Successful women are accustomed to self-improvement — nay, we crave it — but so often we have a blind spot when it comes to improving the quality of our friendships, or seeking out new ones that would really make us happy. Why do so many smart, savvy women stay stuck in stale friendships?
Maybe it’s because they feel a sentimental loyalty to long-term friends, even if they no longer share commonalities. Or perhaps, they focused on career or family building and let friendship building slide off the radar. Sometimes, it might be that meeting new people and forging friendships seems scary and uncomfortable. Not to mention, deep relationships take time and attention to develop. Add that to the list of everything else that requires time and attention …
And so they stick to what they know, out of comfort or necessity, and don't go after the real-deal relationships they want and deserve. But here's the truth: Meaningful friendships bring you joy, comfort, support, growth, and an inexplicable sense of well-being. Whether you’re tuned in to it or not, you have the ability to design life-enhancing friendships and to create a powerful community around them. You can do this at any stage in your life, in any location, by consciously committing to a few simple principles.
1. Write the Recipe
The first step toward getting what you want is knowing what you want! Write a list of all the attributes you would like to see in the people who surround you. What would you like to learn from spending time with them? How do they make you feel? Write this list in the present tense, get specific, and make it personal. Some examples could be, “My friends are kind, hilarious, ambitious, and happy. I feel relaxed and uplifted around them.” “I have a core group of friends who are my peers in the real estate business — we love to share our goals, insights, and advice.”
2. Evaluate and Categorize
List your friends, acquaintances, and anyone with whom you socialize, and measure them by the attributes you desire. Doing this will force you to come to terms with relationships you aren't so proud of — with friends who are constant complainers, drama queens, pessimists, mean friends, etc. It's up to you to determine which are worth saving and which are best left to fade away, but you don't have to decide right away. Instead, divide your current list into three tiers:
Tier One — Best Friends Forever. They have all the attributes on your dream list, and you trust them with your biggest goals and darkest secrets. You've got these friends on your speed dial, and you can count on them to show up in your life as your cheerleaders, your lifelines, and your BS-detectors.
Tier Two — Awesome Acquaintances. People who you are proud to know, and who you would like to get to know better! These are people who share your common interests, and with whom you could envision being part of a bigger shared community.
Tier Three — Blasts From the Past. Beloved friends with whom you used to be close but have probably outgrown. Friends you can't tolerate in large doses, but you don't want to lose touch with them. Anybody who makes their issues yours. You’d do best to keep an every-other-month lunch date.
Categorizing your friends like this can be a brutally honest endeavor, and you might feel cold or overly analytical doing it. But this is the easiest and most direct way to observe your own behaviors and set realistic expectations. Perhaps you spend the most time with Tier Three friends, but feel lonely without a strong group in Tier One. You might find that there's an acquaintance in Tier Two you would love to reach out to and deepen the relationship. Most importantly, you'll see right away where there are excesses and discrepancies in your friends list, and you'll be able to focus your energy on developing friendships you really care about, instead of ones that bring you down.
3. Fill in the Blanks
Inevitably, there will be blank spots across your three tiers; these are spaces you have created for new friendships that you can now seek out and develop. Yes, this might sound scary, but you’re not alone — everybody feels some trepidation in this arena. Your people are out there, and it's up to you to seek them out! Do not let the fear of vulnerability stop you from pursuing what you want. Refer to the dream list you made in the first step and commit yourself to the adventure of discovering new friends. Put yourself in the places where you're likely to find the people you want to meet. If you're serious, make promises around this and put them on the calendar: Collect one new interesting person per week. Make lunch plans, or invite them to a fun event. Don't flake out. Be yourself. Tell the truth. Follow up.
Go have the experience of opening your heart to a new person and see how it feels. It's never too late to seek out and engage in friendships that are truly authentic, massively impactful, and thoroughly life-enhancing for everyone involved. Life is short — go find your people!
On July 16, I’ll be hosting our monthly tele-talk on Building Friendships That Matter. Join me and learn how to apply these concepts in a friendly and super effective way to your own relationships and community. Even if you can’t make it to the call, if you sign up in advance we’ll send you a recording so you can listen and learn on your own time.
Best of luck!
Lauren Zander is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.