Renowned author and speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The people around you are the biggest influence on your behavior, attitude and results. Those around you can elevate you or bring you down. That’s why it’s essential to surround yourself with people who challenge you and can help make you better.

Brittany Hodak, a speaker and co-founder of The Superfan Company, says that whether we realize it or not, we face implicit pressures to think and act like those around us. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Hodak’s tips for surrounding yourself with people who challenge you.

1. Get in on group exercise. However you like to work out, you’ll get more out of it if you exercise with a group. Research published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that, unlike individual exercise, working out with others decreases stress by 26 percent while significantly elevating quality of life. Group classes also create an external source of accountability while teaching members new exercise moves. Hodak suggests checking out group fitness apps such as Gixo or inviting people to the Apple Activity app and making a game out of your health goals. She says it’s important to find a way to create a supportive group that will help challenge and push you to achieve something greater.

2. Join a mastermind group. No matter how tough your job seems, you’re not challenging yourself if you’re spending all your professional time around the same people. Attending conferences can be a short-term solution, as can after-work meetups. Rarely, though, does either setting provide deep enough interactions to facilitate meaningful growth. Instead, Hodak recommends looking for a mastermind group. Although many cater to corporate CEOs, not all of them do. No matter your background or role, you need exposure to those outside of your organization in order to advance.

3. Find a creative community. Hodak says that contrary to the myth of the creative genius, creativity can be trained like any other skill. Although you might find the creative network you need at a nearby meetup, don’t prioritize proximity over specificity to your craft. For obscure interests, you’re likely to find the most vibrant creative community online.

4. Put the “social” back in social networking. For many busy professionals, social hour has become social media hour. Although the occasional Facebook session won’t likely hurt you (and can actually help if you’re following the kind of people you aspire to emulate), studies have linked social media overuse to depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, hyperactivity and sleep disturbances. In contrast, frequent in-person socializers enjoy lower risk of stroke, a stronger immune system and improved memory.

Regardless of what you aspire to do or achieve, you need the right network to make it happen. Your network matters. You might as well put it to good use.

Source: Brittany Hodak is co-founder of The Superfan Company, an entertainment agency that helps brands and celebrities identify, engage and retain their most important customers.