Your Reality is Negotiable

Have you ever heard someone say something limiting about himself or herself that just sounds ridiculous and shortsighted?

“I wish I could get in shape, but I don’t have the time.”

“I’d love to travel more, but it’s too expensive.”

“I want to get out of debt but I don’t make enough money.”

To the person making the statement, these thoughts might seem completely true. Some people really think they don’t have time to get in shape, or that travel is cost prohibitive unless you’re rich, or that debt-free living is only for people who make a certain amount of money.

To others, these are obviously just weak excuses. Maybe you read the above and knew better.

But no matter who you are, and how easily you can recognize the weak excuses of others, you’re never without your own self-limiting beliefs. Some of your beliefs probably even seem like silly excuses or uninformed points of view to others who have more informed views of the subjects than you.

We all live in our own realities.

Where do these self-imposed limits and beliefs come from?

What we believe is possible for ourselves, who we can be, what we can achieve, what we deserve, is largely determined by how we were raised, who we spend time with, and the community we’re surrounded by.

Maybe you’ve heard this quote from Jim Rohn:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Think about who you spend time with the most. Is how you see yourself influenced by what those people believe and what they have achieved and aspire to?

Now think about your limiting beliefs.

What do you accept as being out of reach in your life?

How do the people you spend time with contribute to those beliefs?

It’s not just your closest friends who influence how you see yourself and what you accept as reality. Your surroundings, your media influences and the status quo you’re surrounded by all have a big impact as well.

If you’re surrounded by unhappy, out of shape, in-debt people, whether they’re close friends or simply your community or co-workers, guess what you’re likely to be as well?

Make a Breakthrough

Here are two ways to make a breakthrough in your life.

Being surrounded by people who have broader, more enlightened and ambitious views of themselves and life is one way to change your own reality.

Another way is to look yourself in the eye, admit that you’re capable of much more than you’ve accepted for yourself and force yourself into a period of discomfort. If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. To change your life, you have to embrace being uncomfortable regularly.

The good news is, we’re all capable of these voluntary adjustments of reality. These moments of clarity are opportunities and gifts, but they shouldn’t be relied on for all the progress you hope to make in your life.

You have to use these moments of clarity to make changes that will give your not-so-bold self a safety net. While you’re ready to change your life, you should devote part of that energy to tackling your challenges head-on, but you should also use some of that energy to change your surroundings and influences.

The trick is to upgrade your surroundings so you’ll be better off the next time you find yourself accepting your surroundings as your reality.

Make new friends, change jobs, move to a new place, start reading new books or blogs, find a mentor, stop watching so much junk TV, stop hanging out with the negative nellies in your life, and start doing more things that make you come alive.

Try creating a formal support group or mastermind group with people who are also experiencing a moment of clarity. Bond together in pursuit of a common goal: to mold your reality as you want it to be.

It’s true, you might be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, and you’re likely to live a life much like your colleagues and people in your community. The good news is that you can change your surroundings.

Stop saying “gee I wish I could…

Why can’t you?

Your reality is negotiable.

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  • Steve

    I agree totally, Corbett. Your reality is negotiable. Your reality is a composite of your beliefs, thoughts and actions. If you’re unhappy with your reality, then you have to change those three things!

    That doesn’t mean that it’s easy! As you said, you have to force yourself into a period of discomfort. If you don’t, if you always take the easy way, then nothing happens, nothing changes!

    Change your beliefs, thoughts and actions and your reality changes with them!

  • Rick Mulready

    Very well timed post for me, Corbett. Thank you for this. I keep hearing the “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” quote but it particularly resonated within this article for me today. It’s so easy to get caught up in one’s day-to-day and not be able to step “outside” to see the true realities of what’s going on. You nailed it…we are the only ones who can change our own reality and happiness. Thanks again -

    • Corbett

      Cheers Rick, always happy to time a post well ;)

  • Trent

    How appropriate, I’m actually working on a post on my blog about the nature of reality!

    I think you’re right, conceiving of your habits, environment, situation, and personality as malleable things that can be changed with enough effort is a huge and valuable shift in thinking. At least, it was for me.

    • Corbett

      Cool Trent, send me a link to that new post when it’s ready.

  • Kristal

    Well said. Real friends are the people that will call you out when you say those B.S. excuses and hold you accountable in your life to what you’ve promised yourself you would be. Surround yourself with as many real friends as you can.

