They say you are the 5 people closest to you. So what do we mean? As social beings we are influenced by those around us. Our behaviours and the person we are and become is inspired by those we associate with.

With the school and college summer holidays upon us it is fascinating to watch my teenage sons develop and mature. Their circle of friends is changing as they leave school and move on to college and leave college and move away to university. They are moving on to stages in their life when they get to choose new friends and associates – they get to choose their own circle of influence.

The teenage years are difficult and it is fascinating to watch young people grow and have the confidence to follow their own dreams and stick to their own values. I have heard too many mothers over the years making excuses for their children’s results. Too many people live their life for others, constantly trying to live up to the expectations of those around them. It is so important to follow our own dreams and to do this you need the right people around you to influence and inspire you.

As a family we are fit and healthy, both parents exercise regularly and we eat healthy wholesome food. It was sometimes a struggle when the boys were young. Many of their friends had easy fast food dinners, fizzy drinks and sweets. I am not saying we have never eaten badly – however as a rule – which has become a family habit we eat healthily. We all eat the same, we all exercise and in doing so we positively influence each other. As a result my sons naturally choose fruit over sweets – it isn’t a sacrifice – it is simply a good habit. The boys all play sport and exercise – it makes them feel good, they choose to do it, it is a way of life. As young people growing up our families are the greatest influence. Once we become adults we have a choice about who we associate with and what people influence us.

If you choose friends who are successful, positive individuals who believe in taking responsibility for their lives, you will become a proactive individual who shapes his/her future. If on the other hand you choose to associate with negative people who believe that the world is out to get them and there is nothing worthwhile, you will start to descend into a pool of negativity at some point, even if you are initially a positive person.

A positive outlook is so important when setting your goals because your mindset affects your thoughts and actions. For example if you want to get fit enough to run a marathon. You need to visualize yourself as this fit person able to run a marathon. If you constantly surround yourself with people who don’t exercise and have no interest in being fit you will make your task much harder. On the other hand if you surround yourself with like-minded people who share a similar goal, or even people who have already achieved this goal, the task will become much easier. You will inspire and support each other.

I recently witnessed the effect of negativity. I am, and always have been, a positive person; in my view the glass is always half full and there is always a silver lining! However, just as good habits can be formed so can bad. My positive work environment started to change. I didn’t notice it at first, but slowly team members changed and the influences moved from positive to negative. The new influences led to certain aspects of the business being overlooked or not given the necessary attention they needed. The new influences put me under pressure to relax certain aspects of our operation. I had conflict raging within. My inner self knew this – I had been worrying, not sleeping; but my head had been influenced, I had allowed some aspects of the business to be changed. It wasn’t until a number of incidents occurred at work that I realised my behaviour had changed. It was only by taking timeout to reflect that I could see and process the changes that had happened. I realised the company values had changed and no longer aligned with my personal values. On reflection I didn’t like the new behaviour; I needed to change those closest to me. I looked inward to re-connect with my values and let go of the expectations of those around me.

Eventually, with the support of my closest family and friends, I made a life changing decision and changed my career which led to me setting up my own business Baobab Growth. It is during these difficult times that we really learn and grow as a person. It is however worth being aware of how those around us in both our personal and business life can influence us. If we are not happy with where we are and are not achieving the results we want, we need to look at those closest to us and ask ourselves are they going to help or hinder us with reaching our goal? The answer might not always be easy to action – sometimes to achieve our goals and to make our dreams a reality we have to make difficult life changing decisions. If we want to be positive and achieve the success we are looking for we need to surround ourselves with people who are going to inspire and support us to achieving our goals.

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