There are two groups of people we interact with on nearly a daily basis – family and friends. The first group is chosen for us not by us. But the second group, our friend circle is totally under our control.
Based upon your age and stage people in each group have varying levels of impact on your day to day life. As an adolescent your family has carte blanche. During these years your friends may impact what you think is cool verses what’s lame but seeing as you’re under your family’s rules and roof their influence has limited impact.
However, as you age the power begins to shift into your hands as you gain more control over your day to day life. When you evolve into an adult you get to shape the life you lead by choosing how you fill your time and who you fill it with. This is where the impact of the friends around you gets magnified. No one makes it through life alone. There is no such thing as a self-made individual. We all need people to lean on, help us navigate tough times and new situations. While this role is filled by parents, aunts, uncles and cousins early on as we move through life we bring on new characters to fill those roles. People who can identify with what we’re dealing with in the moment.
This isn’t done without consequence, when we bring new people into our lives an exchange takes place. They not only enter your physical presence, they take a place in your mental makeup. In other words – when we bring a person into our lives we give them a piece of control. Control over what we say, over how we process situations and most importantly control over how we respond to life’s circumstances.
With that said, let’s focus on 3 things to consider when filling in your friends circle.
Evaluate The Friends Around You
Let’s perform a quick case study.
You’ve won a contest run by HGTV, your favorite home improvement channel. As the contest winner you get the opportunity to design the house of your dreams with all expenses paid by the network. As you have no home building experience, the network is allowing you to choose a team to consult with throughout the process. You embark on putting together your team of consultants but instead of finding a design and build firm to draw up your dream, selecting an interior designer for amazing aesthetics or choosing an engineer to make sure the house is structurally sound you select – a toddler, a high school football coach and an accountant. Now while these individuals might be fantastic at helping you fulfill tasks like coloring, beating a blitz, or filing your taxes they aren’t much help for building a home. They lack the knowledge base and insight to help you take what’s in your mind and make it a reality.
Time passes on, and the home taking shape in front of your eyes looks totally different than the one in your mind. But instead of stepping back and reassessing the team you created you decide to press forward with the project with these same inept individuals.
That is what it’s like to try to build your best life with dumb friends, people who aren’t armed with the knowledge to help you achieve the tasks placed in front of you. In order to build you need to have people with the right tools. And it is imperative that once you recognize someone in your circle is ill equipped to build, you address the situation instead of wondering why things are falling apart all around you.
If you examine the people you consult with, can they see the dream? Can they correct a flaw in your design? Can they help you measure consequences both good and bad before you make a decision?
Life is too short to build with dumb friends.
Make Sure They Have A Positive Impact
We can’t always control what happens to us but we can control how we react to life’s circumstances. As Stephen Covey said in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we all have response-ability meaning – we have the ability to choose how we respond to a life event. Covey explains – between the event and your response to that event – there is a gap, a moment in time where you are free to choose how to respond. Let’s stop right here and drill down for a second.
I believe in that gap processing takes place. How you process an event is important because processing births your response and your response determines how the event will impact you. How you ultimately “see” the event that just took place is based upon several factors:
o Your upbringing
o Your life experiences
o How the event played out previously, if it occurred before
o How things have been going for you lately
o The thoughts and insights of those around you
If we look at those factors like a formula, and gave each equal weight your friends have a 20% impact on your response to a life event. Is this exact science? Absolutely not, but the point is to make clear – the thoughts and insights of the people around you significantly impacts your response to life’s events.
Do you really want to give that much power to people who don’t have your best life in mind? People who can’t get out of their own way? People without vision? People who may be trying to pull you back while your legs churn forward? Friends have too big of an impact to fill their roles haphazardly.
Check The Value
I can tell you without an ounce of doubt I wouldn’t be where I am without smart friends that added value to my life. Specifically my mind goes back to spring 2011 – my last semester of college. I took 21 credits and worked a part time job not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I had to graduate on time, there was no other option because I could not afford another semester of college. This course load was by far the most overbearing task I’d taken on up to that point in my life. Some days I felt great about where I was with my 7 classes. Some days I struggled and felt like I wouldn’t be able to make it through.
At my lowest point I sat in my car outside of my apartment on the verge of tears. It was a chilly, gray March afternoon, I had just finished class and I felt like it had finished me. The dream was slipping away, I was ready to breakdown and quit. I pulled out my phone and called one of my friends that was uniquely qualified to help me with the situation. My friend had been there with me through the years, however at this particular point in time he had to take a semester off. I called him, from where I wanted to be, he answered from where he didn’t want to be and instead of giving me a hard time for whining and complaining, instead of feeling sorry for himself, instead of giving me token advice – he listened intently and told me exactly what I needed to hear in that moment to keep going. I needed to be lifted and because of the encouragement of a good friend that had my best interest in mind, and was at a place in life to help with my situation I made it through.
Remember that story as you fill in your friend circle – find people that have been through things and came out on the other side. People that have survived storms in life that can encourage you in your moment of need.
Good friends are a lot like the Google search box – able to provide you with valuable information to help you learn a new thing, figure out what to do in a tough situation, find the insight you’re looking for or open your mind to a new way of thinking. They’re an asset instead of a liability. They add value instead of subtracting it.
I have friends that I’ve called on in all stages of life. I’ve gotten advice that’s helped me mend relationships. I’ve been motivated by cohorts that want the world and pushed me to want it to. I’ve been challenged and called out. That’s truly what friends are for.
In my 9-5 life I’m an auditor for a bank. Banks need auditors because they deal with financial products, and financial products are inherently risky. Basically inherent risk means due to the nature of this product or service there is a built-in danger things can go wrong. So in the context of a bank which handles the money of its customers, you can see where the inherent risk lies. To minimize these risks, controls are put into place. The purpose of controls are to minimize risks and serve as safeguards. Safeguards that minimize risk by providing guidance on executing a process.
Good friends are like good controls. They’re safeguards that can help you navigate the difficult processes life brings to your door. The hard times that are inherently built into life. Good friends minimize risks. Do the people around you do that for you?
Take inventory on the people you’ve allowed in your life. If you’re not where you want to be right now assess the role those around you may play in that. That doesn’t mean play the blame game because nobody in your life is their without your permission but realize there are no lifetime passes either. Your task is to build your dream life, make sure your team can make that a reality.