Feeling stuck in life? Check the company you keep

Are your circumstances preventing you from reaching your potential? Or is there another reason?

Friends eating watermelon slices outdoor / influence

Everyone dreams of living a perfect life—a life that they choose. And yet for most of us, our dream never materialises as we keep struggling with the various issues of life that keep us stuck in a pattern. This pattern keeps repeating itself, even as we feel totally helpless, as if playing by a script written by someone else.

What are the most pressing areas of concern in your life right now? Is it money worries that keep you awake at night? Or is it your health that troubles you? Is your work situation giving you heartburn? Select your top three concerns and write them down. Be specific. Now write down your thoughts about these issues. Do you feel stuck in your job, and have been considering quitting but haven’t taken that big, bold step? Have you been thinking of embarking on a fitness programme but you just don’t seem to get going? What do you think is holding you back?

Are they sabotaging your life?

Many of us may be tempted to blame anything—from the lack of time, to the pressure of family duties and responsibilities, to the economic situation of the nation or even luck. But, there’s one factor that you have probably not considered, which is very likely contributing a great deal to your ‘stuckness’. It is your social environment. We take on the thoughts and characteristics of those around us, unknowingly.

Think of the people with whom you spend most of your time—your friends, co-workers, spouse, anyone. Chances are, these people have been sabotaging your dreams. Now don’t get me wrong—they may be well-meaning people, who only have your best interests in their hearts. But their beliefs and behaviours influence your reality much more than you realise. And the reverse is also true—you project beliefs onto others as well. That’s why success guru Jim Rohn—a man who influenced such inspiring people like Anthony Robbins, Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy and Mark Victor Hansen—said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

It’s not difficult to see that our attitudes and behaviours are influenced by the company we keep. If you prefer healthy food but all your associates like junk, you are more likely to consume junk too; if you’re always with those who gossip, you will unknowingly participate in gossiping, even if you don’t want to; if your friends are risk-averse, chances are that you too will buy in their ideas of security; on the other hand, if they are unduly adventurous, that too is likely to reflect in your decisions.

The company you keep

So if you want to change some aspect of your life that you think isn’t reflecting your deepest desires, it’s time you reviewed the company you keep. I’m not suggesting that you resign all your friends, divorce your wife/husband or stop interacting with your co-workers. That would be absurd. But what you can do is observe the influence of other people on your life and stop associating with them in areas where you think they may hinder your progress. Avoid eating out with those whose food preferences don’t match with yours; resist sharing your dreams with those who are too practical or conservative.

And, whenever you wish to bring in a positive change in your life, make sure you share your thoughts and ideas only with those who reflect your way of thinking and living; likewise, learn about their ideas.

Let’s say you want to try your hand at entrepreneurship. No business school or best-selling book can teach you the nuances of business as effectively as the company of successful businessmen. So, the best thing to do is spend as much time as possible with successful businessmen. Isn’t that what Napolean Hill meant when he said, “Men take on the nature and the habits and the power of thought of those with whom they associate in a spirit of sympathy and harmony”?

A version of this article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


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