As I mentioned in my The Fear Of Criticism article, one of the reasons behind my fear of criticism was that my goals were completely different to anything that anybody around me was doing. So I decided to find and associate with positive like-minded people that had similar goals, while at the same time limiting my association with overly negative people.
Regrettably, (with few exceptions) my hometown isn't exactly filled with positive success orientated people. So increasing my association with like-minded people has been challenging. Nevertheless, where there's a will there's a way; and although I've been hard pressed to find positive associations in the flesh, there are plenty of inspiring and positive people online.
There's an old saying “you are what you eat”; well in the same fashion I think that you become more like the people you spend the most time with. As I wrote in my Tortoise And The Hare article, there are no insignificant actions in the eyes of time, since even the smallest of actions can yield huge changes when repeated consistently. Well I believe it's the same with associations. The people I spend the most time with won't necessarily influence me much today, but given enough time their influence can affect my beliefs and behaviours drastically. Also, because these changes are so subtle, they can travel under the radar of my awareness and impact my behaviour without me even realising.
I think of myself as a determined person with strong convictions, however, with enough time even the gentlest of ocean waves can erode the most solid of rocks. It's a gradual process that can take months or even years before it becomes apparent. All the same, associations can erode and reshape beliefs and behaviours slowly and subtly over time. I'm always vigilant about how much time I spend with certain people. I don't have any comprehensive rules – i tend to act on this instinctively because of my own mindset; so I just make a habit of limiting my association with negative, moaning, bigoted and malicious people. Along with increasing the amount of time I spend with positive, uplifting, like-minded and high-spirited people. However, before you blurt out "well that's obvious", i seriously recommend taking some time to become aware of the people YOU spend the majority of your time with – it may be a real eye-opener.