Last month, a young man who read some of my columns sent me a response letter. In it, he described some of his struggles with making changes in his behavior to improve his life.
He mentioned that he can’t figure out why he continues to get caught up in his old ways, even when he knows better. He also wrote that a mentor told him to change the group of people he hangs with. He has trouble following this advice.
Though he didn’t seem to make the connection, he correctly diagnosed his problem. When we find ourselves slipping back into some of our negative thinking, emotions and other behaviors, it’s often because these behaviors have become habitual.
Our bad habits can be triggered by associating with people who are still controlled by the same habits we are trying to change within ourselves. Many of the men I see returning to prison multiple times do so in part because they don’t change the people that make up their inner circle.
Relationships are the essence of life. Without us even noticing it, our associations will influence who we are, what we do and who we will become. One of the main reasons we have the friends that we have is because our thinking and the activities we enjoy are similar with these friends.
If we are in the process of changing and maturing, then our thinking and the activities we engage in must change. The problem is that our friends will still be involved in the old ways we are trying to change. Spending time with these friends will mean spending time doing what they like to do and getting caught up in their mentality.
Letting go of old associations is sometimes hard and agonizing work. But if we want to eliminate the drama that comes with a particular lifestyle, then it follows that we must limit the time that we give to people who invite that into their lives. Otherwise, we end up straying from our mission in life and failing to live up to our potential and purpose.
I’m not saying that you should feel or act like you’re better than them. But if they are not willing to support, encourage, and participate with you in a lifestyle that is about adding value to you and your community, then you must stop giving them your time.
Consider this: You and your friends have been kicking it for some time. All of a sudden, you realize you all have been chillin’ in a quicksand pit. You all are up to your necks in it and sinking fast to certain death.
You discover a way out. You tell your friends, but they can’t see what you see. You want to continue to chill with your guys, but they want you to chill with them in the quicksand pit.
Do you get out of the quicksand pit and find new friends that don’t play in the quicksand pits? Or do you make their poor decision your own, and rather than lead by example, you stay in the quicksand and follow them to your death?
I hope you choose to lead by example. Get out of and avoid the quicksand pits of life.
A long time ago, I came across a poem titled “The company you keep” by an anonymous author. Several parts stood out for me:
“If you run with wolves you will learn how to howl, but if you associate with eagles you will learn to soar to new heights. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. With some people you spend an evening; with others you invest it. Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships.”
Follow these words of wisdom and the trajectory of your life will stay on the path to success.
Jeffery Young welcomes reader responses to Jeffery Young #213390, 7600 525th St., Rush City, MN 55069.