The real value of life is the sum of the top five people within your relationship circle, without whom, life has simply no joy, happiness or meaning….
You simply can’t watch Morgan Freeman’s latest movie, Going In Style without a smile and feeling the strong bond a good friendship can bring.
This remake of the 1979 film by Zach Braff, presents a pleasant example of lifelong friendship featuring Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman) and his roommate Albert (Alan Arkin).
The story tells that just maybe, sometimes, it’s okay to overstep moral boundaries in desperate circumstances, especially when you’ve been dealt some challenges.
But it is the showcasing of beautiful and sacred familial relationships, (grandpa and grandchild), and close friendships, that bring the crux home: the real value of life is the sum of the top five people within your relationship circle, without whom, life has simply no joy, happiness or meaning….
Research proves relationships (all types) are the key to happiness and longevity
Together with other scientists psychiatrist Robert Waldinger – professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the director of this 75-year-old study on adult development – began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression, hoping that the longitudinal study would reveal clues to leading a long, healthy, happy life.
The surprising finding was that: relationships have powerful influence health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is the best form of self-care, Waldinger said.
The study revealed close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Relationship ties protect people from life’s discontents, help delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.
The study further suggested that people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. And those with strong social support, experienced less mental deterioration as they aged.
The value of true, selfless, encouraging friendship…
William Rawlins, the Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University recently noted that most people, when describing a valued friendship, say a good friend is: somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy.
Friendships are unique because…
Unlike family relationships, you choose to enter into them. And unlike other voluntary bonds, like marriages and romantic relationships, they lack a formal ‘feeling chained’ structure.
Even though some natural loners are happy without friends, most people depend greatly on the company of true friends, because, just as with any relationship, friendships bring support and joy and occasionally strife.
Friendship is a partnership, just like any other relationship – and partners can challenge or confuse you, and sometimes you wonder why bother.
But these friendships, (especially the volatile ones) can help you really grow, simply because these friends know how to push your buttons, they confront, they dare, and they provoke, all elements for driving you out of your comfort zone and help you live life the way it should be: taking risks and never stagnate.
American essayist and diarist, Anais Nin put it beautifully when she said, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it’s only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
Your expectations of what a true friendship is all about may be wrong
Sometimes you have difficulty with your family, feeling misunderstood, judged, ridiculed, or even ignored. And then you expect your friends to fill in for what’s not provided by your family or spouse.
But just maybe, you expect too much from your friends. You expect them to deliver on that something specific you need or want, which in reality is not their job, or their purpose.
What people think real friendships are…
- A good friend shows up no matter what
- A true friend supports and encourages, tolerates your shortcomings, accepts you unconditionally, and cares for you no matter what
- With a true friend the walls come down and you can be who you are without fear
- A good friend knows you well, sometimes better than you do yourself, and is not afraid to tell you things you don’t want to tell yourself
- A friend is present for you no matter what time of the night or day it is
What a good friend really should be like…
Addressing the above expectations, it could rather be like this…
- A good friend may not show up no matter what – as maybe they’re busy with other things and expecting them to be there at your beck and call is unfair. A good friend my not show up immediately, but they will when it’s possible.
- A true friend supports and encourages, tolerates your shortcomings, accepts you unconditionally, and cares for you no matter what. Yes that’s true but they may also get tired of your wining and tell you to stop. They will encourage you only if they also think it’s a good idea. They will only tolerate your shortcomings for some time then get angry and push you to grow more. But yes they will always care…
- With a true friend the walls come down and you can be who you are without fear. True you can be and reveal who you really are, but a true friend will also show you ways how to get better, how to become the best version of yourself, push you to be more, do more..
- A good friend knows you well, sometimes better than you do yourself, and is not afraid to tell you things you don’t want to tell yourself. A good friend might not know you well at all. There is no need for that. They only need to be honest of what they think and be truthful at all times, whether you wanted to hear it or not.
- A friend is present for you no matter what time of the night or day it is. Only online. As in number one, it’s not always possible and you may be disappointed often. But because you understand this you don’t hold it against them.
Do a friendship audit
Gallup Organization’s director, Tom Rath, in his book, Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without, advices to do a friendship audit since they are such a big part of your life, you would want to recognize which of your friendships provide you with the different things you need, then to sharpen each friendship in line with its strength.
