Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker’s weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and how you can use its waters to reflect on and improve your life.
This week’s selection comes from Epictetus. He suggests we only hang around people who are positive influences in our lives:
“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” — The Art of Living : The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness, A New Interpretation by Sharon Lebell
What It Means
Epictetus believed you could only be your best if you surrounded yourself with people who drew it out. When he says “uplift”, he doesn’t necessarily mean being made happy, though. To be uplifted could mean something different to everyone. Same goes for “your best”. Basically, you shouldn’t spend time with anyone who will corrupt your virtues, undermine your happiness, or keep you from being effective — whatever that may mean to you.
What to Take From It
This advice is simple, yet difficult to apply in real life. We so often get caught up in social circles, workplace politics and societal obligations that it’s hard to determine sometimes if we even truly like the people we spend time with. Even worse is those people may be suppressing our best, or drawing out our worst.
Before you run off to your next meeting or gathering, ask yourself if those people bring out your best qualities. If you’re an intelligent thinker, do they challenge your mind? If you’re a creative type, do they push you to pursue your art? If you’re curious, do they present you with new perspectives on the world? If you’re a free spirit looking for adventure, do they seek it out with you or tie you down? Are you actually content to be around them?
Think about the things that uplift you as a person, the qualities that push you to be better, and seek those things out in others. Surround yourself with living catalysts who will push you to be the absolute greatest version of yourself. Every moment you spend with someone holding you back is a moment forever lost.