  • Neil

    Corbett- Just recently I started quantifying my life. I started a spreadsheet called “my numbers.” Going with the principle that “what gets measured improves,” I made a list of life numbers, not just income, but things like “days of sobriety,” public speeches, group leads, business lunches, sabbatical savings. I’m doing my best to have goals, but remain detached and keep these numbers light a fun. When you let the pressure off yourself, and yet keep moving toward your goals, I feel there is a freeing affect. I’ll let you know how it goes. A couple of my goals have to do with growing my online hyper-local arts & entertainment publications. I live in Dallas currently (see the signature), but my goal is to monetize several city-based blogs. Currently, we’re getting 21k visitors a month and my goal is to reach 50k a month by the end of the year. Your posts are inspiring to me because one of my other major goals is to take a year-long sabbatical and work as a location-independent online marketer. Keep up the great work!

    • Corbett

      Hey Neil! I’ve tried similar approaches to measuring my life & goals. I like to keep a list of categories of things that are important to me (health, friends, work, intellect, fun, wealth, etc.), and reflect on what I’m doing to better each category periodically. I don’t have specific goals anymore (thanks to Leo Babauta for the “ungoals” mindset), but I like to think about different areas to make sure I’m balanced. I’ve found that when I get obsessed with one area too much (usually work), I usually run into a period of unhappiness.

      Congrats on your progress with the website, it sounds like you have something figured out!

  • Daniel Sparks

    I needed this post. Sometimes we leave ourselves in a siphon. We know it is a siphon, sucking our blood from us. But we stay right there. As you said, we need to upgrade our surroundings and make ourselves uncomfortable.

  • Chris Nadeau

    Awesome stuff Corbett! I agree, to many people find ways to stop from becoming their greatest selves. We should push ourselves outside of our safe harbour, you just never know. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kris

    Yes it is, thanks for the reminder, and for the tips. My biggest challenge has not been to understand this, but to implement the right changes.

  • Wilson

    Dude you scare me sometimes. I little personal story. Last night I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up watching “the pixar story” and it made me think about this. How we can really do whatever we want.

    You want to draw all your life?…no I’ll be a starving artist. Uhhh… no you can really make a living if you want.

    You want to drive cars fast every weekend?…how can I afford a race car. Uhhh…get a team and sponsorships and learn how to drive a car fast well.

    You’re so flippin right man thanks for the tips.

    • Corbett

      I’m in your head Wilson, don’t try to deny it ;)

  • Marc Luber

    Hey Corbett – this is great. As a recruiter, I’d be exposed to people’s self-imposed limits in almost every candidate phone call I’d make. What always amazed me was the number of people who, after some discussion, would have that Moment of Clarity yet still have something blocking them from using their energy to change their surroundings and influences. I’d often hear how it’s easier to deal with “the devil I know.” It was like they’d been beaten down to submission! I’d sometimes resort to a Presidential campaign commercial. “Look 4 years into the future. Do you want 4 more years of this?” If they’d at least meet me for coffee at that point, I’d at least have the opportunity to try and empower them, regardless of whether I was going to connect them to my clients.

    • Corbett

      I’ll bet it’s especially frustrating in situations where you’re talking to people about their futures all the time. Wait, I guess that includes me as well ;)

  • Chris Stott

    This is exactly why I need to stop talking about quitting my job to run my own business and to start doing it.

    Also, why I need a better peer group!

    • Corbett

      Peer groups are definitely important. You can maintain different peer groups for different reasons though, so don’t dump your friends just because they’re not trying to start a business. Keep them for the meaningful relationships they provide, but venture out and find new groups to support you in different areas of your life. That’s what works for me, at least.

  • Mike Hirst

    This is one of the absolute best posts I’ve read in a long time Corbett! I was just listening to your interview on Pat Flynn’s podcast and then saw you post this on Google+. You’ve just made a fan in me. Thanks for speaking your heart and doing what you do! I’ll be listening.

    • Corbett

      Fantastic! I’m glad this one struck a chord. Thanks for letting me know Mike.

  • Denise

    YES, I agree with that Jim Rohn quote and I’ve experienced it! I didn’t even know there was another/better way of looking at things until I started connecting with people that have a better way of looking at things. It’s amazing how easy it is to get stuck in a way of thinking simply because that’s what is directly in front of us. Sometimes (when we’re very young) we have no choice and at the time, that’s all we know. I’m still working on changing some of my “surroundings”, but fortunately I’ve gained some clarity that is allowing me to continue to move forward in the right direction.

    Great post.

  • Sherri

    Love, love, love this post. This type of clarity, motivation and insight come in very handy on those days where you wonder what you’re doing or how you are going to accomplish everything rolling around in your head. Thanks for the perspective and reality check!

  • Kurt Swann


    Agree . . . I like to use biographies to expand the people I “spend the most time with.” In that way, I can be inspired by people who aren’t alive anymore or people I might never meet otherwise. Just read a book about Robert Manry, who sailed a 13.5′ boat alone across the Atlantic in 1965. I’m not a sailor but it was an amazing, inspiring story.



