Who's in your circle? Here's why this matters…

blue zones connection influence mindset relationships Feb 20, 2024
group of friends

We encounter an incredible number of people throughout our lifetime. In fact, I’ve seen it estimated to be an average of about 10,000 people! Of course, that number will vary based on a number of factors, but I’m sure that you can imagine.

What fascinates me the most about this is to consider which and how many of these 10,000 people actually end up being a part of our journey. Just think about that. Of all the people we come across over the course of our lifetime, who do we let in? For how long and why? Who ends up playing a starring role? Who gets a recurring part? Who plays a small part? Who passes through for only a brief time?

British anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorizes that on average we have 5 loved ones, 15 good friends, 50 friends, 150 meaningful contacts, 500 acquaintances, and 1500 people we can recognize. Again, these numbers may vary and fluctuate, and who falls in which category may change over time, but what do you think of this?

Who falls into each of those categories for you? Of course, I'm not suggesting that you write out a list of everyone in each one of those categories, but who comes to mind for each of the first three groups?

Who are the five people that you spend the most time with?

What makes this such an important question is the idea that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Whether it’s exactly five people or not, we’re certainly influenced by the people we’re surrounded by. So, who do you spend the most time with?

Now, let's consider what we know from the Blue Zones – regions globally recognized for longevity and well-being. One key characteristic of these longest lived individuals in the Blue Zones is that they’re surrounded by people who live the same kind of lifestyle that supports their longevity. For example, in Loma Linda, California, they’ve built a community to include things like plant-based eating and playing pickleball.

When we surround ourselves with people who are physically active, eat a whole food plant-based diet, avoid fried foods, don’t smoke, and so on, we’re so much more likely to make healthy choices ourselves. Likewise, when we spend time with people who regularly over indulge, smoke, go to the bar instead of going on a walk, and so on, we’re more likely to make similar choices.

Consider this: You’re out to dinner with a friend. It comes to the end of the meal and you’re stuffed. When your friend runs to the restroom, you begin to look at the dessert menu and find a few of your favorites. Your friend returns to the table and the server comes to ask if you’d like to order dessert…

Think about how you’re likely to respond based on who you’re with. I’m sure we can all relate to being set to order dessert and then pivoting once our friend declines. I know I’ve certainly experienced those moments and have ultimately been relieved.

I’m not suggesting that you should never have dessert, but if you already had enough to eat (and it’s restaurant food, so it’s more likely to contain extra sodium and fat), you’re a lot more likely to regret getting a dessert. Especially, if it’s a regular occurrence and with multiple friends in your circle.

When you look at the people you spend the most time with in your life, can you see how this impacts your choices? What supportive habits do you have in common? What habits do you have in common that sabotage your progress towards your goals? Who’s that friend who suggests going on a walk or paddle boarding instead of grabbing a drink?

Who we spend time with doesn’t only impact our physical health and wellbeing – it also impacts our emotional wellbeing. 

Another thing we know from the Blue Zones is the importance of being part of a community and having a sense of belonging and commitment within their social circle. In Okinawa, Japan, their social support groups are referred to as a moai. A moai is a small group that typically comes together at a very young age and stays together into their 100s. These groups are there to support each other through all of the ups and downs of life.

Again, consider the five people you spend the most time with, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you feel unconditionally accepted, loved and supported by?
  • In what ways do you feel supported? Who genuinely has your back?
  • Who do you feel comfortable confiding in, even the tough stuff? Who just gets you?
  • Who knows all of your highs and lows and still loves you like crazy?
  • What’s something about them that you appreciate or admire? Who inspires you? In what ways?
  • Who lifts you up and encourages you in the pursuit of your dreams?

When we consider the idea that we are the average of our closest connections, it becomes clear that the relationships we cultivate play a vital role in our personal development. The people we spend the most time with can shape our mindset, values, and aspirations. Their attitudes, habits, and goals have the potential to rub off on us, consciously or subconsciously.

If we surround ourselves with individuals who are driven, ambitious, and passionate about personal growth, we’re more likely to adopt similar qualities. Their motivation and determination can inspire us to strive for greatness and push ourselves beyond our comfort zones.

On the other hand, if we spend our time with people who are complacent, always complaining or have a negative mindset, we may find ourselves adopting similar patterns of behavior.

Choosing our inner circle wisely is essential for our personal development journey. It’s crucial to seek out individuals who uplift and inspire us, who challenge us to become the best versions of ourselves.

Ultimately, the idea that we are the average of our closest connections serves as a reminder to be intentional about the relationships we cultivate. It encourages us to evaluate the impact that our current circle of influence has on our personal growth and wellbeing. By surrounding ourselves with individuals who align with our values, aspirations, and desire for personal development, we can create a supportive network that propels us towards our goals.

My hope for you is that you will take time to explore the questions posed above, and that you will become even more mindful of who you’re spending your time with so that your life is filled with those who support and lift you up, too.

Enjoy the journey!

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