are, nor do they set an example of the person you want to be. Usually, you are able to recognize traits or qualities in this person you dislike.
Change your ideology
At this point, it is important to stress that this is a simplification for explanatory purposes, and that compassion should still always play a role here. With that said, know that we can’t all be radiators 100% of the time, and external circumstances sometimes take things out of our control. As friends and human beings we have a responsibility to help each other when things get rough – and unfortunately, it is completely unavoidable – things will get rough at some point. The differentiating factor is that being a drain momentarily is completely normal; it’s when it is a person’s constant state of being that it becomes a problem.
You have to look at this person and ask yourself if you owe them anything and if they bring you joy most of the time. If the answer is no to either of these questions, you should reevaluate your situation. Also – the mere fact of knowing someone for a long time does not mean you owe them anything. These two things are not mutually exclusive but it is commonplace to treat them as such. Free yourself from this incorrect ideology and start thinking about what (and who) is right for you.
Life is a series of choices – make the right ones for you
In summary, it is never for anyone else to decide who you spend your time with. Some people offer a richness to you that others may not see – and our interests, hobbies, work, and lifestyle choices can differ so widely that it is rare for everyone to be in full alignment. Sometimes spending time with someone has no bearing on your work, career or goals but simply their presence fills you with happiness and laughter. This in itself is just as powerful as taking a step back and making sure to enjoy your time is equally as important and makes the times when hard work is necessary to seem smaller and more manageable.
If you’re not making a change then you are to blame
However, it is important to understand when spending time with someone is doing more damage than good. Sometimes, it can be hard to spot as you’ll naturally make excuses for this person, as this is an easier route than having a difficult conversation. I’ll say it clearly here. The energy and time you waste on people who drag you down could be spent on improving your life, and this time you never get back. It’s up for you to decide what is right, and how your time should be spent. And ultimately, if you’re not doing anything about it you can’t blame the people you surround yourself with. This is an excuse that you have the power to change.
The key is to look at your life and your goals, and the people you surround yourself with. Are they congruent to the life you want to live? Do they support you and build you up as you do them? Do they bring you joy, however that looks to you? Look at your time and as yourself honestly – are you attributing the value it deserves, or are you spending it on the wrong things? Start thinking about the person you want to be in 5,10,15 years. Who do you see in your circle?