    • Corbett

      Sailing stories can really put your own struggles in perspective, can’t they? Check out Bernard Moitissier if you want some more epic tales of the sea, with a little philosophy thrown in.

  • Rasheed Hooda

    As always, I find things that are relevant to me at the time. Just this morning I made the list of five people I want to spend more time with in the coming months to improve my condition and here is your post talking about the same.

    You always have what you need when you need it.


    • Corbett

      Great timing! Good luck with the new friends.

  •!/jasper_wt Jasper Bardo

    “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

    Man, every time I come across that quote it make my skin crawl. I guess that’s saying something.

    I think reading blogs like this (and Kurt Swann’s comment above about biographies) are a necessary way to “spend time” with better influences.

  • Yvy Capponi

    By changing the way I see things, my surroundings has changed for the better !
    I’m spending my time with people I love, meeting wonderful beings and being able to work with my art.
    Thanks Corbett for being one of those people !

    Namaste !

  • Ana | Traffic Generation

    Great post as always, Corbett. It is so easy to start buying into other people’s views and losing touch with our own realities. Being grateful is a great way to stay in touch with reality, as is breaking away from the mundane things that bog us down.

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  • Laurie T. Rosenfeld, JD,MA | Transformative Change Partner

    Corbett, this is a great post! Who we surround ourselves with makes all the difference in the world. Emotions are contagious. And being surrounded by people with a “yes, and…” mindset can actually affect our brain chemistry. Our limiting beliefs run deep, so surrounding ourselves with supportive people is a powerful place to start. Thanks!!

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  • Armand Polanski

    Hey Corbett,

    They also say that your potential for wealth is equal to the 5 people you are usually with.

    Whether we like it or not, this is very true. The people around you is partly responsible of the extent that we can grow, they push up or sometimes pull us down.

    This is why we see entrepreneurs hang out with entrepreneurs in social gatherings, and vice versa.

    Thank you for the Nice Post.

  • Jaemin Yi

    Truth right here. And I’ve found myself thinking a lot about that Jim Rohn quote over the past few months.

    I love my friends but I realize that I think and approach life very differently from most of them. Us lifestyle-designers/entrepreneurs/digital-nomads/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, really do construct our reality in such a different way then most of the 9-to-5 people I know.

    That’s actually one of the main reasons I started up my own blog. I want to put my views and thoughts out there with the hope that it’d help me connect with other like-minded people. Thanks for the reminder that this is a goal worth pursuing.

    Oh btw, if you check my blog, you might notice that it was greatly influenced by the last version of your blog. Thanks for the inspiration and giving me the training wheels to just start something quick. I promise you, once I start figuring out my own USP, I’ll branch out and do my own thing, 100% Jaemin ;)

  • Tamsin@nudgeme

    Nice post Corbett. First time I’ve commented here. Although I think it’s true that hanging out with more positive ‘yes’ types of people can impact beliefs, I don’t think you have to ‘upgrade your surroundings so you’ll be better off the next time you find yourself accepting your surroundings as your reality’, I think it’s more a case of upgrading our thoughts. Our thoughts create how we experience our reality, so if you upgrade your (internal) thoughts it doesn’t much matter what your (external) surroundings are.

  • Sean Cox

    Very helpful thoughts, Corbett. Yes, we must be vigilant–HYPER-vigilant even– about who we allow into our space, who we make connections to, who we listen to, who we give permission to speak into our lives. Are the people we are surrounding ourselves with a force for making us better? If not better, then what?

    “Your reality is negotiable”–I love that. Thank you.

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  • Ashley

    Hi there!
    Great article – your reality is negotiable is a great phrase :)
    It’s amazing to go even deeper on this topic and ask where these self-limiting beleifs are coming from and why they are so deeply ingrained in everything we see and do. Why do we choose to hang around certain people, is it because they back up our beliefs?
    Everyone has their own realities and cannot see or understand other people’s because many concepts just don’t exist in their world. So the term seeing something from another point of view takes on a whole new meaning…we are now really openning our minds to what another person or the ultimate observer is seeing with or without judgement. If you can get to this place, what a remarkable place to make decisions from.
    As a coach, my job is to provide an alternate point of view, and it is amazing to see how people can get so caught up in the everyday that their reality is only what is in from of them. This is my favourite part, to say…ok well, what about this?
    Great article again:)

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  • Galen Pearl

    One thing I was struck by in your post is the power of language. We can speak our limitations or our greatest destiny.

  • David Hamilton | Everlution

    Here here. I like to think of the paradox learn to be comfortable, being uncomfortable. The more I learn to live in paradox the easier it is to bend my reality, while at the same time going with the flow and accepting what is, right now!

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