by Kelvin Belfon
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
The people in our lives matter. They either help us reach our destiny or hinder our growth.
I was reminded of this truth in a recent conversation with my wife Camilla. She’s currently working on a PhD degree in Religious Studies. With an 8-year old, 5-year old, 2-year olds twins, me and a house to care for, how she accomplishes all she does is a mystery to me.
Camilla’s academic workload includes attending classes, writing multiple papers, and sometimes grading and delivering lectures as a teacher assistant. What she’s got going on is more than two full-time jobs. She oftentimes turns nights into days; and even that is sometimes not enough.
I have no doubts in my wife’s abilities. She’s smart and industrious. But as she’s stated along the way, the big key to progressing through this PhD is that she surrounds herself with a supportive network.
An even bigger key for her is that she is mindful of “trimming the fat.” What I mean is that she often de-clutters relationships that are bad news for her so as to maintain a minimalist community based on mutual respect and faithfulness. Camilla has assembled a diverse team of professors, colleagues and friends to serve as confidants as she pursues her academic goals.
The doctoral attrition rate is 50% (or even higher in some cases) according to the Ph.D. Completion Project. Besides lack of financial aid, students sighted the most critical factors to success in a PhD program is the lack of an encouraging “program environment.” In other words, feelings of being isolated and abandoned are overriding causes for at least 50% of PhD candidates dropping out.
What this suggests to me is that education, skills, economic force and family history are all good essential determinators in a person’s ability to flourish. But even more essential is getting the right people orbiting your sphere. So, if you want to be successful, you must take this age-old advice seriously– choose your friends wisely.
The people on your power team will serve distinct roles. Some will inspire, motivate and highlight your best. Some make great conversation partners for mutual exchanges of strategies, insights and challenges.
Others will not be so easily impressed with where you are. They’ll push you and provide constructive criticism that won’t always feel comfortable. You’ll have to develop a thick skin and not take yourself so seriously around these folks. You’ll have to resist taking offense and judging them when they’re being honest. There’s a difference between a committed mentor and a toxic relationship.
The right people in your life may only surface during a season of crisis. They may be available infrequently, as a quick lifeline. But because of who they are, you may err if you approach them as your best bud. Keeping a respectful distance and not taking up too much of their time communicates maturity and understanding to these kinds of partners.
They might be older, younger, or reside in another zip code. They may not even be a specialist in your field of interest. What makes them golden is that they have a vital perspective because of their emotional distance from your pursuits.
Analyze your social environment. The people in your world are important. Ask the tough questions, “Is this individual interested in my well-being?” “Does she love me genuinely, without strings attached?” “Is he a liability because of the chaos that seems to be a pattern in his life?”
Troubled and drama prone people are everywhere. They encourage underachievement complacency, imbalance, and unhealthy habits. Some can add unnecessary burden to your already busy life, which can end up hijacking your goals and jeopardizes your personal wholeness.
We need people in our lives. They help us achieve more.
Surround yourself with smart and encouraging people. Spend time with people who believe in your dreams. Find people who celebrate your accomplishments but are also honest to lovingly push you to your greatest potential.