Printable art by Little Wants on Etsy
We recently bought a kitten-another Tortoiseshell-to keep our youngest indoor cat, Amelia, company when our oldest, Raven, passes away. Raven is fifteen, Amelia is four, and we have named our newest addition Wilhemina Brimley. We call her Mina or Miss Brims for short. She is incredibly difficult to photograph, unlike Amelia was at her age, but I can tell you that she has the face of a little old man. She has a little grey chin, not unlike a beard, and bushy grey eyebrows, so we gave her a venerable name to match. 

I don't like to think about Raven's eventual passing very much, but my husband and I both agreed that we didn't want it to catch us-or Amelia-unawares when it finally came. Better to get the hurdles of introduction out of the way before the inevitable. We are also hoping the similarities in coat between the three cats will ease the transition.

The theme of company has been strong for us this year, as we have made new friends and let go of other relationships. While reading an article on Over the Moon Magazine today, I came across the concept of company once again. In the article, Maureen Saladino states, "The top five people you hang out with is a reflection of your environment." 

This really struck me. I had never heard this before, so I searched for its source. Apparently it comes from motivational speaker John Rohn. He is quoted as saying, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with."

My initial reaction is that the original quote creates space for judgment. While it is true that we often want to surround ourselves with other people who are _______ (fill in the blank), deciding who does and does not meet the criteria for _______ (fill in the blank) is inherently judgmental. Our criteria for success, for example, may differ from someone else's criteria. When we begin to decide that for another person, we fall into the sticky trap of deciding what their journey and our own should look like. 

The word should is notorious for the trouble it foreshadows, because it often brings with it a sense of shame, guilt, and failure. The folks over at Born Happy write, "Let the shoulds flow through." I agree with them wholeheartedly, and not just because the catchy phrase smacks of mindfulness.  

While it is important to surround yourself with people who support and empower you, it's also important to see yourself as a reciprocal factor in the equation. If we only seek to include those people in our lives who meet an arbitrary quotient of characteristics, we are not doing them or ourselves any favors. Sometimes an important role we play in the lives of others is to empower and support them or even to challenge them. Other people are more than decoration in our emotional environment.

So while I think that there may be some benefits to surrounding yourself with like-minded people, our emotional, vocational, spiritual, and psychological landscape may not change if we forget to include people who challenge us or force us to think critically and systemically. We may not always appreciate this challenge in the moment, but it often plants the seeds for personal growth.

Printable art from Lucia & Luciana on Etsy
That's not to say that sometimes we do feel the need to cut ties with people who drain and deplete us on one or more levels. Such maneuvers may also serve a healthy, restorative, or even safety function in our lives. Only you can truly know what or who you need in your life, and your social circle does not necessarily determine who you are or can be. However, it's important to be aware of how our social circles may make us appear to others around us, and whether this limits or expands the opportunities and challenges we encounter.

In browsing other articles that centered around this quote, I rarely encountered any mention of how our own behaviors may affect others. If we are really evaluating how our company affects our sense of self or our potential for transformation, I argue we cannot forget the role we may play in the lives of others as they pursue their own aspirations or growth. Even if someone in your social circle doesn't appear to be on the same path or even the same wave length, it's sometimes important for relationship maintenance just to meet a person where they are in their own journey. In this way, we enhance the relationship itself, which is more likely to improve the quality of the company you keep and reap secondary and tertiary benefits in the long-run.

Journal Prompt

What kind of company do you keep? Do you feel like the people you spend the most time with are helping further you in your life goals? If not, what kind of changes can you make to those relationships that is mutually beneficial? If that's not an option, what steps do you need to take to begin new relationships or spend more time with people who brighten your spirits, empower you to pursue your dreams, and support you when you encounter obstacles? Conversely, what's your role in your interpersonal relationships? What behaviors can you incorporate or alter to be a positive person in someone else's social circle? What qualities do you want to stand our in your social network overall? 

Printable art from Inspire & Motivate on Etsy. 

For Jeff and I, this means surrounding ourselves with people who work hard and remain humble in the process. When people can support and challenge these values and behaviors they evoke, and when others allow us to do the same for them, then we know the company is good. 

Until next time, friends.