You might honor the high school friends who never crossed you (but also never challenged you), or you appreciate the bonds formed with some co-workers (but they’ve never pushed you further), or you may say “now we’re besties” after enjoying some time together at an event, but do you really know them for who they really are? Or do you want to even get to know them further?
Auditing your friends shouldn’t be acrimonious or melodramatic. It’s simply about freeing up your time and energy to invest in those really significant, meaningful friendships that actually do enrich your life.
There’s an old proverb that say people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime…
Keep this in mind when doing your friend audit.
Start by evaluating old friends
- Jot down your list of friends and the reason for becoming friends in the first place
- Determine why you are still friends and if this is of any value to you
- Evaluate how this friendship has grown, if not, what other possible growth in other areas of your life though this friendship has taken place?
- Develop more reasons to stick together to make this an even more worthwhile relationship, according to your needs and wants
Who do you want to be friends with?
Think about the qualities, values and interests you would look for in a new friend if you had to start from scratch today.
- Evaluate your values and determine what kind of people you want to be friends with
- Describe what kind of friend do you want to be to others
- Consider how many of the characteristics on your list actually apply to the friends you already have?
- If you wouldn’t choose that someone as a friend now, it’s worth keeping them on? Why? Or why not?
- How do you feel about spending time with this person: excitement, dread, wary or indifference?
- Get clear if there are any value left, if not then find a way to end these relationships as they only take time away from those friends you rather interact with. Sounds harsh but you owe it to yourself to grow, these people may hold you back – your future self will thank you for this step in the long run.
Pick your top 5 friends and write down exactly how they can help you grow
Fact of life is you are forever evolving; you grow new desires, drop old habits and make new ones. You learn knew things, open your mind to new perspectives and cultures, broadening your worldview and ultimately how you want to live your life.
The efforts you take to mould yourself into who you want to be, is always, and also should be, a selfish decision, as only you know what’s best for you. And the truth is that sometimes you must distance yourself from the ones no longer serving you to ensure that your own needs are met.
Naturally, there’s not one true friend that can meet all of your needs, aspirations or ambitions, that’s why picking five, each one for the various aspects of what they bring to your life.
The inspiration you receive from a friend who is as driven as you, as focused as you, as serious as you, is the the difference between reaching your potential or not, maybe the two of you not achieving it in the same manner as you don’t want someone exactly as you, but at least someone moving in the same trajectory as you, so you can relate.
How to maintain a friendship
Friendships are often susceptible to circumstances, meaning; when having to deal with work, family, kids, parents, career, learning, it’s often friends who get the backend of your attention.
But once you’ve realized from your audit how important they are to your happiness and fulfilment, you will make time for them.
There are four main levels of maintaining a relationship: online, offline, distance and time.
The problem with just online…
Online keeps it breathing, but only mechanically. Online platforms are good enough in terms of updates, being able to write a hello message, or sending some support comments when necessary, or sharing stories and content that brings joy. But if you really want to maintain a relationship well, it needs to be in person. Technology can make friendships shallower, but it can also make them stronger, depending on how intentionally you use it and what you personally gain from engaging online according to your values.
Respect for each others lives…
Part of the genius of friendship is that two people respect and encourage each other to make their lives the best it can be. How you do that in the way that respect the demands and contingencies of each other’s lives, is totally up to you and your friend.
The more points of connection you have with someone, the stronger your friendship will be.
A friend who you see in only one context, the office for instance, is likely to be a less close friend than someone who you see in many contexts, and connect with over many different things, rather than a single shared interest. Try to connect at more points and make an effort to keep it up.
Friendship rituals help create self-worth and identity. Book times to meet up for reasons most important you both. Keep those dates. It could be going to breakfasts on Saturday mornings, or visiting a spa on Sundays. Talk about a meaningful topics, ask each other questions about life, experiences, ideas, philosophies and dreams.
Investing in friendship
Friendship as an ongoing conversation – is literally co-authoring the story of both your lives. If you want it to be bigger and deeper, you need to create a bigger context, investing more time and effort.
What you can learn from those friendships that lasted only a season…
A commemorative friend is not someone you ever expect to hear from, or see, ever again. Maybe you ended it, or maybe they did, but once upon a time they were important to you – and you think of them fondly for that reason and what they meant to you during that tim. Find those reasons, cherish it and celebrate them in your mind often.
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