“Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are”
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”
You have probably heard or read these phrases countless times. Their undertone may sound slightly judgmental; however, the basic sentiment is that the people who you surround yourself with either make up the person you become or transform you in some way—for better or for worse. For example, if you aspire to great financial wealth, then the first phrase can be taken to insinuate that you must then surround yourself with people who are aspiring to that or have already amassed it.
However, it needn’t be taken literally, nor does it necessarily require that you dispense with everyone in your life who does not fit the mold of your specific definition of “success”. In fact, surrounding yourself exclusively with those who possess the same aspirations may actually be detrimental to you. Rather, choosing to build relationships with people who have diverse interests, goals, and experiences may introduce you to possibilities and opportunities that you may not have previously considered. It is true after all that pushing past the space of your comfort zone allows you the room to grow.
If upon reflection, you come to realize that the people who are now staples in your life are unproductive as it related to your wellbeing or larger life goals, you may need to make adjustments. It is crucial to note that changing your social circle, meeting new people, or otherwise needing new friends does not make you an entirely self-interested person.
As you mature you come to realize the importance of surrounding yourself with people who affect positive change in you or shed light on your most favorable qualities. It is a fact of life that many people you meet will not be beneficial to your personal growth, and may prove to be instead an adverse force. While it is true that even negative encounters provide lessons, after you have acknowledged those lessons you must then learn to move onwards and forwards.
Where do you start?
Reflection is the first and most crucial step towards self-actualization. It begins by examining yourself in order to determine what you want and by extension, the actions you must take to bring it about. For instance, lay out your goals so that they are more tangible and coherent. Be ready to be critical of yourself and to be honest with yourself. If you are not following through with your plans, you cannot blame that solely on your social circle. You must be willing and committed to being the kind of person you want to be friends with. As cliché as it is, remember that a genuine and productive relationship is a two-way street.
You cannot expect to gain valuable friendships from those who you esteem if you don’t first establish yourself as a giver of value. Sometimes that means focusing on yourself, your personal goals, and growth before worrying about those around you. Once you have understood that bettering yourself begins with the choices you make in your own life, you can then begin to examine those you surround yourself with more carefully.
Choose your friends wisely
The most obvious question is what are the attributes or values to look for?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a fully compiled list of the greatest characteristics known to man. Ideally, you should surround yourself with those who motivate you and push you to achieve your goals, but how does that translate to individual characteristics? It need not be material achievements that inspire you. Rather, it can be an individual’s character, values, and ideologies that sets them apart. It always depends on what you individually treasure or value, but some characteristics include openness and honesty, optimism, reliability and support, self-awareness and empathy, among many others.
In fact, it may arguably be more fruitful for you to look and keep friends who possess and value strong character over the accruing of material objects. By developing positive character traits, you become more centered and so you are equipped with the wisdom to work hard and better appreciate the result of your hard work. Money does not always lead to a better quality of life.
Once you know the kinds of characteristics you value, you have to set about finding people who possess them. This is a daunting and intimidating task for many. It’s easy to slide back to the comfort and convenience of the social circles you have already created, especially if they are friends who you have had in your life consistently for a number of years. Find comfort in that it does not, and cannot be an overnight process nor is there a time limit on when it is appropriate to introduce yourself to new people and expand your network, social circle, and/or friend group.
Expanding your social circle
Here are some pointers on ways in which to begin the process of building your network. Of course there isn’t a single hub where all of your future friends, potential business partners, and inspirations get together. However, by following these tips consistently and keeping an open mind, you may be surprised to find exactly what you’re looking for!
- Reach out to people you already know
We have all met at least a few people—whether in class, work, or elsewhere—that we find interesting and have things in common with. However adding these people on Facebook or LinkedIn is not enough to nurture those relationships. Reach out to them and say hello, maybe even plan to meet. It shows confidence and everyone appreciates being remembered.
- Connect with those who can connect
LinkedIn has a tool that allows you to view which of your connections can introduce you to people of interest to you—use this tool. This, however, isn’t limited to the World Wide Web and social media. You can also ask those you know to introduce you to people in real life to people they know in real life. Don’t let the face-to-face interactions die!
- Reach for new
People start new friendships all of the time for varying reasons—relationships change, they develop new interests, they move to different cities or countries. It isn’t as awkward to reach out to new people as it appears. If you make the conversation about a common hobby, interest, or cause, it will feel genuine and natural.
- Find events in your area
This is one of the most useful and helpful tools. Events ease the pressure of introducing yourself to strangers as everyone who is there is open to the idea. Furthermore, they are usually themed or have a specific purpose. Finding an event that caters to a cause, interest, or hobby that is important to you is a gold mine for meeting people who you share common values with.
While it is a daunting task to expose yourself to new people and experiences, it can be one of the most rewarding decision you make. Learn to trust your intuition and surround yourself with those who are as valuable to you, as you are to them.