Sometimes, I’ll hear a phrase for the first time and then, in seeming rapid succession, I’ll hear it from two or three other people. I wondered if this phenomenon had a name, so I did a couple of Google searches and of course it does: the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. It’s also called a “frequency illusion.”
(Those searches also led me down the rabbit hole of Damn Interesting, “a small, independent project dedicated to the dissemination of legitimately fascinating but obscure true stories from science, history, and psychology.” It’s okay. I know you want to go check it out. Go ahead. I’ll wait. And before you come back read this really interesting piece on the reticular activating system.)
Your fab five, elite eight, et al
The reason I was wondering about this phenomenon is because, a few years ago, no less than three interviewees in a short span of time made the assertion that we become like the five people with whom we spend the most time. This assertion has been credited to motivational speaker Jim Rohn. There’s some science here, too. One study found that adolescents can be influenced by their peers to engage in risky behavior. Another explored why some people are more susceptible to peer pressure than others.
I’m not usually one to buy into such generalizations, but something about this rung true to me, although I don’t know that it’s necessarily five people. Maybe it’s three – or seven. What I do know is that when I’m around people who are inspiring, motivated, and accomplished, I feel good. Conversely, when I’m around negative people who are always complaining or acting like victims, they drain the energy out of me. Perhaps it was time to pay more attention to the people who populated my days.
Seek in others what you wish to cultivate in yourself
So, I started thinking about who my “five people” are. For someone who worked from home and mostly by myself even before the pandemic, the answer isn’t so clear. I spend the most time with my husband and daughter, of course. We have a wide circle of family and friends. But who are those with whom I spend the most time in a consistent way? Aside from my two postal clerks and the manager of our local Dunkin’ Donuts, of course. They’re not terribly interested in my career or life.
It’s not like we can jettison our families in search of people who are great at organizing their closets or making a perfect martini. (Sorry, both. You’re being replaced with a yogi and a business consultant. The cats can stay.) And, frankly, if those two are in my five, I’m off to a great start. But, shortly after I had that , I made a conscious decision to seek out people who make me a better person. I vowed to get out of the office at least twice a month to spend some one-on-one time with people who inspire or motivate me. (Remember…this was in Before Times.) Since the pandemic began, it’s been harder, but I’ve been doing somewhat regular Zoom and phone calls with my squad.
You can also take this one step further and build a personal board of directors or mastermind group. (More about that soon.) I do both. And being conscious about building positive relationships has allowed me to bond with people I truly enjoy, admire, and respect. When I surround myself with people who lift others up, I feel energized and better able to return that energy to others.
How about you? Can you see the benefit of spending more time with people who mirror the attributes or accomplishments you wish for yourself? Who will you seek out to help you make your life or career better? And when will you start? Tell me, and I may be in touch with you when I write about this again.