Are you surrounding yourself with the right people?
I find there is a beautiful ebb and flow to the way people enter our lives. Do you ever look back and have a laugh at how and when you met a certain person? Or how you managed to become close? I sure do.
Think about the people in your life and how they came to fill that role. We do not always put much conscious thought into the declaration of our relationships. They just kind of evolve. Sometimes this works out for the better, and then other times we wonder why our lives get so messy.
We are inherently social beings. Let’s use this to our advantage and add some structure to our social lives. Structure that will deepen our relationships and set the base for our priorities. More thoughtful relationships will improve our happiness and success.
The number of relationships we can sustain is limited
Have you ever felt overstretched by the number of friendship you want to maintain? I listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast earlier this year titled Networks – and have never looked at relationships the same again since.
One of the featured TED speakers is Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist and an evolutionary psychologist. Through his extensive research on human connections, he established Dunbar’s number: the limit on the number of people you can have meaningful relationships with at any one time.
Your inner core consists of 5 of your closest, intimate friends and family. Then 15 good friends with strong relationships. A solid 35 friends who maintain presence in your life. The rest, not super close but still friendly with kind of friends. The number of relationships your mind can handle, drawing out to acquaintances, is about 150 total.
Dunbar estimates that about 40% of total available social time goes to your 5 closest friends and family. Another 20% of your social capacity goes to your next 10 people. The rest get much thinner quantities of time.
Now how can you use this information to be more strategic with your life? I challenge you to put some active thought into these circles and who fulfills them. This exercise is not meant to rank people – but rather, to shape your priorities and invest in the people who are truly important to you.
1. Identify your Core 5
Your life will change as soon as you identify your core 5 and determine what relationship qualities are of vital importance to you.
Along with Dunbar’s number, my long-time idol Tim Ferriss shared a piece of advice he received when he was 15 that forever changed my perspective:
You are the average of the five people you associate with most
It’s true – the beliefs, attitudes and decisions of the people closest to you influence you greatly. Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. To reach a stronger state of happiness and unity, it’s important to invest in people who fulfill essential traits.
2. Write them down and put it somewhere special
Formally acknowledging your core 5 solidifies their importance to you that much more – creating a special connection. Your other connections can be more loose, but the core 5 are of top importance. I keep a post-it-note near my bed with the five who mean the world to me.
This helps keep them top-of-mind, which I’m sure they are already. But seeing their name in writing can remind you to pick up the phone more often, make time for them in-person and do random acts of appreciation for them.
3. Be strategic moving forward
Find your balance of building a conscious circle based on natural connection. For me, I put immense thought into my core 5 and considerable thought into my next 10.
I encourage you to uphold your list with the utmost care. These are the people who influence your thoughts, actions, decisions, cravings, moves… and simply, life.
To be a forward-thinker, you owe it to yourself to maintain a positive, proactive circle that matches your energy. This will accelerate you and your friendships forward.
A little thought goes a long way
For me, positivity and personal drive are the two most vital qualities of my relationships. Since the start of 2017, one of my goals has been to prioritize positive, healthy relationships. I focus my time and energy into those that inspire me with their ambition and make me laugh through their positive outlook.
Let me tell you, this has been a game-changer. My life has been so much healthier since I made the choice to actively pinpoint and nurture my circles. I find that my relationships are much more radiant now that I am more thoughtful with my approach.
Please make no mistake, I am not encouraging you to cut people off or be cold. Walk away if you must, but rather, I challenge you to shift more of your time into those that bring stable fulfillment into your life. Goodness will follow. You’ll share deeper, more sustainable relationships with people who inspire you.
Life is so short. If you’re not maximizing one of the best facets of life – your relationships – then what are you doing?