Life can be hard at times. But it can also be fun and enjoyable, even beautiful. I think it is safe to assume that if you’re reading this blog or listening to my podcast, you’re interested in improving your life. I believe that the foundation for doing this is differentiating between the things that we are in control of and what we aren’t in control of. There’s a lot of things we don’t have control over – who our parents are, our genetics, or what happens in the world around us.
One of the main things that we are in control of is who we choose to surround ourselves with. Our ability to choose our friends can greatly impact our lives and how we move through the world. Today, we’ll focus on how to choose friends who make our lives better.
So why are friends so important? They’re important for two main reasons. First, they’re there to enjoy life with. We get to share the beautiful aspects of life with people who we love, which can enrich our experiences. Second, our friends help us through the difficult times. Having friends to support us through hard times can make unimaginably difficult situations seem more tolerable.
The most beautiful part about pouring our time and energy into friendships is that not only do friends help enrich our lives, but we enrich theirs too! Friendships get us through the tough times in life, make things more fun and enjoyable, and all-around make our lives richer. I urge you to take stock of your friendships and ask yourself if those people build you up, or is there more to be desired?
As we explore friendships today, these are also inclusive of our partners. I believe that the foundation for any healthy relationship is friendship. So it’s important to group our romantic partners into this conversation too.
So, where do we find friends? This might sound silly, but finding friends isn’t always as easy as you might think. When I first moved to California for my Ph.D., I didn’t have any friends out here. There were quite a few people in my program that I enjoyed spending time with. But, towards the end of school, they became very busy and couldn’t find the time to hang out with me anymore. Thankfully, through the help of a very good therapist, I learned that it was important to enjoy life and stop striving so hard. As a result, I learned how important it was to carve out time in my life for friends.
Unfortunately, the people I had dedicated time to thus far were achievement-oriented, and were pouring their time into work and not our friendships. This forced me to take stock of these friendships, and instead of giving up, I sought out other ways to form connections. I found a local hiking group with the hopes of meeting people with similar interests. During one of these hikes, I met Jim, one of my best friends to this day.
We became instant friends. We have continued to support each other over the years, and even more importantly, we always make time for one another. We both view the friendship as one that makes each other’s lives better, therefore it’s always worth the time and energy. The backbone of any successful friendship is one where both sides put in equal effort and support.
Both Jim and I were forced to put in more effort when he moved across the country to the East coast. Luckily, this hasn’t impacted our friendship. We talk all of the time and see each other several times a year. We make the relationship a priority and as a result, our friendship is alive and well. Like anything in life that is valuable to us, we must work at it and put time and effort into it.
Friendship is good for the soul. They add joy, pleasure, and support. The second part of the friendship discussion can be a difficult one – reassessing your current friendships and potentially moving on from friends who don’t add value to your life. Two of my best friends from high school went down different paths from me. We still keep in contact, but I don’t spend too much time with them anymore. The supporting, loving part of our relationship wasn’t there anymore, and it wasn’t worth my time and effort to cultivate a friendship that no longer added to my life.
This may be a story you can relate to. What I hope you take away from this blog is this – friendships take energy, time and commitment. And if you’re putting your time and energy into someone who isn’t enriching your life and giving you the support you need, it may be time to reevaluate that friendship.
If you find yourself in the market for friends (who isn’t?) I recommend you start by participating in things that you enjoy. This way you have the opportunity to connect with people who have similar interests. And once you’re there, take a risk! Talk to people, follow up with them, and put the time and energy into growing that friendship, even if it feels uncomfortable at first.
In many ways, the most important friendship in our lives is the one we have with our romantic partners. The first criteria we should look for in this partner is someone who is a good friend. They should be kind, positive, loving, and supportive. If we’re dating someone and they’re a jerk, it’s probably safe to assume that they’re not a good friend. To avoid this, I recommend seeking out someone who is a good friend first, i.e. before the romance and sexual stuff gets in the way.
When there are bumps in a friendship or a romantic relationship, it’s important to work through those tough times. The tricky part is that it will take two people to fix that issue. We can ask ourselves if we’re being a good friend to this person, but we cannot control our friend or our partner’s reaction to how we’re treating them. What we can control is choosing good friends and partners in the first place who we can trust will work through issues with us. That’s the key.
Friendships are critical to our happiness. We want to surround ourselves with people who we enjoy, provide us with unwavering support, and add joy and color to our lives. We may already have these people in our lives, and if so that’s wonderful, but if not, it’s never too late to foster new friendships that will make our lives even more beautiful.