One of the biggest determining factors for success in your life is something that’s often overlooked. No, it’s not how tall you are, how much money you have, where you went to school, or how much you weigh. It’s with whom you decide to spend your time. Who your friends are is one of the most influential factors to your successes (or failures) for the rest of your life.
I am not advocating for you to go slashing through your friends like a pile of dresses, telling many of them, “You no longer spark joy, thank you for your service.” However, taking a hard look at how (and on whom) you’re spending your energy and your most precious resource – your time – can transform your life.
This is less about sending some friends to the proverbial Goodwill store of life, and more about refocusing your time and attention on the people who help make you your best self.
From your income to your habits, your choices about your love life and your health, religion, politics, philosophies, even your career – the people with whom you choose to go through life have an outsized effect on every facet of your wellbeing. When you see a friend who is really striving and stretching her or himself, you can see yourself doing it too. When you’re surrounded by people sitting on the couch eating Cheetos, it’s hard to imagine anything different.
You know that you have some friends in your life who drag you down and others who push up and move you forward – it’s time to take a hard look at them, and yourself.
Before you can decide what friendships to foster, you have to figure out who YOU want to be
This just makes sense. You can’t figure out who you want to spend your time with if you can’t take a few minutes and figure out your own goals and priorities. Are you stuck in a rut you want out of? Are you moving forward but need to take it up to the next level? Some brutal self-analysis is needed before you can analyze outward toward others. Here are just a few of things I considered in my own process:
Evaluate who’s giving you the most
Once you’ve deeply looked at yourself, it’s a lot easier to look to the people around you. Who’s doing the kinds of things you want to stretch yourself to do, too? Who in your life feeds your goals and makes you feel supported? Which friends do you have, that when you walk away, you leave feeling more energized and which friends make you feel down and tired? With whom are you talking about ideas and not about people?
It’s important in this process to realize that sometimes the friends you need can and will push you – comfort and support are not the same thing. It’s ok to get a little uncomfortable and add or emphasize people to your life who can serve you some hard truths as long as you come out on the other side a bigger and fuller version of yourself.
Evaluate who’s costing you the most
Every friendship costs. If it’s money, time, your mental energy, or opportunity cost – that’s totally normal and okay. It’s not okay if you’re the only one giving, or if the gifts you provide to the relationship are completely one-sided. All relationships, friendship included, need to have appropriate levels of give-and-take to be sustainable and healthy.
This doesn’t mean, by the way, that when your friend gets sick, loses a job, or goes through something hard in life you should kick her to the curb because she’s costing you too much. The strongest friendships are forged in the midst of adversity.
You know the difference between the friend who somehow is constantly down on her luck (and it’s weirdly everyone else’s fault), who spends more time gossiping than talking about ideas, and who uses your kindness to manipulate you – and the friends who are good people, in a bad spot and need your help. There’s a big difference, and it will show itself over time if you’re not sure yet. Back away slowly from the first kind of friend and lean into the second.
Reevaluate and reconnect with people you’ve let go you want to reach out to
We all have friends we think of periodically and think “Gosh, she’s so cool – I wish I saw her more.” Write a list of them down – send an email or text to each. Reach out. The people you need are all around you, it’s just a matter of making the time, effort and space for them.
Reconnecting with people you admire and growing those deeper bonds won’t happen unless you make it happen. If you approach friendship methodically like you approach other parts of your life, it will up your game in all the other aspects of
There’s a misconception that friendship should always be easy. Sometimes it is. We all have people we’re closer to, where it seems to just come naturally. With others, it won’t necessarily be easy, but those friends that take some work can be just as valuable. It’s worth it to put some in some of yourself to find out.
Get honest with yourself about backing away
Once you start this analysis, it becomes clear pretty quickly who needs the “you’re not sparking joy, thank you for your service,” treatment. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that you actually have to say that. In fact, you don’t really need to say anything at all.
Unless you’re in a super tough spot, this doesn’t need to be a huge and dramatic shift. For instance, someone I’m very close to spent some time going to AA meetings and realized to be
Most friendships don’t necessitate the DTR, the “define the relationship” talk. Just become more selective about how you spend your time. If there are people who are dragging you down or merely facilitating your stagnation, use the limited resource of your time and energy on the people who are heading in the same direction as you.
Backing away slowly from people who are not aiding in your growth will create space for you to fill with people who help bring out the best version of yourself.
Maybe she’s just not that into you
Most of this piece is about evaluating what you want and need in a friend and seeking that out. Remember though, friendship is a two-way street. If someone you admire or are trying to reconnect with isn’t receptive, you can try again in a few months. However, don’t just assume that because you want to be friends with someone it’s reciprocated. Be okay with that. Not everyone has to like you.
One of the best ways to attract amazing friends is to work on yourself first. Be the kind of person others aspire to be friends with. It’s a process. Don’t take it too personally.
Practice the eternal rule of: Act like you’ve been there.
Break the routine
It seems like there are the big three of hanging out: coffee, drinks, lunch. Friendships can be fostered in so many other ways, too. Is one of your goals (like mine) to read more? Think of a friend who’s a bookworm and suggest you two read a book together to compare. Want to get in better shape? Ask someone to go to the rock climbing gym. Ask your brilliant writer friend to critique your work. See if the blogger who takes beautiful pictures will go out and shoot with you.
Just because there’s a rut of ways to hang out doesn’t mean you have to feed into it. I have one friend who was constantly posting comments on the Royals and I asked her to go get afternoon tea. It was
Communicate with people in their love language
When we did pre-marital counseling, one of the best suggestions my husband and I got was to read the love language book together. This book applies not just to marriages, but also to every relationship in
Learning how to express love and support for others outside of how you receive love and support is an important skill to have and you will learn new things about yourself in the process.
What things am I missing? What has worked for you? Please share and comment. Thanks! -K