Have you heard the saying “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”? It’s often brought up in the context of encouraging you to choose your companions with intention, to make sure that they are people whose presence uplifts you and brings out the the you that you aspire to be.
Do you have these people in your life?
When I was starting out as an entrepreneur, the greatest blessings were the women I knew who were striking out on their own too, solopreneurs who were bringing their work to the world with courage, integrity and passion. I treasured (and still treasure) our conversations and companionship. Just by being present and pursuing their dreams, they inspired and encouraged me to do the same.
I have also had times when I was surrounded by people who were uncomfortable with my dreams. Though we simply had different goals and priorities, judgement seeped into the cells of our relationship. I felt stifled and held back. Perhaps I made them feel the same.
It can take a while to find your people and perhaps when you look around your community, you don’t see creative folk that stir your heart. Where are the artists? The writers? The adventurers? Where are the wild ones? The rebels? The dreamers? The dancers? The iconoclasts?
Where are the people who uplift you?
While you look for them in your life and your community*, let me offer up a playful and positive way to create your own “party of five.” You do not have limit yourself to people you know, people who are nearby or even people who are alive! You can actively choose to spend time with 5 uplifting people by focusing on and engaging with their work and what they share. Think of creating a round table of people that move you – artists, writers, vloggers, singers, chefs, designers, poets, photographers, philosophers… anyone! Think of people you are drawn to, who fascinate you, who inspire you, who challenge you.
Think of 5 people who you would love to be the average of and spend this season with them!
It will help to choose people that have a lot of content on offer. Someone who has written plenty of books, creates YouTube videos regularly, has a podcast, etc. It’s most helpful when the content involves them sharing their thoughts, their philosophy, their personality. This makes it a bit of an approximation of having a conversation, of being let into their life. For example, reading May Sarton’s journals gives a sense of her life, her voice, her take on the world around her. As I’ve read them, I could almost imagine sitting in her home, sharing a cup of tea and looking out into the garden as I listened to her share her thoughts.
You don’t have to choose people who are edifying or educational. Simply choose people that, for whatever reason, lift you up, people that call out something aspirational in you. And yes, it’s okay to choose someone who gives you a little catch in your throat, who triggers a hint of envy, but only if hanging out with them doesn’t shut you down. If you feel smaller around someone, they are not one of your five. If they challenge you to step out of the shadows and claim what you desire, they are.
Consider how the five come together as a whole. Will spending a season with this particular group of five bring the energy you are hoping for? Are you feeling really focused and so want to pick, say, five photographers? Are you feeling like you want a balanced approach – maybe two writers, a spiritual leader, a yoga teacher and a chef. You get to decide.
Once you’ve chosen, spend some time with them each week. You don’t have to make a study of them (though you might). This isn’t about working or pushing or emulating. It’s trusting what my mom would call the power of osmosis. Simply let the beauty and truth that’s in their spirit awaken the beauty and truth that’s in yours.
Who will you invite to your table? Who is your party of five?
* PS Please know that these people might be right under your nose but in hiding. Often we keep the most compelling parts of ourselves quite private because we’re unsure where it is safe to share. Open up your intuitive radar. Have deeper conversations. Invite people to coffee. Little by little you will find out who your people are.