Does the company we keep affect our quality of life?
Quality of life: we all want it, but what is it? – Probably a whole other article in itself but it’s widely accepted that the desire triangle (health, love, career) or the list of priorities most commonly given by first world inhabitants (family, spirituality, health, finance, career, romance/sex, leisure/free time) reflects pretty well what we gauge our quality of life against. A commonality that runs through many of these things is relationships; that is, the quality of the relationships associated with these priorities has a huge bearing on how happy we are with each. For example, your family is a huge priority for you, but how satisfied are you with the relationships that live inside that Family (however you define it)? Are you more likely to prioritise a quality family dynamic than you are a dysfunctional one? Quite probably not; the things that truly matter to us are intrinsic to our core values. Quality of life therefore is equal to the degree in which we are living our values combined with how well our values are met by our priorities. Think of it in terms of goals; if we have a goal that is totally aligned with at least one of our core values, chances are we’ll hit it with relative ease, and have a wonderful time on the way. If we’re doing what makes us happy, we’re probably doing it well.
Aristotle stated that friendship (philia) is key to human happiness; the paradigm case of friendship being a relationship that is mutually recognised and taking place between two adults of equal standing. Or more specifically: the mutually acknowledged and reciprocal exchange of goodwill and affection that exists among individuals who share an interest in each other on the basis of virtue, pleasure or utility.
Aristotle noted that whilst other, non-equal, friendships, could exist, they were of an inferior nature.
Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker famously quoted that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with – for example, economically this would mean that you can take the salaries of the five people you spend the most time with, add them up, divide the total by five and you will probably have a figure that represents your own salary. Likewise then, with intellect, confidence, spirituality and contentment, to name but a few qualities.
Personal insights gained through my coaching clients indicate this to be accurate. Granted, my coaching style probably dictates the kind of clients I attract and am attracted to (they tend to be aspirational, creative, compassionate types), but they come from all walks of life. Some are rich and materialistic; some are humble and utterly benevolent with what they have. Their upbringings and life experiences vary from the chaotic, dysfunctional and traumatic, to those verging on idyllic. However, at some point, I’ve witnessed each and every one enact something I call the frenemy shoulder slump (FSS). They each have people in their lives that literally bring them down.
Me: How are things with your mum?
Coachee: (FSS) urgh.
Me: Did you talk to your manager about your idea?
Coachee: Yeah, (lights up) she’s excited to try it, she suggested I get a few of the team together and (sighs) enlist some support from (FSS) Karen in marketing
We all have these people in our lives, if they’re not one of the top five we spend time with, then there’s more chance we can manage them effectively, but if they have full access to us, they can cause us real problems; when a friend obstructs (or we perceive them to) our important goals or our other relationships, the impact is negative and often stressful. The more time you spend with friends that have bad habits, the more likely you are to adopt or continue those bad habits for yourself (just look to your drinking buddies!) Of course, the opposite is true too; spend all your free time with your marathon running bestie and your couch-potato days will soon become a thing of the past.
I ensure that when feelings of betrayal, disappointment and stress come from my clients’ friendships that we address them urgently; these things undermine your best self and are not representative of healthy, positive influence.
There is then, compelling evidence that it matters who we surround ourselves with. And in order to feel contented and fulfilled, we should think carefully about who we invest in emotionally and otherwise. The adage do less, have more seems apt; select and develop a few close, valuable relationships. It’s almost always about quality not quantity where life satisfaction is concerned.