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Why Changing Who You Hang Out With Will Change Your Life

I have a friend who I wouldn’t describe as completely negative … but she sure does find a lot of excuses for why her life isn’t working out the way she’d like.

She says that she got screwed at her job because she had the most experience. She says that she can’t get her business going because she is so busy.   She wants to have a boyfriend, yet the moment the guy shows himself to be a sweetie, she does everything to alienate and piss him off.  She constantly orchestrates friends to come to her rescue.  Being with her drains me.

I know, we all are guilty of thinking small from time to time — regardless of how successful or rich or lucky we seem to be.   The question it raises is whether being friends helps or hinders one’s evolution.

Now this is where it gets interesting.

Why?

Because who you hang out with does matter.

 

They say you can judge a person by the friends they keep.  This is true on several levels. That saying means that you can tell a lot about someone by knowing who they keep as friends. But the friends you have also shape who you are. You spend a lot of time with your friends, and you look to them for approval and support. So their influence is huge.

That all sounds great, but this is a cycle of influence which can act to keep people in small unhappy lives. You choose your friends based on who you are comfortable with. They support your self-image and your values. Which is another way of saying they can prevent you from growing.  Do you have friends who send you chocolate when you’re on a diet? Who tell you to back away from a scary challenge – or who keep you tied into destructive habits?

A Call To Action:

 

Here are my top tips for maximizing the benefits of your friendships:

  1. Raise your awareness. Friends have a large influence on your experience of life, your views about the world and your place in it. So each time you are with friends, make time to step out of the relationship and look back into it with a critical eye. How do you feel about the company of each of your friends? Why are you still friends? Is the friendship growing or shrinking? What function does each friendship serve in your life? By growing this awareness, all kinds of positive actions will become possible for cultivating the best set of friends you could hope for, and that will make your life very significantly better.
  2. Have more than one. It’s not just that variety is a Good Thing; friendships go up and down, and if you only have one – and it’s down – you don’t have a friend! As well as that, each friendship offers you different things and with a few friends to choose from, you have rich resources at your disposal.
  3. Break out of the box. Are all your mates from your schooldays? From work? From your neighbourhood or social class? Are they all of the same gender or outlook? By limiting yourself to people like you, you place yourself in a box from where you are unlikely to hear radically different views of the world, learn new techniques, or see different and perhaps better life choices in action. Variety is the spice of life, so lean outside of the box.
  4. Givers and takers. Does your friend leave you feeling better or worse? Good friendships are all about mutual support and growth, but some friends are big takers – they dump their problems on you, tell you what you can’t do, play on your fears and keep you where you are. You may want to limit how often you see these friends, and so limit their drain on your own energies. Instead, find friends where the balance is more even; where mutual support and growth is the norm.

Of course, taking these steps requires serious courage.  Are you willing to let go of who you’ve known in order to open up to friendships that may be more in alignment with who you are becoming?  Listen, you may find huge comfort in long-familiar, predictable and unconditionally supportive friends, and if so, you should keep at least one on your list! But it might be worth considering how adding some new and different blood into your social set might help you towards your new, happier life.

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