Want better, more fun friends? Here’s how to find the diamonds in the rough
On a Saturday evening here in San Francisco, my fiance and I were driving and talking about how to find ‘treasure’. Aka — amazing friends.
How this came up?
We were talking about a friend of ours who’s going to be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (yes–exactly what happens in Wild) and we were talking about how he’s quitting his job to go teach.
I immediately said: “He’d be PERFECT for teaching. He has so much energy. That’s right up his alley.”
My man agreed. Then he also said something that struck me: “He’s also just a GOOD person. It’s like finding these gems in the rough. You wonder: how did I live my life without you? Why weren’t you in it before?”
Now, whenever I am ‘struck’ by something, I inevitably go into deep-thinking mode. On the outside, it looks like he said something that you and I might casually brush off as we’re waiting on line for a juice (I mean– this is my life). But it was actually quite profound.
Because typical American-like responses to the idea of putting in effort to make new friends are usually met with responses like:
“Eh, don’t have time for that right now”
“I’m focusing on my career right now”
“This is just the way it is — you don’t have as many friends as you do when you’re younger”
And I am here to lovingly tell you that that kind of thinking is probably making a part of you deeply unhappy.
Just a guess — and I welcome being proven wrong — but here’s why:
I myself have had a lot of interesting ‘stories’ told to me about friends. One message that messed with me for a while was the fact that friends would somehow ‘distract’ me. They would hold me back. They would make me less successful.
I know it sounds outrageous and silly — but I believed this.
So I would only focus on my deep friendships with 1 or 2 people, and put all the rest of my energy into work and focus. And work and focus. And I placated myself by saying: “I’m just one of those people who prefers having a few deep friendships vs. a bunch of acquaintances.” Not thinking that you can have BOTH.
And to be honest, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been fed this load of hogwash. It’s very American culture-like to be individualistic. Be the lone ranger! Do it all alone! That’s how we make it to the top, right?
Well, it turns out — at least for me — that social isolation is the fast track to a sad Fel. And maybe a sad you, too.
Which is why today I have 2 things to share with you:
1 is a mindset: “The Garden Mentality”
The other — a useful article I wrote for Mind Body Green that breaks down how you can start making the effort to expand your social circle — no matter how busy you are– today.
Let’s get into it.
Introducing: The Garden Mentality
‘The Garden Mentality’ is a concept I thought of during a time in my life where I realized a few very important things I put on ‘autopilot’ in favor of efficiency. As a rule, anything that makes my life inefficient is quickly put into a system. But this does not work for things like relationships, for example.
So in exploring what the ‘Garden Mentality’ is, here’s how I broke it down:
- First, establish 1 or 2 areas of your life that are profoundly important to you. I wrote down ‘relationships’ and ‘business’ for me. (You can apply this to health, your job, etc as well)
- Then, understand that what you’ve built so far is a result of a seed that you planted to start it a very long time ago. When I think about the thing I’m most proud of building — my relationship — it all started with our first meeting. The rest was the work we put in — day in and day out — to help us grow.
- Figure out what specific actions (for now, choose 1) that you want to do every day in order to nurture what it is that matters to you. Seeds don’t grow without the right soil, water, sunlight, and conditions. Give what matters to you every chance of thriving.
So why talk about the ‘Garden Mentality’?
Because a LACK of this is usually what influences the thinking that friends should be coming to you. That because you exist, you should have a circle of friends. Given…you know…stuff. ← This is the persuasive argument you use in your case against yourself
But the truth is that friends require the Garden Mentality. And whether you just want 1 friend or 10 — you have to take action day in and day out in order to maintain the friendship. Otherwise, you WILL lose touch. You WILL wonder: what the hell happened? And you will settle with the tragic thought: “This is just the way it is.”
So the article I wrote: How to Prioritize Your Social Life When You Don’t Have Balance explains exactly what actions you can take in order to start planting the seeds and nurturing the kind of friendships that you want.
And if the idea of maintaining a shit ton of friendships overwhelms you, just focus on one. Hell, focus on the friends you already have. When was the last time you texted them to say hi? When was the last time you called to catch up for 15 minutes? When was the last time you initiated plans? If you’re busy as hell, start with a text that will take you about 7 seconds to write. The one thing alone will help you build momentum.
But more importantly — this actually isn’t JUST about friends. And it isn’t JUST about the ‘Garden Mentality’. It’s about what kind of life you want to have now — and what kind of life you want to have 20, 30, or 50 years from now. My personal goal: have a group of old grandma friends who I sit around with every day, play with our great grand-children, and do work together (whatever that is). And hell, that may change. But if I want old grandma friends, I better start cultivating incredible relationships now.
But if there’s a silly voice in your head that says: “What’s the point? What value is there in putting the effort into ‘making friends’ when I could be staying at work an hour later, working out 15 minutes longer, or preparing for another day?”
Well, I’d challenge your assumption that you can’t have both. If work is more important to you one week, focus on that. I’ve hibernated many times in favor and working on a big project. But if things slow down and you want to ramp up how many times a week you go out or how much FUN you have — then ramp that up. Both are equally important, and you get to CHOOSE how much time to spend doing what.
And better questions to ask?
What kind of experiences do you want your weekends to be filled with? What about nights during the week when you don’t want to go home — but want to go out, or try that salsa class, or taste the food at that new restaurant that opened? I’m all for doing things alone — but life is sweeter and more fun when you can share your life with someone else. Otherwise — what the hell is the point?
So if you want to get started on building your sexy old grandma/grandpa legacy, you can start today: How to Prioritize Your Social Life When You Don’t Have Balance
And if you take just one of the actions — like a simple text — let me know. I think you’ll be surprised at how much more manageable this is when you break it down into tiny steps.