Your Front Row and Your Five

Who gets access to your life? The short answer: not everyone. Why? I mean you are obviously amazing so why shouldn’t everyone get to experience your awesomeness firsthand? Why not let everyone in? 

The long(er) answer: Not everyone is worthy of access to your life. That may seem like a harsh or even combative assertion but it is true. You do not owe access to your life to anyone. Only to those you deem deserve that access and thus whom you let into your inner circle. Only those who earn the privilege to be close to you. Those who treat you with the love and respect that you deserve.

Your Front Row

The individuals that you allow to have close and most frequent access to your life are Your Front Row. In other words, they have a front row seat to the show, movie, or musical that is your life. They get to see the banner days when you start an exciting new job or move into a new home. They also get to see the up close and personal horrible, no good, very bad days when you are diagnosed with cancer, end a marriage, or lose a job. If your life is a musical, as I prefer to think mine is, Your Front Row is probably the ensemble that provides the chorus to your solos or duet songs. 

Your Front Row are the people you allow into the most important moments of your life, be those moments breathtakingly positive and exciting, or earth-shatteringly sad and tragic. Your Front Row likely shows up when you move as a baker’s dozen of my friends did when I moved five years ago. I’d packed and labeled the boxes but they showed up, helped load the moving truck, moved me across town, and unloaded everything…in 90 minutes flat. By late that afternoon, the beds were put together and made up with sheets, every kitchen box was unpacked and its contents put away, and the living even had art hung on its walls. Standing there in the midst of it all at the end of the day, I realized that it was one of the Top 5 days of my life. I’d not felt that loved and cared for in a very long time. 

Your Front Row is also there on the days that you grieve. Grieve the loss of a parent, a child, a job, a dream, or even when you simply think it’s time to give up hope. They hold your hand or wrap their arm snugly around your shoulder while you weep big, drippy wet tears as my friend Tina did one afternoon on the front step of her home as I grieved the loss of hope and the end of a relationship. 

Your Front Row is there when you worry – about your partner, your kids, family, or the whole of humanity (let’s face it – there’s been plenty to worry about there since the pandemic began). Your Front Row is a sounding board and hopefully a wealth of wisdom, depending on the topic. 

Support, Sometimes

Your Front Row is often there to provide you with support. To encourage you when you struggle. To help you up off the floor when you stumble. They are often there in the role of cheerleader.

While our Front Row is there for support, they should also be those who know us well enough to ask us the hard questions. The questions we may not want to hear, much less answer out loud. The questions that may help us decide whether it’s time to quit – a job, a relationship, a business, a project, or a long-pursued goal that is starting to undermine our well-being. Simply put, Your Front Row should be there to support you but also to challenge you when the situation calls for it.

Your Front Row is important and should be a well-chosen group of human beings. Get clear with yourself about who gets to be in Your Front Row for the fabulous story that is your life. Be choosy. People may come and go from your Front Row and that is okay. Expect that Front Row to ebb and flow a bit. Those changes in your Front Row can be important to your health, wealth, and happiness.  

Know what is even more important than Your Front Row?  Your Five.

Your Five

Author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss and others note that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Who are Your Five? Grab a piece of paper, your phone, or laptop, and jot down who those five are in your life right now. They don’t have to be people you see face-to-face. One of Your Five could be a family member or friend you connect with by phone or video chat on a regular basis. 

Your Five are even more critical influencers in your life than Your Front Row because they tend to get more of your time, energy, and attention. In other words, you invest more of your resources in them than you do in most others. Your Five hold a position in your world where they can build you up or tear you down, and do so more effectively and quickly than many others in your world. Their lives and activities can inspire you or discourage you. Your Five have a profound impact on your health, happiness, and trajectory in life. Be mindful about who Your Five are. Choose them with care.

Thoughtfully consider the five names that you jotted down a moment ago. Think about the last time you spent time with each of them. How did you feel afterward? Did you feel uplifted, encouraged, and energized? Or did you feel mentally and emotionally drained, discouraged, or frustrated? All of our friends have lousy days when they are in a funk or are processing bad news. Your Five are possibly more worthy of your support during those dark times than anyone else in your life. 

However, if you find yourself frequently leaving an interaction with one of Your Five (the five people you spend the most time with!) feeling depleted, in a bad mood, or angry for no apparent reason, it may be time to evaluate whether that individual should be part of Your Five. Maybe the person is constantly negative or (consciously or unconsciously) undermines you or interacts with you in a way that leads you to doubt yourself and your abilities. Moods and attitudes tend to be socially contagious. Do you want to become the negative, whiny, or angry person that you’ve realized is one of Your Five? I’m not suggesting that you remove them from your life. Rather you should consider managing (i.e., cutting back on) the time and energy they receive from you. Doing so may be essential to protecting your health, happiness, and successful pursuit of your goals. 

Bottom line: Not everyone deserves or has earned access to our lives, our one precious crazy amazing life. Be mindful of who you let into Your Front Row. Be even more careful — even strategic — about Your Five.  We become the people we spend the most time with. Don’t give away your time, energy, and attention to those who undermine you, but instead invest your resources in those who inspire you to strive harder and who will invest in you in return. 

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Merideth Thompson

Merideth Thompson, Ph.D., is an educator, author, and speaker, who empowers young women with the skills they need to live a happy, productive life. It is her goal to demystify dense academic studies and data for everyday people so that they can make informed decisions for themselves. 


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