Updated: May 3
It's centered around three simple questions followed by some clear actions you can take. I invite you try it for yourself and to read the reflection below for examples and inspiration. I use this with coaching clients, and have many stunning anecdotes that really qualify this simple exercise to be truly life enhancing.
I remember reading once somewhere that “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” But there was one specific moment where it hit me. I was sitting on the ground, my back against the wall in an airport in Changchun, China late on a Friday night. A delayed flight with no new take off time, exhausted after delivering a 2-day leadership program for an international company. I was thinking about my upcoming plans for the weekend. While I wasn't keen to sit on that floor, I realized I wasn't also feeling in any rush to get back. I wasn't that excited for what I had planned.
I was tired.
Not just because it was late and I’d exhausted myself in the days before. I was TIRED. In a way that a good night's sleep wouldn't solve. It was from spending too much of my time doing things that I sucked at and didn't love doing. I was in the early days of my business, I wore many hats. I knew that I wasn't using my energy optimally, but I also couldn't see how to change it in that moment either.
And it's a weird thing too, because the obvious response to feeling tired is to take a rest. But it didn't even feel like that. I was tired of spinning around in a circle. I felt like deep down I had more to give. Even I had a lot on my plate and I was hungry, it wasn't what I wanted to eat. I was searching for more stimulation, more inspiration, a steeper learning curve, a more authentic positive energy.
I pondered this last point - positive energy - for a few minutes. It's a quality many people would use to describe me and in addition to it coming quite naturally to me, I've cultivated practices into my daily life that "keeps the tank full." But my tank didn't feel full in that moment. Nor in that period.
And then that saying popped into my head: “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
I reflected briefly on who I had been spending the most time with.
And then, I asked myself this question:
1. Who do you know that brings you authentic positive energy?
Create a list - write down your responses (3-5 is sufficient unless more obviously jump out to you).
Using my lower thighs as a table, I took out a scrap piece of paper and scribbled my responses.
I noticed how diverse people were - different ethnicities, ages, career backgrounds, etc. Even in personality, I thought it was interesting that not all the people I wrote down were necessarily outgoing, optimistic people. What was it about them that brought out positive energy?
2. What is it about them / the relationship that makes it positive?
Record your reflections for each person on your list.
Each of the people I wrote down awaken something in me, be it connection, a fresh new question, a renewed curiosity, a new idea. They push and challenge my thinking and yet I leave interactions with them feeling hopeful and excited to explore, take action, move forward.
I should note that only one person on the list was an existing friend. Others were acquaintances, people I’d met and interacted with just a few times. Two lived on different continents.
3. Who are you when you’re with each of them?
Turn it around and reflect on who you are and who you be when you're with these people? Write it down.
Just answering this question led me to tear up in the airport. Because it felt so clear to me in that moment that when I'd interacted with each of those people, albeit in so many different contexts, I had been myself - a great version of myself. Present. Open. Creative. Bold. Adventurous. Humble. Confident. Playful. Grateful. Kind. I wiped my tears and promised myself I’d reach out to each one of them to find a way to get together. And I did…
Reach out to each of the people on your list and find a way to connect.
Years later, what’s come of it?
One of the people on the list - a truly visionary leader, famous for their accomplishments is now a mentor of mine, someone I call on regularly for guidance and inspiration. We’ve partnered on projects, he was at my wedding. At the time of writing the list, we had met only once.
Another on the list – so successful in her industry and yet so authentic and down to earth – has become a close, dear friend. I'm close with her kids. We vacation together, we hang out, we share dreams and challenges. At the time, we had met only once.
And, one of those people – the epitome of positive energy – I now call my husband! At the time, he was a business connection, someone I’d met a few times and had a coffee with only once.
Yes – I’m married to a man after once scribbling his name down on a scrap piece of paper as someone who brought me positive energy that I thought it would be good to spend a bit more time with.
How beautiful is that?
And here is something interesting. When I first answered:
Q: What is it about them / the relationship that makes it positive?
There is integrity.
He believes in me and is genuinely interested in what I’m doing
He is eager to support me however he can.
Q: Who are you when you're with that person?
It feels like the REAL me - Present. Open. Creative. Bold. Humble. Confident. Playful. Grateful.
I didn’t mention the list when I reached out to him to meet. That next time we sat together was over a coffee, and I had come prepared to talk about business. I had a bunch of questions and sat down ready for a productive discussion. But there he was, listening, really listening and I found myself sharing more and more, and opening up until the point that I became emotional. I cried.
It wasn't how I imagined it going! And while I was a little embarrassed in the moment, he didn’t judge me. He believed in me. And I walked out of that meeting so full of positive energy and with new questions that I hadn’t had when I walked in.
I’ll save the story of what happened next for some other time.
Now it's your turn.
Step 1 – Write down your responses to the following questions:
Who do you know that brings you positive energy?
What is it about them / the relationship that makes it positive?
Who are you when you're with that person?
Step 2 – Take Action:
Reach out to each of the people on your list and find a way to meet them.
Step 3 – Watch what happens:
Observe how your outlook starts to shift. Observe how your environment starts to look different. Observe how you grow.
I'm happy to coach you through this process to help you play bigger than you feel comfortable to... let me know, I'm here.