By Dawn Onley
Think of the five people whom you spend the most time around. It could be family or friends, even colleagues or associates. Think of their personality traits, what you talk about with them, how you engage.
Are they positive? Caring? Uplifting? Motivating? Generous? Honest? Joyful? Loving? Loyal? Enthusiastic? Do they encourage you? Do they want the best for you?
Or, are they negative? Envious? Jealous? Cynical? Mean? Hurtful? Pessimistic? Controlling? Low-energy? High-maintenance? Do they often complain? Do they discourage you?
Now think about yourself. You are the average of them, according to Jack Canfield, the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. That’s right, we become the composite of the top 5 people we spend the most time around.
Talk about gut check.
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with,” Canfield explains. “I know that’s tough to take in, but really think about that for a second. Are these 5 people helping to expand you as a person, and expand your goals and vision? If they are, that’s great news! If not, I’d highly consider spending more time elsewhere. Research shows that the more time you spend around people that inspire your best self, that keep you accountable, and that even call you on “your stuff,” the more successful you will be.”
In no greater way does this ring true than in the animal kingdom. Prepping for a safari in Africa a few years ago, I read a few articles on how some unlikely animal groups pair up to help each other ward off danger or to provide food and/or a nesting source. In other words, these animals are friends with a mutually beneficial purpose. They want the best for each other because the mere survival of one helps the survival of the other.
For example, the ostrich and zebra form a symbiotic relationship in the wild and are often found together. Zebras have poor eye sight and ostriches can’t hear or smell well. Together, they provide what the other lacks and they communicate with each other when predators are near.
The same with the wildebeest and a small bird called an oxpecker. I was intrigued to learn that the oxpecker cleans ticks and other insects from the wildebeest and can even make a nest out of its hair. When the bird spots danger, it screeches and runs up and down the wildebeest’s back until the big animal heeds the call and runs for safety.
Isn’t it amazing how these animals know their strengths and weaknesses and use these helpmates to fill in the gaps? These are the types of friendships we humans need. We need to be more strategic in our alliances. We need friends who are always looking out for our best interests, friends who complement us and whom we complement. Friends that match our spirits and our resolve. Friends that have our back.
We need to be friends with the people who want to see us survive and thrive. People who seek to give as much as they take. Friends that we are made stronger and even better as a result of our relationship with them.
We need to reevaluate our Top 5 to ensure our starting lineup is who we need in our corner at this phase of our lives. Remember some friendships were only meant for a season. Others came about for a reason. Few are meant for a lifetime.
For me, the ones that have stood the test of time are as interdependent as the stinging sea anemone and the clownfish. (and yes I loved “Finding Nemo.”)
Turns out, we can learn a lot from animals.