For most of us, this is haphazard; we randomly meet people at work, a bar, or during some other form of social activity, and then we choose these people as our close friends.
When we were children, it was based upon classmates, teammates, and the neighborhood in which we lived. As adults, it’s quite different. Making friends is less natural, and there are fewer opportunities. We tend to hold onto friendships we’ve had for a long time, perhaps in fear of loneliness if we don’t. Or perhaps because of acts of loyalty in the past that keep us loyal today.
Yet, the people with whom we spend our time ultimately dictate who we are and how we act. Our life goals, interests, hobbies, activity level, food intake, perspective, and health often correlate to an average of the 3–5 people with whom we spend the most time. So, it stands to argue that choosing our friends wisely may be one of the most important decisions we make.
Of course, the question remains: if we still like — or love — someone who is a negative influence upon us, what do we do to keep the relationship in check, but continue to grow?
The answer is simple: Shift focus, but don’t sever ties.
It’s perfectly ok to make a new friend, choose a new hobby, spend your time differently, and choose your own reality. True friends will be happy for you as they see you grow. In fact, you’ll be a leader in a relationship that is, perhaps, no longer healthy. By doing what’s ‘good’ for you, you’ll demonstrate positive life action, and you’ll likely inspire those around you to do the same.
If they choose not to grow, remain stuck in old habits, and possibly even resent you, give it time. The people who love you most in this world will love you no matter what. Consider this a litmus test for the strength of your relationship; if they decide to abandon your friendship, that’s their call, but that’s not what you’re doing.
You can still care, love, and feel compassionate. You can still want the best for your friend, but respect their choices. And you can always grow, for you have a choice: choose to grow or choose to decay; from now on, your health momentum is up to you.
One of the best things you can do for those you love is inspire positive change, while simultaneously accepting them for who they are, in this moment.
When it comes to family, the same ideas rings true, but the method is slightly different. It’s not possible to avoid contact with family, unless extreme measures are taken. Instead, think of yourself as a guide, and choose to spend your ‘free’ time doing what you love with those you love and by those you are most inspired. When it comes time to share your world with your family, and they ask you about your new interests, simply express what you’re up to in a non-judgmental way, and support them on their own journeys.
You see, your ‘journey’ is your decision. You get to spend your time any way you want, and your family is part of your journey. Side-by-side, you live your reality, and they live theirs. They are in your life for a reason, and you are in their lives for a reason.
By acting in accordance with who you are, at a gut level, you are supporting your family’s journey. How they decide to react is up to them, the same as you. Along the way, it’s my hope you show them staying true to ‘self’ — rather than being married to a television show, poison masked as “food”, or the slow onset of depression, disease, and anxiety — is a way out of their funks and an opportunity to live their ideal lives, right by your side.
It’s not your job to change your family. Your only job is to live your own journey, and make good decisions along the way. Your friends’ and family’s lives will play out exactly as they should. And some of them you will love from a distance, while others will become your best students or teachers. Either way, family is a gift, and so is your life.
Your real responsibility to your family is to be happy. There’s nothing you can do to make them happier or to feel more loved. When you are at your best, they will feel love in a way that shared bad habits will never make them feel.
Today’s lesson: Play your own game.
You get to choose how you spend each moment of every day. There are times when it doesn’t feel this way, but the truth is you get to choose. Lead through action, love along the way, and respect everyone’s journey for being their own, as you ask them to respect you in the same way.
I’m so grateful for you,
Originally published at drkareem.com on April 5, 2017.