Before You Break Up with All Your Friends, Read This
I gaped at the self-help listicle, meanwhile shoveling okra and Brussels sprouts with rice into my orifice. (Yes, I am as geeky about vegetables as I am personal development.)
Every item on the list was like a summer breeze patting my shoulder. I could bask in the reminder that said, “You’re on the right track, keep going!”
Except for one glaring deficiency in my hopes for ascension, made obvious as a bruise on my cheek by the author’s direct style.
I’d heard it before:
Your social surroundings toggle your fate. You’re the mean of the 7.23 people you contact most. Choose your friends sagaciously.
If you want to swim, stop chillaxing with the land animals and start befriending the humpback whales and the manatees and the zebra turkeyfishes.
Okay, so maybe that’s not how the expressions go…
But the point is, I’ve been feeling a gap in my friendship life for some time now. The honest truth is that I yearn for more high-achieving friends.
Ask yourself what you really want.
What I really want is to make a creative difference in the world.
I want to be a disciplined, ambitious, and fun-loving altruist who puts out positive messages that reach large numbers of people. Who finds effective ways to nudge the course of humanity towards kindness and health — while enjoying my own life all the more.
I want to be a force, and I want to have a blast being it.
I don’t just want to be a nice person who people say is sweet, who works a humdrum job, who’s a mediocre follower and never much of a leader, and who occasionally says something insightful on facebook.
Don’t you find that when nobody around you is thinking big or reaching for the stars, it’s harder to aspire?
A problem I’ve had — which you can avoid…
I’ve wanted to just run away from all my friends — my wonderful, supportive, beautiful, fascinating, admirable, human, never-been-in-the-Huffington-Post friends.
Despite all the glorious high points in our friendships, my boredom and weariness built because of feeling mired in my own mediocrity. Eventually, my flight response was in overdrive. I started ignoring my friends.
I knew better than that though. Though ambition might be my sole lust in certain moments, there are other times I crave and lean on the comfort of true long-term friendships.
Have you ever been flighty with your friends because of secretly desiring more ambitious or successful companions?
If so, here’s how I’m reframing the issue. As a result of this reframing, I’m finding more peace and excitement in my human relationships again.
Give your friends a chance; they may rise to a new level with you.
Challenge your existing friends by being your ambitious self. Confide in them about your biggest goals. Let them hold you accountable.
Some of your friends may respond by revealing their own ambitious streaks. The quality of your conversations may change.
Maybe you were getting tired of the small talk and sympathizing with each other’s struggles. Suddenly, you’re focusing on the bigger picture of your lives. You’re sympathizing with each other’s successes. You’re celebrating the daily steps that you each take towards your #1 missions.
Don’t underestimate the influence you have over the people around you. The self that you bring to the table has a profound impact. You don’t have to wait till you have 100,000 followers to set the tone and be more of a leader.
When friends respond well to your honest ambitious self, ask them what their own biggest dream is. Something deep you can support them with. Challenge them to be realistic about what daily practice can get them there.
It turned out my friends weren’t the problem. I was.
Of course, other friends may shrink from seeing you becoming so passionate, determined, and focused on your particular goals. They might not resonate. And that’s okay.
In some relationships, this might not matter because of other mutual value you find in spending time together. For example, my family members will always be special to me. I don’t need for them to start jumping through the roof spluttering self-help affirmations while proudly displaying their vision boards.
But if a friendship feels like it’s fading after I divulge what an incorrigibly goal-obsessed person I tend to be, I’ll accept it. Instead of just drifting apart for no understandable reason, both the friend and I will understand that we were just growing in different directions.
Keep your roots, but grow new branches too.
The way to keep your roots but grow new branches too is to balance between talking to old friends and connecting with new people.
I had to stop making excuses for not messaging or calling my friends.
One of my excuses was that I end up in lengthy phone conversations. Our long friendship talks feel delightful, but it leaves less time for networking with new people. Also, I overthink text messages too much. (More evidence that the only person I need to change is myself.)
If you’re in a similar boat, try this: Spend 30 minutes with your existing friends, and 30 minutes with the new.
In 30 minutes, I might send uplifting texts, voice messages, or handwritten postcards to various people who may be wanting to hear from me — or I might call and catch up with a single friend or family member and let them I have 30 minutes to talk.
Once it’s complete, the next 30 minutes can be spent inviting new connections with people who match your lofty goals.
But how do you go about interacting with new people who are above your own level? Having nowhere to go during COVID-19 lockdown, the prospect of networking strictly online has felt daunting. I’ve procrastinated it.
For more clarity on what to do, I watched Vanessa Van Edward’s tips for online networking.
I saw that my action steps could include:
- Find a new group on social media. Start reading and commenting on other people’s shares. I can introduce myself, explaining my projects and the ways that I’m available to support my new peers.
- Think of people I’m already closely or loosely connected with who offer a stepping-stone to my goal. Start following their social channels and commenting. Ask for advice. Reach out graciously to explain my goals. They might connect me to people, groups, or resources.
- Identify people in my network who I think should know each other. Welcome them into groups where they belong. Connecting other people feels great and can lead others to do the same for you.
- Keep writing and sharing great content, holding in mind the people I wish to meet. Be on the lookout for new potential peers who show up in the comments!
So I would spend the second 30 minutes on endeavors like the above.
I don’t know that these are perfect steps, but they‘ve gotten me in motion. Finally I’m no longer just treading water. I‘m feeling the fresh social expansion in my life!
Because of this, it’s much easier to love being with my existing friends and to enjoy the present moment.
Experiment. Find the right balance between growing your roots (old, comforting friends) and growing your branches (new, challenging friends).
Level-up your friendships today.
In the end, it wasn’t my friends I needed to break up with.
I needed to break up with my own passivity. My helplessness. I was the person who needed to become more ambitious, more focused, more disciplined in how I approach relationships and everything else.
Level-up your friendships today. Figure out what’s been missing, and tap into your ambition. Bring more of who you really are to your existing friends. Support your friends’ goals with more loyalty and love than ever.
Meanwhile, identify action steps to invite new social connections that are compatible with your long-term dreams. Get moving.
Good luck, and best of friendship!