*Oftentimes the term "circle of influence" is used in the context of Dr. Stephen Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Covey's use of the term is used for priority management. IE things within your circle of influence are things you can control and things the things you cannot control are outside. This article will use the term differently and with no relation to Covey's brilliant model of priority management. This article is in reference to the people in your life that have the power to influence your thoughts, your decisions, and your behaviors. *
Surrounding yourself with the right people and creating a positive circle of influence will make a huge difference in your self improvement journey. The reason for this is that humans are highly social and tribal creatures. We are almost completely reliant on others for our survival and most of our behavior comes from things that we learn from the people that surround us and, although there are exceptions, we tend to be products of our environment. Fill your environment will negative condescending people and you'll likely become negative and condescending. Surround yourself with happy and successful people and you'll almost certainly be more happy and successful.
All humans have an uncanny ability to read very subtle nuances in body language, eye movements, and vocal tonality. In fact, only 7% of our communication comes from the actual words we say! So, the old adage "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." isn't very good advice because chances are you're giving away your thoughts before you even open your mouth! You've also probably noticed that it's not too hard to figure out whether another person is angry, sad, joyful, or tired just by the expression on their face.
At the same time we are reading and conveying social cues we mimic and integrate cues from other people. When somebody laughs we tend to laugh with them, if the driver next to us scowls we tend to scowl in kind. If you spend a lot of time with somebody that constantly expresses bitterness and anger you will start to mimic their movements and their gestures; over time these actions will make YOU more angry and bitter.
Essentially, empathy is the ability to feel what another person feels. When the actor on the movie screen is sad and crying you might relate to him and you might even shed a tear or two as well. It is because of empathy that humans bond with each other, get into passionate arguments, and feel attraction. Because emotions are contagious and we do not experience things independent of other people it is absolutely crucial that we surround ourselves with as many positive emotions as possible and also to make a habit of contributing good emotions to our circle of influence.
Because we are so interconnected with each other, we learn the good feeling of acceptance at a very early age. Ultimately, the drive to gain approval from others and to be accepted into a peer group can do a lot of psychological damage; however, the drive for social acceptance is part of our psyche and it while it can be a double edge sword it is something that is supposed to help you. Suffice to say, everyone has a deeply ingrained need to feel loved and be accepted. It is because of the deep seeded need for acceptance that you will want to build your circle of influence with people that don't have a lot of negative habits. Drug addicts are most accepted by other drug addicts, perpetual gossipers have to have somebody to gossip with, and violent people will always be accepted by another violent person looking to fight and make drama. Try to surround yourself with 1) non-judgmental people that will accept you for who you are and 2) will not withdrawal their acceptance of you if you do not cave to their negative influence or habits.At the end of the day you absolutely choose your circle of influence with a lot of care. You need to cut the negative people out of your life and surround yourself with positive and motivated people. At the same time, you must make a point to not alienate all of your friends, family, co-workers. Ultimately, the key to surrounding yourself with greatness is to be the type of person that makes others great!