“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” – Plutarch
Friends are probably one of the most valuable things we have in this life. It’s just like a part of your heart lives in another person, supporting you, loving you, being by your side when you make good decisions and bad ones, loving you even when you don’t love yourself.
Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” In that case wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with five really amazing people?
What makes a good friend? What are those amazing assets that make someone a friend for life vs. a passing acquaintance? How do people become people who chance your life for the better vs. people who either don’t leave a trace or change it for the worse?
1. Friends are like complementary colors. They match you yet they are not you; they bring out the best in you just by being by your side.
2. They don’t point fingers, criticizing you and telling you about all the things you do wrong. When they notice something, they have a conversation with you or they mention it in some form, but it’s always in a supportive way that allows for growth and allows you to get clear about what you want to do.
3. They don’t let you off the hook. I think this is one of the most vital things a friend can do for you – keep you accountable, not let you be less than you higher self. The coaches for professional sports always say to the players: Never worry when I yell at you and call you names, start worrying when I become quiet and just move on. When people care, they always make note of the moments when you act like a lesser version of yourself; when they don’t they just ignore it and move on.
4. How do you feel when you’re around them? Happy? Anxious? Annoyed? Do you want to leave shortly after you met up with them? Then maybe they’re not your friends, but people that you keep around because you don’t want to feel alone.
5. How do you act when you’re around them? Do you go back to bad habits that you kicked off a long time ago? Do you drink until you pass out or party until dawn the night before a big meeting? Then ask yourself, is that a friend that supports your growth or a friend that keeps you stuck in a place you’ve already grown out of.
6. Allow yourself to have different types of friends. Maybe you have a best friend or a few best friends if you’re lucky that you can completely open your heart to and know that everything will be ok. But not everyone has to be your best friend. Surround yourself with people who make you better. Do you want to be in great shape? Surround yourself with people who eat healthy, who work out, who have healthy habits in general.
7. They take your side. Your friends will always take your side, that’s a given. But look for those friends who don’t just take your side by default, but they actually work through a problem with you.
8. Friends don’t tell you what to do. They are not you, they will never know exactly what is going on inside you, how could they make a decision for you. Instead they ask you questions so you can reach your own answer. In my experience, people always want to tell you what to do in matters of love. If something is not working in your relationship and you want to talk about it with one of your friends, make sure you pick the kind of friend who doesn’t just side with you by default, but actually asks you questions that help you find your own answer.
When we’re upset about something, we tend to just give one side of the story, a true friend is the one who’s asking for the whole picture, who lets you say your peace, but asks about the other side. After all, you want to make your own decision, not your friend’s decision who only has a tiny bit of the story and couldn’t care less about what’s going on deep down. I’ve been fortunate enough to have real friends, who don’t just let me complain, who ask me questions and I’ve also had people just tell me: “Well if I were you, I’d do this” or “Break up with him/her! They don’t deserve you.” Followed by my favorite thing “I’m just telling you this because I’m your friend and I love you.” (which translates into: “I’m dealing with my own stuff so I will project all that on you and your challenges to make me feel better under the pretense that I love you” – I’m not trying to be cynical here, but really we’ve all had those conversations in our lives).
9. They tell you the things you may not want to hear, the one who has an intervention for you when you’re too far down the rabbit hole that you can’t even see the way you. They accept that you might get mad, that you may stop talking to them, because they see the bigger picture and in the bigger picture, you matter more than how they look in a particular moment.
10. They make time for you when you need them, not when it’s convenient for them. Of course, I’m talking about real stuff here, not when you need them for some random thing and they’re not available. But when you’re actually going through something, when you’re dealing with grief, they drop everything and come to your side. They don’t postpone “your challenges” until it’s suitable for them.
If we’re lucky, throughout life we will be surrounded by a lot of different friends.
There will always be the friends you’ve had since you can remember. Some of them drift away throughout life, some grow apart, but with most of them you can pick up where you left off at any point. They are the friends who live across oceans and continents, that maybe you haven’t even seen in a few years, yet you know they’re there; they live in your heart.
Then there are people who touch your life profoundly only for a short while. You meet them and instantly become friends and then the flame burns off just as quickly as it lit up. They somehow still hold a place in your heart, but you rarely talk, even though you may live in the same city and you never meet up.
And then there are the tens of friends that are specific for a category of your life: the workout buddies, dancing buddies, hiking buddies, yoga buddies, and whatever other type of buddies. You usually just meet up for a specific activity, most of the times you don’t know too much about each other’s lives, yet they are great friends nonetheless.
Take a look at your friends right now. Are they there because you don’t want to be alone or do they actually make you grow? Do they bring out the best in you? Do you feel drained of energy after you talk or meet with them or do you feel vibrant as if you could conquer the world? Do they bring you comfort when you’re down and fly high with you while celebrating an accomplishment?
Who would you want to have around you if you weren’t afraid of being alone?