By April 12, 2014 Read More →

How Do You Choose a Friend?

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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

A reader asked me for tips on how they can choose the right person for a friend.

I thought it was a great question, given how much choosing to have the right people in our lives can make us or break us.

First, it’s important to know that opposites attract but similarities bind.   That’s why it’s so important to know your own values, since values are the common bond.  Second, it’s important that you stand strong from the inside out.  In other words, address any personal issues like low self-esteem or inner critic issues.  Otherwise, you’ll have a tendency to choose the wrong people, attract the wrong people, or fall prey to people that prey on weakness.

Those aren’t your true friends.

The best way I heard it put is that a friend is someone you can hang out with, have fun with, and depend on.

With that in mind, here are five effective strategies for choosing better friends.

1. Be your own best friend.

Wherever you go, there you are.  You will always bring you with you, wherever you go.   Wouldn’t it be great if any situation, you had at least one person you could count on?

That might sound trivial, but there are a lot of people who don’t even have that.

They are their own worst enemy.

If you choose to be your own best friend, to the end, then right off the bat, you’ll have a better mindset.   You’ll be your own coach, not your own worst critic.   You’ll practice self-compassion, which will inevitably show up as compassion for others (which helps make friends.)   You’ll also avoid co-dependent relationships, because you’ll have a firm foundation and a shoulder to lean on. (Here is a great cheat sheet on codependency for dummies.)

If you choose to be your own best friend, you’ll give off much better vibes, and attract the right people, versus somebody who hates themselves.

After all, if you don’t want to be friends with you, why should anybody else.

Everybody’s worth it, everybody deservers it, everybody needs it, so make this choice, and choose it.

2. Be the friend you want to have.

To have good friends, you need to be a good friend.  It’s give and take.  When you drive from the right place, the right heart, the right intention, the right things happen over time.

It’s over time that counts.

People will take advantage of you, bad things will happen, and things won’t work out.  That happens.   But it’s the long haul that matters.  Don’t let how other people treat you become an excuse for how you treat other people.  Don’t let yourself down.  Take the high road here.

It’s like panning for gold.

You’ll sift the gold from the sand over time.

Let the sand go.

3. Surround yourself with amazing people.

It’s easy to surround yourself with the wrong crowd.  If you’re a negative person, like attracts like, so it will be very easy to find people who will agree with you about how the world sucks, and how other people are to blame, and how the world is against you.

Don’t buy it.

Seek the high ground.   And you can find it by finding amazing people.  Amazing people help you see what’s possible in life.  They own their future and they shape their destiny.  They march to the beat of their own drum.  They push the envelope.  They challenge themselves.  They take on big challenges.  They use their gifts, talents, and special abilities to blaze trails, move mountains, and change the world.

Or at least their world.

And they inspire you to do the same.

Add more amazing people to your life, so that you have a constant barrage of brilliance that can’t help but lift you to new heights.

Amazing people are all around you, if you know how to look.

4. Surround yourself with people who lift you higher.

Your best friends in life are the ones who make you a better person.   They get you, and they know what you’re capable of.  They may even know you better than you know yourself.

They bring out your best by either by supporting you in little ways that add up over time, or by calling you out on your bad behaviors, or by helping you see what your best can be.

Some people lift us.

Others drain us.

Spend more time with the catalysts in your life, and less time with the drains.

5. Have 3 essential people in your life.

Have a mentor, a mentee, and a sparring partner at your level.  If you want to be great, these three special friends can help you get more out of life.

  1. The mentor.  A mentor will help you see what’s possible and help you find the short-cuts, or at least avoid the dead ends and pitfalls as much as possible.  They can also provide more personalized feedback and more specific guidance that suits your situation.   In life, it can be life Chutes and Ladders, and the right mentors will lift you faster than any other approach.
  2. The mentee.  A mentee, somebody that you mentor, will help keep you inspired and will remind you of how far you’ve come.  It’s also your chance to really help somebody get a better start in life, and that’s priceless.  If you don’t think you can truly mentor someone, you have to remember that it’s all relative.  What might seem like a mighty oak to one person, is just  sapling to another and vice versa.
  3. The sparring partner.  You need somebody that’s at your level that can relate to your situations and challenges.  You can push each other.  You can bounce ideas off each other.  You compliment each others skills.

Side note – I have several mentors, I mentor several people, and I have a close connection of sparring partners.   This helps me continuously learn and improve over time, while giving back and helping others change their game.   It’s the most important thing I do to go beyond just existing, and it’s been one of my best life strategies.

Checkpoint:  Do you have the right friends?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you check whether you have the right friends:

  1. Are you surrounding yourself with amazing people?
  2. Do your friends bring out your best? (does your wolf pack help you shine?)
  3. Do your friends help round out your skills and capabilities? (does your wolf pack help you thrive?)
  4. Are your friends there for you when you need them? (a friend in need is a friend indeed)
  5. Is there give and take? (not one way)
  6. Do you feel good about yourself with your friends?
  7. Do you feel good about your friends?
  8. Do your friends support your aspirations? (does your wolf pack grow you?)

In the words of Jim Rohn:

“Don’t join an easy crowd. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform and achieve are high.”

Keep these wise words of wisdom in mind:

“There comes a point in your life when you realize who really matters, who never did, and who always will.”

And one of the best articles I’ve read on the impact of the right friends in your life is Buford Taylor’s, You are the Average of Your Five Closest Friends.  Here’s the punch line:

“If the main topic of conversation you have with your friends is not how you can better yourself, you need to get new friends.”

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Image by James Emery.

8 Comments on "How Do You Choose a Friend?"

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  1. Traci says:

    I love #2 on this list, it’s so true. My “soul friend” and I have talked about this time and time again, and we are so grateful to find each other, with our perfectly balanced give-and-take relationship.

    • JD says:

      Friendship really is a two-way street.

      While we don’t keep score, we do sense if it’s too much one way or the other.

      I think we gravitate to balance, otherwise, it feels off (all take no give, or all give no take, just doesn’t last.)

  2. Alik Levin says:

    A keeper!
    Very powerful and, as always, in clear language.
    Thank you

  3. Evan says:

    I’m uncomfortable with ‘make friends on the basis of who is useful to you’.

    • JD says:

      Me too. Mutual interests and shared values seem to be the common bond.

      That said, it depends on whether you draw a line between “using” and “getting something out of” a relationship. I doubt relationships that you get get nothing out of, or use, last. One-way friends don’t tend to last, either.

      Science says reciprocity and equity are important, but it’s not tit-for-tat (reciprocal altruism). And, it actually goes beyond that …

      Science says our friendships are strategic mechanisms for maintaining a support system in advance of potential future conflicts.

  4. yumi says:

    I love the image of shifting gold through sand. I am happy to say that I can totally brag about my friends… They are great mentor and also sparring partners. They get me, and they believe in me more than I do for myself. Each of them has unique and brilliant ways about staying positive and optimistic. They are far away though. I usually catch up with them in my morning time, which is their dinner or after the bedtime for their kids, via social media or iPhone chat apps. Such is a mystery of friendship… it defies time and distance!

    If I can ever make it to become the average of top 5 people I spend the most time, I’d be lucky :-)

    • JD says:

      It sounds like you have a fantastic set of friends.

      We all have our blind spots and our friends can help us see what we don’t see. They can nudge us when we need it, and lift us when we’re down.

      It’s great that friendships rise above the distance, and that technology can help us bridge the gap.

      Your attitude of gratitude is a powerful asset for work and life.