Life has a tendency of trying to tell you who you are. If you haven't done the necessary mileage to purposefully seek out who you are, the world has no problem in persuading you. Unfortunately, forming your self-image by only listening to outside sources is like legitimizing a system that renders you passive.
Getting your course right towards living an active life with a purpose requires brainwork to determine who you want to be and what direction you want to start heading. This may sound like a vague idea when starting from zero, or after deciding to start over, but let’s begin breaking down some of the practical thinking steps you can take to kick-start the journey of becoming who you want to be.
I feel like friendship, as common of a word as it is, needs to be re-examined.
The reason for this is that many people - myself included - live a big slice of their lives not understanding the meaning of true friendship. I always knew that friendship was important, but to be completely honest, I didn’t understand its deeper dimension until I was met face to face with a different culture.
See, without giving friendship any further thought, it can easily be limited to something we desire only to escape loneliness or to have fun. That was my model until I met people who believed friendship to be more than that. People who saw potential in me and, regardless of my boundaries and fences, believed in me relentlessly.
Love, in this framework, has three essential ingredients: it has to be unconditional, it needs to include comfort, and it has to involve friendship. A friendship deeper than just the cosmetics holds within it shared experiences, joy, grief, encouragement, empathy and devotion. It is the bridge on which counsel can travel without fear of collapse. This is why we’re usually more inclined to listen to those who we know are for us; the relationship is what carries the information over safely.
Friendship, at its best, is seeing the gold in someone, and doing the forward-oriented journey together with them through the good and the bad. It’s more than just avoiding loneliness: it’s the hearth of growth, accountability and mutual belief in each other’s dreams.
There’s no escaping the fact that we are shaped by our surroundings. The people around us influence our thinking, our opinions and our wellbeing - to the point where we might feel like a victim and a sum of all the input we receive from the world. Through this lens, we can understand the importance of good people around us. The good news is, you get to decide who you surround yourself with.
Zig Ziglar, an influential author, salesman and public speaker wrote ‘I believe success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination’.1 Often times behind many of these ordinary people are supportive friends and family as well.
The thought of having to change the environment you’re in or possibly ending friendships sounds very drastic, but you can apply the principle of investment: you get to decide the amount of time you invest in people. Your dreams, some of which are yet to even be realized, are way too valuable to compromise with toxic company.
In order for you to plant a seed and grow it into full maturity, you need to understand what kind of a plant it is and what kind of an environment supports the growth of this specific plant. Similarly, the direction you want to head towards needs to be coupled with an environment that supports its growth. Do you feel inspired and ready to take on the world after spending time with your inner circle, or do you feel tired, weighed down and negative? This can be a great indicator of whether or not your environment is nourishing.
Now there are settings where you can’t help who you spend your time around, such as school or the workplace, but even there we get to determine the amount of weight we place on the prevailing attitudes and opinions.
The way you can do this is by creating an anchor point. The anchor point defines your standard of good influence. This point of reference should be a good community of friends and family - people who encourage you, inspire you and help keep your life aligned with the direction you want to go. When you have your solid community that has your back, you’re better able to stand strong in who you are in places where people aren’t as supportive.
A hospital is a place where patients are kept safe from the outside world for the period they are most vulnerable. The patients that are nurtured to health are then released to the world, ready to take on its dangers and imperfections. A loving community is a similar place of healing and restoration. I encourage you to think about your situation and the community of friends and family you’re around. Do they carry the morals and goodwill you want to surround yourself with?
The only time to look down on someone is when you’re reaching down to help them up. Coffees can be had even with people who you don’t particularly like, but the truest of friendships are the ones in which you walk the journey together in a forward-moving direction, becoming better and better with each passing day.
Now you might understand all of the above, but you’re missing the answer to the most important part: how can I get such friendships?! The question is way too difficult for me to answer simply, but I’ll leave you with a thought that’s helped me along the way.
'If you go out looking for friends, you're going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you'll find them everywhere.'
1. Ziglar, Zig. Steps to the Top. Gretna: Pelican Pub., 1985