In our previous Wisdom Note, we began a series called The Cycles and Seasons of Life, and specifically, Guarding Your Mind. This week we continue with choosing friends wisely. If you miss any of our Wisdom Notes please go to the blog to read past newsletters.
It is now time to head out on the third trail of our trek as we consider and ponder the cycles and seasons of life. As we consider how others impact our lives and legacy, either positively or negatively, we must consciously choose who we invest a significant amount of time with. Today we will continue along that same trail.
Life is a delicate maneuver of selection, rejection, review, and change. Each person entering your world brings either a contribution or destruction. Trying to accommodate everyone is to invite certain disaster. Those with poisonous attitudes, strange opinions, and caustic conversations love to look for someone accommodating or nice who will listen to them. They love to dump their verbal garbage into the mental factory of anyone willing to listen. A major challenge in life is that you must learn the art of standing guard at the doorway of your mind. Carefully examine the credentials and authority of those seeking to enter within that place where your attitudes are formed.
The words, opinions, and comments of others are constantly shaping your mind and life. You must be careful who you invest time with because subtly, the conversations of fear, gloom, despair, complaining, condemning, and criticizing are forming your temporary moods and your permanent personality and character. Remember that.
Children are often told by well-intentioned but misguided parents that they are bad, naughty, selfish, or shy. Teachers by their actions or their expressions sometimes report to the parents that their child is slow, uncooperative, or poor as a student.
Throughout your early years, you may have been subjected to impulsive remarks of those who were unaware that it was those very words that were forming your character. As we become adults, we then seem to choose to associate with those most like you. The weak attracts the weak; the poor are most comfortable with the poor; the successful are drawn toward those who are successful; those of optimistic views and attitudes select those of their own kind. The old proverb “Birds of a feather flock together” is certainly true.
Fortunately, once you recognize this, you can change your flock if needed. What you have become as an adult largely determines the kind of people, events, books, podcasts, TV programs, and lifestyle that you select to invest your time.
If you are ever going to change your personal and financial circumstances from one level up to another, you must accept the fact that such progress consists of “doing” as well as “un-doing.” Many of the events and people who currently influence you must be sacrificed. Those sources of doubt, worry, negativity, greed, and selfishness must be cut free, for as long as that influence remains, change will not likely occur.
If you attempt to change yourself or your circumstances without severing the “mental anchors,” which you have attached to yourself then change is nearly impossible. “Undoing” the past is difficult enough by itself even without the constant influence of those who, by their conversation, remarks, or attitudes keep pulling you back toward that which you are trying to leave behind.
Does the following scenario sound like you? You are constantly trying to make ends meet and are paying only a portion of your debts, you’re buying the bargain-priced clothes, shopping to save a few pennies on a can of beans, and the countless other things because you are unable to earn enough money. If so, the day needs to come when you combine the right mixture of anger, frustration, humiliation, confidence, determination, and courage to say “Never again!” Your resolve to change yourself and your situation needs to be unshakeable. You will need to thrust yourself into reading the right books, dressing the right way, thinking the right thoughts, and going to the right places. Your life must be committed to changing your life for the better.
After your new-found commitment and new excitement, determination, and effort, imagine for a moment, what are your chances of success if you return and continue to be influenced by those whose voices ring with discouragement, ridicule, fear, and exaggerated doubt. There will always be a negative family member or friend who is there to say “For someone who’s always been broke, you’re sure putting on quite a show. Yeah, good luck with your changed life!”
If you make the commitment to changing your life, you must be very careful of the situation in this story. If you don’t change your environment, you will be subjected to and conflicted by both your “new determination to succeed” as well as to those close to you whose words remind you of an unproductive past. It is like being on a mental elevator ride; you move upward with your thoughts and actions, but some thoughtless person keeps pushing the “down button,” bringing you back to where you mentally began.
Your new confidence quickly gives way to old doubt; your new actions are overcome by old fears; and finally, you may return once more to that kind of thinking which put you on your mental and financial knees. Having brought you back from your world of dreams, ambition, and accomplishments with their well-meant but destructive opinions, your friends celebrate by inviting you to their Friday night party where once again you become active participants in the jokes, sarcasm, and gossip of those content with their own mediocrity. Having exchanged your dreams of a new life for the acceptance of old things, you make the quiet transition to never again try, plan, dream, explore, or achieve.
The value of surrounding yourself with the right friends is immeasurably awesome. The danger of surrounding yourself with the wrong friends can be devastating. Perhaps a good theme might be— “Friendship in proportion to the right personal growth from that friendship.”
Be very aware that the “right” friends should not be equated to those who seem to have the “most” money. It is the attitudes, awareness, and other positive human virtues of the friends you select that are of importance. Not all poor people make poor friends, nor do all rich friends have an enriching effect on your lives. Carefully examine the “friends” you have…not their assets or accomplishments. By examining your friends from both ends of the financial spectrum, you may discover there are several rich as well as poor “friends” whom you can no longer afford to associate.
As my mentor, Jim Rohn is quoted as saying, “You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with.” If this is, in fact, the case, then you need to analyze who you invest the most time with and how they are influencing you in any or all areas of life. If you do not like what you discover, then you need to begin the process of change. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can change other people to be what you want them to be. It is difficult enough to change yourself and impossible to change others.
You may be able to positively impact others to change their mindset. But beware that it is a slow process, and they have to choose to change. You must be very careful if you choose to associate with those who may negatively impact you in any manner. As 1 Corinthians 10:12 reminds us, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.”
I feel strongly that this also applies to our mindset. You become what you dwell on in your minds. All of our minds are impacted significantly by those with whom we invest a lot of time. Although it may be hard to distance yourself from negative influences, it is imperative. This does not mean you shun or alienate others, but realizing that anything that impacts you negatively should be minimized. It is your responsibility to maximize your God-given potential as Ephesians 5:15 tells us, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.”
That is the end of the trail for this week’s Wisdom Notes as we pondered the cycles and seasons of life once again. On our trek, we learned the huge impact and influence our family, friends, and associates really have on our mindset and our lives.
Next week in our Wisdom Notes we will expand this concept as we hike the Trail of Attitude. We need to make sure what we allow in our minds will help us to grow and succeed. As mentioned in Philippians 4:8, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Carefully choose those individuals with whom you invest time. The life you live will be impacted by those choices.
We have traveled a few more paces on our journey this week, and there is much to consider. We will continue this trail in our next Wisdom Journal as we learn how to choose that our attitude impacts the cycles and seasons of life, so don’t miss it. Encourage your friends and family to join us on our 5-day a week podcast: Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.
As the economy both in the United States and around the world continues to open up and expand, let us be in prayer for many individuals and businesses which have been severely impacted. Also let us still be considerate of those individuals who are in a high-risk group for the pandemic and keep them safe. It may be required that we personally sacrifice our desires and freedoms at times for those most vulnerable.