I recently read an article that convinced me that in the next five years a person will become a conglomerate of the people they hang out with. Perhaps you’ve heard this before?
You become over time the average of your five closest friends.
The article said that more important than food and exercise, more important than what we read or what we watch on television, our friends are the most influential force in determining the kind of people we will become. In other words, hang out with cynics and you’ll become a cynic. Hang out with cheaters and you’ll become one, too. On the other hand, hang out with people who are wise in relationships and you’ll soon find yourself a social ninja.
Friends love you at your worst and can help you be your best, but I think many of us don’t realise the importance of whom we choose to surround ourselves with and the impact that has on our lives.
Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.
So what now? How do we handle our friendships in a way that will make the future brighter? Here are 3 basic ideas:
1. Take a Social Inventory
Recently I was thinking about this and I did an exercise which really has been quite significant for me. I took a large piece of paper and drew a circle in the middle. I put my name in the circle and then drew lines coming from the centre circle to create other circles in which I wrote the names of the people closest to me. Psychologists actually have a name for this – they call it the “social atom” – and claim it can help us determine our social health. Once I finished my social atom, I asked myself some tough questions:
- How many of these relationships can I realistically maintain?
- Which relationships are good for me, and which aren’t?
- Which relationships do I need to pursue for my own health and happiness?
- Which relationships do I feel God is nudging me to pursue?
I decided when spending my time, I would manage my relationships the same way I managed my diet or my finances – I’d start making smarter decisions.
Because the truth is relationships are all heading somewhere. They are alive and they are changing us. And if somebody doesn’t take the wheel and decide where the car is going and who’s in it, you’re risking your character and personality on “chance” that could cost you a meaningful life. When it comes to friendship, be intentional – don’t just wait for friends to fall into your lap. Pursue them. Surround yourself with friends who have the characteristics you’d like to develop in yourself. After all, your closest friends are who you’re becoming.
2. Be Present
Whether we like it or not, social media has redefined friendship. And more and more we have become obsessed with what people think of our online image. It’s not that Facebook or Twitter are bad things, it’s just that social media should always supplement relationships, not replace them.
So commit to developing your friendships face to face, not thumbs to thumbs.
Presence matters. There is power in physical presence. Comfort and compassion can only really be conveyed by physical presence. Of course, this is far more difficult and demanding, but it is also far more meaningful.
Being present means establishing a habit of availability to others – that is it is something we choose to do, and practice doing. So choose to be present.
3. Be Open
Being “open” can mean many things, but for me, in terms of approaching friendships, being open is about being vulnerable with those around you and telling people the truth behind what’s really going on in your life. Brené Brown, an expert on vulnerability, says that while “we may impress people with our strengths, we connect with people through our weaknesses.”
Being open means being brave enough to take off the mask and ask for help when you need it most.