Why do people behave the way they do, say the things they say, and experience the results in their life that they do? Have you ever asked yourself that question? You may even be asking it about yourself. I know I did. How can there be people experiencing incredible joy, purpose, and abundance, yet others spiral into misery, loneliness, and lack? These are interesting questions to ponder, but even more important to answer. In my mind, the answer is association.

I have been reaching out to some people, over the last seven days, I haven’t spoken to for a while. It is great to reconnect with some wonderful people, however, what is disturbing is that many of them are experiencing some dark times. Many have been significantly affected by the craziness of the last couple of years in the world. Then on the other hand, there are people I am speaking to who seem to be thriving and loving life. As I do, I want to try to understand the difference in perspective of people leading to the two types of responses and outcomes they are experiencing.

I used the word ‘perspective’ as the difference in responses and outcomes because everyone has gone through the same ‘stuff’. We have all been impacted by COVID. The whole world has been rocked by the war and resulting suffering in the Ukraine. We are all having to negotiate rising cost of living and a very unstable economy. All Australians have to deal with crazy and unseasonal extremes in weather. That being the case, the only difference in how we respond to the same situation must be perspective. The question then is, what will have the greatest impact on our perspective to help us thrive rather than dive? Again, in my mind, the answer is association.

I know that when I am alone, which has been the majority of the time over the last few years, my mind will often take me into dark places. After my marriage ended, my mind told me I wasn’t capable of loving or worthy of being loved. After I lost work and money during COVID, my mind tried to convince me I was a victim. When my business plateaued, my mind wanted to persuade me to give up because I am not good enough. My mind, as can yours, be my worst enemy, so I am grateful I didn’t stay with myself for long. Instead, I tapped into communities that would help give me a different perspective.

The bottom-line is that we become like the people we associate with the most. That is either amazing news, or the worst news possible, it all depends on who you are spending your time with. The best news is that it can change in a heartbeat if you want it to. For me, I now know after many years of struggling, anxiety, and self-loathing, I need to be with people who love me unconditionally, support me, encourage me, guide me, and most importantly, push me to be better. The answer for me was and still is association. I am telling you this now because I want you to know there are people out there, including me, who want you to be happy, on purpose, healthy, and successful in life, whatever that looks like for you. You just need to spend more time with them.

On Friday evening just gone, I went to a re-union for the professional football club I played with back in the 80’s. It was an amazing night and wonderful to re-connect with some incredible people who helped me, from an early age, to believe in myself. I was 16 years old when I started at the St Kilda Football Club, and I had lots of doubt about my ability to play sport at the highest level in the country. It was the seven years I spent with these people: players, coaches, support staff, and supporters who encouraged me, guided me, and even harassed me to be the best I could be. I couldn’t be more grateful for this association I fell into at such an impressionable age. It has helped me in every area of my life, ever since.

Like most people, I haven’t gotten through the last few years unscathed. I am, however, more grateful, more optimistic, and have more belief in myself than ever. How and why? You may ask. The answer is association. I am part of a wonderful church community I see every week. Every day I have a relationship and a conversation with a God who loves, protects, and guides me. I am part of a business group that is more like my family, who help me see things differently and believe more in myself. I speak on the phone every morning, Monday to Friday, with my mentor who helps me start every day on the right foot. It is these people, these communities, and these associations that have helped me the most. The answer is most definitely association.

In my podcast this week called What’s your story?, Desmond Dixon discusses his early experiences living in poverty and how the beliefs he had adversely affected every area of his life. He then talks about the transformation that occurred when he started to hang out with the right crowd. Please listen to this podcast, and please take the time to assess the people you are associating with and ask yourself this question: If I continue to spend time with these people, how will my life look in the next five years, ten years, and beyond? This is a critical question to ask, and answer. As I have already mentioned several times in this blog, your life can change direction in a heartbeat, and trust me on this, the answer to it is most definitely association.