When you were a kid, did you ever have friends your parents didn’t approve of? Most of us did. It never seemed fair because our parents didn’t really know them like we did, right? And we thought they were fun kids to hang out with. So why were Mom and Dad so worked up about us being friends with them?

It’s probably because our parents knew what we didn’t: that the people we associate with can have a big impact on our own behavior and attitudes. Now that I’m all grown up and have kids of my own, I see how right they were to worry. Isn’t it funny how our parents get smarter as we get older?

The importance of choosing who you surround yourself with is huge. If you surround yourself with positive people, their upbeat energy will rub off on you. If you choose to hang out with negative people who complain all the time, you’ll soon find them pulling you down with them. While we never consciously decide to be just like our friends and business associates, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Before we realize it, we’re mimicking their behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. And because it happens over a period of time, we often don’t even notice it unless someone else points it out to us.

Remember your parents talking about peer pressure when you were in junior high? Similar concept. Same results.

The late, great Jim Rohn, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, put it this way: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Since he passed away in 2009 with an estimated net worth of over $500 million, I’m inclined to think he might have known what he was talking about. You don’t amass a fortune that size by hanging out with naysayers and handwringers.

Think about it for a minute. Who do you spend the most time with? Do you have friends who lift your spirits, help you think creatively, or are in a great mood every time you see them? Those are the people you want to spend time with. They’re the ones you want to seek out more of, the ones who will support you, encourage you, and who are going places themselves. They provide inspiration and motivation — two traits that will take you a long way on the path to reaching your goals. And because they’re on their own positive journey, they’ll have plenty of support and encouragement to offer you along the way.

“Friends” who bring your mood down or fill your life with negativity or drama will eventually have an impact on your attitude and belief system. If they exhibit jealousy when you share a success with them, they’ll erode your happiness and confidence. If they’re continually caught up in negative drama in their own life, it’ll bleed out into yours. If they always have their hand out, helping becomes enabling, and that’s a vicious cycle to get caught up in. It can swallow you whole if you don’t see it coming.

I realize it’s not always possible to choose who you associate with, especially in the business world. I mean…your coworkers are the people you have to work with; you don’t usually get to choose those people. But you can keep your emotional distance from them and keep the relationship strictly businesslike when dealing with them. Holding energy vampires at bay — those people who suck the life out of your soul — insulates you from their negative habits and attitudes in the workplace, allowing you to carry on with what needs to get done. And that makes you a better employee.

Make a list of the five people you spend the most time with and take a good, long look at it. If there are people there that don’t make you feel good, start spending less time with them. Then start looking for other people to fill their spot on your list, people who are happy, upbeat, and spark creativity and a positive mental attitude. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!