© Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime.com
Parents are full of advice for their kids. Some of it doesn’t hold up (my face did NOT stay that way, Dad), and some is golden.
A lot of the best advice we give our kids translates just as well into adult life. But too often we fail to apply it to ourselves, as if there’s something magic about the age eighteen that turns golden advice to straw. And that’s too bad.
One of the things I remember Mom drumming into my head is the importance of choosing my friends wisely. Nothing has a greater influence on the person you’ll become, she said. I’m sure I rolled my eyes at the time. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s the single best piece of wisdom she ever gave me.
We’ve all had the experience of reflecting the people around us. If you are surrounded by grousers and whiners, you naturally feel yourself falling into a pattern of grousing and whining, partly because the grousing whiners will reward you for being like them. So how could you not?
On the other hand, when you surround yourself with people who are positive and optimistic and happy to be alive, you can’t help feeling the same.
I have several dear friends now who have that effect on me. When I’m around them, their smiles, their infectious laughs, and their ability to find the joy in life naturally puts me in the same frame of mind. I leave a restaurant or a party with these people and find myself smiling more, opening doors for others, letting people merge on the freeway. The effect is immediate and undeniable.
And it goes well beyond mood. If we want to achieve lasting changes in the way we approach our work and our lives, the very best thing we can do is surround ourselves with people who share those values. Want to be more punctual? Hang out with people who are punctual. Want to see the work you do in terms of service to others instead of a means to support yourself? You know what to do.
Most important of all, you want to choose friends and associates who share the deeper, more fundamental attitudes toward life. Choose to be around people who are enlightened learners, who choose wisdom, who take the high road, who have a heart of kindness, who decide to persevere. Surround yourself with people of strong character because they will hold you to a high standard. Just as the grousing whiners reinforce attitudes and behaviors that are like theirs, so will the decent and wise.
So sure, read all the books you can to improve who you are and how you approach life. But know that the greatest influence of all happens not between the covers of a book, but between people.