The Company You Keep

“You are the average of the five people you spent the most time with.” - Jim Rohn  

Peer pressure is hardwired into our brains and not just when we’re impressionable teens. According to this study discussed at Science Daily: “The human brain places more value on winning in a social setting than it does on winning when you're alone.” Unfortunately that translates, sometimes, into doing foolish things for the social win even if it’s a personal fail.

One way to avoid the bad influence of friends is simply to get better friends. Since they’re a huge influence on us, whether for good or bad, it only makes sense to choose them wisely.   

Take disciple for example.  According to this study of of Duke University, our friends can feed our willpower or diminish it, meaning you directly benefit from that friend who eats salads and is always on time.  

The University of Chicago conducted a study which sheds light on why this influence may exist. “Results show that matched decisions, whether in virtue or vice, typically result in enhanced affiliation between the decision makers. However, the type of matched decision that provided the biggest boost in affiliation depended on how serious the consequences were perceived to be. When the stakes were high, people bonded through moral support. When the consequences were a little less severe, people improved their friendship through partnering in crime.”

Interesting, right? So if you have disciplined friends who value being frugal or fit, they will naturally interpret the consequence of deviant behavior as more serious and will influence you to match their virtue vs. joining you in vice.

This bears out in others studies as well, which find that our friends influence our weight, our job success, grades and even financial habits.

So, does this mean it’s time to sit around critiquing your friends? Well, maybe a little. Their habits and contributions to your life should at least be considered. But don’t worry about deleting phone contacts just yet. Chances are you’ve already chosen your friends because you admire something about them. Besides, we all have unique values and we’re friends with people we value. However, if you tend to collect a lot of friends, you may know a few people that you’d be better off knowing less.

In a nod to Jim Rohn’s quote about your top 5 peers, we encourage you to consider your social circle and do this quick activity:

  • List your top 5 people you spend the most time around.
  • List two or three things each person brings to the table of friendship.  What admirable qualities do they have that you admire and appreciate?  What skills do they have that you lack of that complement your own?
  • And finally, list what you bring to the table.  Are you out there freeloading or do you bring interesting dynamics to your friendships?

Now ditch those freeloading friends!  Just kidding. What you can ditch, however, are the toxic people. The ones you sprained your brain over for a few good things to mention because they are negative, narcissistic and needy. You have our permission to let them go.

While crossing off names is unlikely, you may find that you could use a new friend or two to balance out your social life. Someone that modelled behavior “X” with you.  Like someone who is disciplined, athletic, financially well off, sincere and kind, or philanthropic.

Human Unlimited
Human Unlimited