I’ve recently come to realize a few things in my life. One is that for the longest time, I was lost but thought I was on the right track. I chased the wrong things and repelled the right ones.
It wasn’t until I changed one thing that my life began to come back together and progress in the direction that I wanted it to go. That one thing turned out to be my friends. It was Jim Rohn who said that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I found this to be true looking back at my life. My friends shaped my identity to a large extent. Naturally, the habits I developed shaped the kind of person I was becoming as well. My friends are great individuals, however, what I came to notice recently upon lots of reflecting on these friendships, was how they were not leading me towards the life I wanted to build for myself. Distancing myself for a period of time from all of them allowed me to achieve three important things.
Distancing myself from people I have been friends with all my life led me on a path of involuntary self-discovery. Being away from your friends gives you a lot of alone time. It teaches you to be comfortable with it to the extent where sometimes you prefer it to being in the company of other people. During this time of solitude, you are forced to listen to yourself and be alone with your thoughts, which allows you to develop a level of clarity on some of the issues you may have with yourself. Another outcome that I have personally experienced in this process is that I discovered what I was passionate about through the kinds of activities I would engage with. Things that I had not done for a while, such as reading and writing and appreciating the beauty around me. Personally, I seldom recall many moments where my friends and I would sit down and talk about things we are passionate about and encourage one another to build on these passions. I deduce the cause is in large part as a result of fearing their judgment. Therefore, it is crucial that you take time to discover yourself, what your passions are, and who you really aspire to be. If you do this part right, you may find that being with yourself might sometimes feel like better company than a room full of people.
2. The Formation of New Habits
The people you surround yourself with tend to determine the kinds of habits you develop in your life. Think about it for a second. If your friends are all drug addicts and social climbers, their habits are likely to rub off on you and you may find yourself engaging in the same activities as a means of fitting in and being a part of the in-group. Therefore, it is pivotal that the people you surround yourself with are those who have habits that lead to growth and improvement as opposed to things that hinder your potential as a human being. There is a well-known phenomenon that is often cited in the realm of social psychology known as the “crab in the bucket” mentality. Essentially, this is about how the people in your life may try to pull you down as soon as they see you trying to improve your current situation. Basically, they think “if I can’t have it, then neither can you.” It’s why when you announce that you are trying to do better with your life (get better grades, sleep earlier, read more) they will actively shame you by calling you names and laughing at you so you end up thinking it’s actually wrong to try to be better, this is where it becomes a problem.
What you need to do, should you find yourself in a situation like this, is to distance yourself from these people, either temporarily or in some cases permanently, and befriend new people who will encourage you to develop those better habits. Think about successful people such as Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world ($114 Billion net worth). Ever wondered who his closest friends are? According to online sources, his circle of friends includes Steve Ballmer ($70 Billion net worth), Paul Allen ($20.3 Billion net worth), and of course Warren Buffett ($73.4 Billion net worth). I am using this example to illustrate one simple point; the people you surround yourself with determine the kind of person you will become because they will shape your habits, and help you grow as an individual. As Bill Gates’ success continued to grow and change over time, so did the people he surrounded himself with. Therefore, as you develop in life, the friends that you keep around should be developing with you, and the ones who are not, should be the ones you either try to lift up or let go of entirely.
3. Cutting through the BS
Learning to cut the bullsh*t with people may be the best thing you will learn in your life. Sometimes in a surface level friendship, it may be daunting to attempt to go deeper with that person. It may be a fear of rejection or of making them uncomfortable, you might even be afraid you’ll offend them. Regardless, it will always beat talking about things that do not really matter. Cutting the BS with someone means being straight up about how you feel about them and moving the discussion away from the weather, and other people, and delving into a conversation that requires them to think and contribute value. Remember, everyone you meet in life knows something you do not. Therefore, take this piece of information into every conversation you have and try to learn something new. The likely outcome is that the person will enjoy the conversation a lot more because they will see that you value what they have to offer which makes them feel special. Unfortunately, most people are afraid of rejection and will not make the first move to cut the BS and talk about things that contribute value, that is why it is up to you to take the first step.
Now to return to the topic at hand, once you have distanced yourself from your friends for a while, it’s time to utilize this principle. This will enable you to breach the surface level talk and banter that you were used to, and actually understand what their core beliefs and values in life are. You will get to know them better than you ever did and this will allow you to feel like you are meeting them again for the first time. Now, it is important to note that not everyone will respond favorably to this. Some people may not want to be deeper than surface level with you and may feel uncomfortable with you asking them personal/meaningful questions. That’s fine. Learn to recognize when this is the case and stop immediately because you may end up offending them even if your intentions were pure. But for the ones who do reciprocate your energy, build on that and you will develop profound friendships unlike any you have ever experienced before.
I want to be clear that this process is in no way an easy one. It may initially cause you to feel depressed, uncomfortable, or lonely. But that's okay, it's actually normal. But remember, the expectation here is NOT that you will unfriend these people forever, that is not what this article is about. Rather, it’s that you take some time away from your friends so that you may benefit from the three achievements that come with this process, and then take what you have learned to build upon the friendships worth keeping and sever the ones that are not. Chances are, the ones that you decide to cut off did not value you as much as you think and will be fine with your decision. Moreover, in the long run, doing so will be worthwhile and may allow you to branch out and meet new people and obtain new perspectives which you may never have received if you had only stayed with the same closed group of people. I know it's hard and scary, but the best things in life usually are behind the doors that look the scariest, so trust me when I tell you, this door is worth opening.