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The Average of 5

The one thing I hear from people the most often when we start to talk about taking steps towards financial freedom, is “I don’t have time”. I get it. I used to say that a lot. But when I started to shift my attitude towards time, and look at it as a currency, I started to get a lot more frugal about where I was willing to spend it.

I talk a lot about time because I think it’s an area that’s heavily overlooked and under discussed in financial circles. When you reclaim control over your time, you have the ability to reallocate that time. And when you can focus your time and energy on a specific goal, your likelihood of achieving that goal increases exponentially. 

Mike and I intentionally reclaimed our time little by little, and reallocated it to pursuing our goal of Financial Freedom. It’s a huge part of why we succeeded.
Taking control of your time isn’t just the end goal, but rather a product of continual assessment and removal of the unnecessary and the negative. Reducing clutter, eliminating obligations, the more unproductive areas of your life you can remove, the more time and energy you will inevitably have to focus on whats actually important to you.

One area we all tend to invest a huge amount of our time and energy is our friendships. This can be an excellent area of life to invest in. In fact, most experts agree that the happiest people are those with the strongest relationships. So it’s clearly an area that can bring you an immense return on investment.

But while a strong friendship can bring countless benefits to your life, a toxic one can literally suck the life right out of you. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn highlighted the degree of influence those around us can have when he stated “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Though it may sound obvious to say we should only invest in friendships that bring value to our lives (and theirs), that quote in particular stresses the importance of being selective about who we spend our time with.

Now, you may not be able to choose your family, but you can certainly pick your friends, and you can definitely decide which relationships to invest your time into. And since it’s an investment of time that friendships require, it’s an area you should be regularly evaluating in terms of your perceived return on those investments.

In the day and age of social media and gargantuan friends lists, we have become much less intentional about who we call our “friends”. If we truly are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, than stop to think just how crucial the selection of those five people are. Should we not aspire to spend time with the people who bring us the most happiness? People who challenge, motivate and inspire us? People who provide us constructive feedback so we can improve ourselves and those around us?

And if we view time as a currency that has value, should we not simultaneously look to eliminate relationships that take that time, but return limited to no value in terms of the quality of our lives?

Studies clearly show that the strongest friendships are those that encompass four relationship pillars: commonality, frequency, proximity, and secrets. Those four pillars form the foundation for an ideal friendship.

We all have friends who we love hanging out with. The ones that you look forward to seeing, going to events with, and just plain talking to. Whether it’s the great conversation, or just being able to have a really good laugh, you leave these interactions feeling happy, sometimes motivated, sometimes inspired, and sometimes challenged. Ideally those friends feel the same was about you, and you have a strong win-win relationship. Commonality is often the primary pillar that these friendships are built on, and to some degree the pillar of commonality can make up for reduced frequency or even proximity.

But sadly, I think we all have many more “friends” that make us feel exactly the opposite, or at least rank somewhere on the sliding scale of negativity. The ones that you put off going to see because you don’t enjoy the conversation, or because you leave feeling drained, sometimes irritated. The “friends” you vent to your partner about, dissecting their flaws and annoying character traits. (Don’t lie….we all do it……yes even you.)

These “friendships” are often born out of convenience, (read proximity and frequency), such as shared social circles, neighbourhoods, or work. These friendships that have only a sliver of commonality rarely bring any meaningful value to our lives. Frankly they are a disservice to both parties. A social contract or obligation that both people feel compelled to maintain despite the fact that neither are gaining much from the relationship. Both investing time, and getting next to nothing in return. The quintessential lose-lose relationship.

Then there are those relationships where one person actually is getting a significant amount of value, while the other is stuck in a constant state of giving, never getting anything back in return. These are the most toxic of relationships, and yet somehow they are extremely common.

These friendships are kind of like having a leech stuck to your leg. You give, give, give, and they take, take, take. The win-lose relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, some really strong friendships will have times when one person takes more and the other person gives more. But when you average the relationship out over the long term, if it’s really a win-win, than it should fall somewhere into at least a 60/40 split on the investment/return scale. If its dramatically disproportionate, than it’s worth asking yourself if it’s a friendship worth maintaining.

At the end of the day, we all only have so much time and energy in our lives. And if relationships are the strongest predictor of happiness, and we are in fact the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with, then you have to ask yourself, what is the opportunity cost of continuing to invest in the win-lose and lose-lose relationships? And what type of positive gains could you experience if you intentionally invested in only the win-win relationships?

Up your average, choose wisely and continuously re-evaluate where you are investing your most valuable resource. 

 

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