The single most important thing to work upon to bring about a change in your life is the association you keep. A Mexican proverb says “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Our views in life comes from our social circles. We get influenced by the association we keep. People, objects or books we associate with induce ideas in our mind. We form a conception in our mind, build the walls of reasoning to defend it and cement it with repeated identification with that conception. This conception leads us towards certain habits, values and lifestyle. All of this happens based on the association we keep.
Let us take an example: if you associate with the drunkards, soon you will get influenced by them. First you may consider them abnormal and neglect them. With repeated association of drunkards however, you may feel they are not so bad. Later you may consider that after all drinking is not so bad – if it is done in limits. Even later, due to continued association with them, you may start considering that you are missing much fun because you are not drinking. Then because of repeatedly being pressed, you may start your ‘career’ in drinking, with a peg of wine. If you continue further in their association, soon you will become like them – addicted. Every drunkard starts his habit of drinking in a similar way.
I gave you an example of drinking alcohol, but the same applies to any habit – good or bad. We pick our habits from the people around us. If your friends are focused in their goal of studies, they will help you concentrate; otherwise your friends will divert you. To bring out your good potential, it is important therefore, that you keep association with selective virtuous students. Therefore, George Washington, once said, “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”
Thus, you should be very careful in defining your friend circle. You should keep a small circle of friends, may be two or three, who are of good character, noble, and virtuous. You may know a lot of people; you may often talk to them, study with them, work with them or play with them; however you don’t have to take their association.
Association means that you open your heart and accept the ideas and desires of the other people and allow them to influence yours. You should not form your ideas based on the popular opinions floated on social media or newspapers or internet websites – they are superficial and imperfect sources. You should form your opinions based on the perfect source of knowledge – The Wisdom Literatures.
A word of advice is necessary: At the juncture of life when you are changing your social circle it becomes of paramount importance to keep this principle of association. A student may go out of his native town for studying in a college or you may have to relocate yourself due to change of job. At this time if you don’t select your friends carefully then you will be driven into the direction pursued by your new fellow mates. That is why, before making close bonds of friendship with anyone – test their character.
Since, I spoke of friendship, I must mention that you always have one close friend (! guess who?) Of course, God! He is your heart-to-heart friend who never leaves you. If you cultivate a firm relationship with God through the means of devotion then you will never feel lonely. He will always guide you on the path of virtue.