As individuals concerned about quality of life and the environment, I am sure that you frequently consider how the environment affects your well-being. Asking questions about what is being spewed into the air that is breathed, dumped into the water what is drunk, or absorbed into the food that is eaten has become commonplace. What about your social environment? It has just as much of an impact on your life, and in most cases the effects are more readily felt than those which we consider to be the outside environment.
The people that interact with you on a daily basis – friends, colleagues, significant others and family members all play principal roles in your life. While it is impossible to choose who all of your colleagues are (even if you own your own business), and you definitely cannot choose your family members (as much as we may wish on occasion), you CAN choose your friends and significant others (as they typically start out as friends first). Take a look at those people that you consider to be friends. Do you honestly feel like you have built a community of supportive fulfilling relationships? Or does your list of friends resemble a patchwork quilt, because the relationships just developed and were not nurtured or deliberately created.
Now, I hear you thinking “I like my friends. Why would I want to deliberately look for friends, anyway?” The answer is, because the type of people that you spend time with is a direct reflection of who you are, what you feel and what you do. If you hang out with people that are always broke, never happy or satisfied, constantly complaining, or always playing the victim, their situations will affect you. How can their situations be reflected in your life? If you are a true friend you will at least feel sad for your friend and it will make you sad. In other situations, you can actually find their emotions, beliefs, and actions being reflected in YOUR life as well. Tim can illustrate this point nicely.
Tim has had the same group of three friends since high school. They are all twenty-five years old, but Tim is currently the only one of them that is employed. He is an Assistant Manager at a sporting goods store. He often hears his friends complain about the lack of opportunity because of the state of the economy, how unfair life is because you cannot get ahead without a college education, but that with one, the job market is still saturated, and how they can never find decent dates. Tim had been considering returning to college but changed his mind right before the start of the new semester. His girlfriend was so upset that she broke up with him and told him that he was never going to get ahead if he continued to associate with his “loser” friends. Tim now has the chance to become Manager of his store.
Want to bet that his friends will find some way to put a negative spin on it for him? Tim is clearly being affected by the attitudes and beliefs of his friends. In fact, they are the epitome of negativity and have adversely impacted his life.
If Tim had put careful thought and emphasis in choosing his friends, his scenario may actually look more like this. Tim and his girlfriend meet his friends after work. He tells them that he is being considered for a promotion, but that he has a problem because he is also attending school. They brainstorm a bit, realizing that this is a fantastic opportunity for him and come up with a brilliant plan. They suggest that Tim contact the school and see if his work experience could be applied towards college credit and then meet with his regional manager to determine if he would be willing to mentor Tim as a Co-Op student. What a difference! The type of people that Tim considers as friends has dramatically changed the course of his life with a single interaction. Imagine the affect that this could have over a number of years!
So how does one build a community of fulfilling relationships? Begin by looking for people that share things in common with you, or possess those qualities that you would like to nurture within yourself. People that have similar interests, hobbies, lifestyles, goals, or personalities are a great place to start. Once you begin meeting people, evaluate how they react to their environment. If you react similarly, or you find their reaction positive – I dare say you might have a winner. If you do this a few times, you will find yourself surrounded with like-minded people that you will feel truly connected with.
There is nothing wrong with looking to maximize the number of positive interactions that can occur each day. If you and your friends can nurture each other and improve the quality of each others lives, only good things can come of this. How many times during childhood and adolescence did you hear that you should, “choose your friends wisely”? Imagine That! The adults ACTUALLY knew what they were talking about after all!
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