Change the World by Giving of Yourself

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That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing. ~Simone de Beauvoir

The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.  ~Albert Einstein
 

The holiday shopping frenzy has begun! I am willing to bet that almost all of us have walked out to our mailbox only to find multiple Christmas catalogs and “coupon books,” alerting us of all the newest gadgets and clothes we need to buy this season. Everywhere we go, we are inundated with messages that tell us we need to buy more, more, more. If you ask me, this materialistic mindset takes the joy out of the holidays!

To me, the greatest joy comes from the giving of ourselves—not in the STUFF.

People who live generously—not just with their money, but with their whole person (time, talents, friendship)—deserve special admiration. They’re not motivated by fame, fortune, or scoring the newest iPhone on launch day, but rather by joyful service. Their qualities of generosity, empathy, compassion, and kindness make them inspiring treasures to us all. And although those values tend to get more press during Thanksgiving and Christmas, they are values we should all aspire to live by all year long.

Generosity is a paradox. The culture around us screams materialism and commercialism. Buy. Accumulate. Indulge. However, there is a whole world out there that desperately needs what we (yes, you) have to offer.  It invites us to give, serve, help, and empower. The paradox of generosity is this: the more we give, the more we get! It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. We find our life by losing it. We win by putting others first. We gain by giving away. And, our greatest memories are of the gifts we gave rather than the ones we received.

This kind of generosity requires sacrifice—not just financial, but personal. Yes, it can be stretching and uncomfortable. But slowly, we begin to realize there’s more to life than what we own and can hold onto. We don’t take those things with us when our time is up.

Have you ever wanted to change the world?  This is where it starts. In fact, how you eventually impact the world will be driven not merely by what you have to offer but what you choose to offer. It’s the ultimate generosity test, isn’t it?

What do you uniquely have to offer the world? There are many different avenues that can allow you to allocate your personal resources to serve others. As you reflect on how you can live generously this Thanksgiving week, consider these three questions:

  • What talents, skills, and resources do I have to offer?
  • What groups or community segments (e.g., youth, elderly, homeless) do I feel most called to help?
  • What organizations will allow me to use my time, talents, and treasure to help those I feel most passionately about?

Could your answers to these questions be a New Year’s resolution in the making?

What would happen in our communities if we all cultivated and demonstrated this heart of generosity and “other-centeredness” as a way of life, embodying the qualities of generosity and compassion in our everyday dealings with people? I think the world would be a more welcoming and empathetic place!

With that in mind, here are some ideas for living generously this holiday season—and throughout the year:

  • Make a donation to an organization serving people and causes you are passionate about
  • Look for ways to be creatively generous if you are on a limited budget.  How can you give time? Attention? Acts of service? Material possessions?
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in your city.
  • Visit a nursing home or hospital. Listen to their stories, or tell some of your own. Just sit with them if that’s what brings comfort.
  • Allow yourself to be interrupted without being irritated—this is a mark of a generous spirit. (Or, put down your mobile device and give the people around you your undivided attention.)
  • Make yourself available to people or organizations, free of charge, for consulting on a topic on which you have expertise.

This short list of ideas just scratches the surface—you may even come up with better ones! The bottom line is this: Living generously will bring help and hope to others and immense joy to you in return. You’ll receive far more than what you give. Nothing compares with using all of you to serve and improve the world around you. This is the true spirit of the holiday season!

 

Parenting “To-Do’s” for Parents of High School Seniors: June

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In the blink of an eye June has already arrived, which means we are in for four weeks of graduation ceremonies and parties, Father’s Day celebrations, last minute college paperwork, dorm room shopping, and much more. Not surprisingly, June can be a bittersweet month for both parents and teens. It’s exciting and rewarding to be closing the high school chapter, but also daunting to know this is your teen’s last summer before leaving home (and for teens, this is often when they face the brutal reality that their friends will soon be scattering).  It’s why June is a great month to discuss your teen’s upcoming social transition, as it can be the most challenging aspect of “the launch.”

One pitfall young people can encounter during this huge social transition—saying goodbye to old friends and making new ones—is compromising their values in an effort to quickly “fit in” and have a sense of belonging. It’s a very strong pull, as is the temptation to rush the process. To reduce these risks, here are some suggestions for parents to share with their grad about the upcoming social transition:

  • Have them identify the values, qualities, and common interests of their current best friends. In other words, why are they their BFF’s? This list can be an invisible filter to apply in their new environment with the new people they meet.
  • Encourage them to be patient. Friendship and love take time (and the right timing). Remember, it took a while to make and choose their current friends. Having impatience when it comes to social matters can be the biggest source of mistakes and regrets. It takes time to build trust, and it’s worth it.
  • Avoid destructive, toxic, and negative people like the plague.
  • Get involved with organizations and activities where they can be surrounded with like-minded people. Don’t be a hermit.
  • When it comes to dating, take a 3D approach. This means, be deliberate, discriminating, and discerning. If things start to get serious, consider how he or she stacks up on the compatibility meter. How do your values and long term goals align? Remember, forever is a very long time.
  • Stay invested in current friends, but recognize that with this huge life transition, some may fade away, and that’s completely normal.
  • Periodic feelings of loneliness are common, despite being surrounded by thousands of other students. Talk to your teen about taking advantage of their current support system, but also encourage them to take some initiative in forming new relationships.

Lastly, I want to discuss one of the best graduation gifts any parent could ever give. Here at LifeSmart (and in my family), we call it a Blessing Packet. Here’s how it works:

  • Consider the most prominent people in your child’s life. Who has encouraged them, taught them important lessons, or influenced them in a positive way? (Think long-term friends, relatives, coaches, mentors, teachers, etc.) Ask if they would write a personal letter to the proud graduate, including words of affirmation, encouragement, fond memories, perspectives of their uniqueness, inspirational quotes, and well wishes for the future.
  • Have them send you their letters in a private envelope. Once all letters are received, put them in a gift wrapped box and deliver it to your grad at the appropriate time (probably after graduation). Even in a world where material things seem to be of utmost importance, this is a gift that will mean the world to them.
  • Parents, make sure you also write one, too. This is the perfect opportunity to express your feelings (many of which you may have been stuffing or holding on to) and share with your son or daughter what a blessing they are in your life. Speaking from personal experience as one who has written two for his children, it may be one of the most emotional, yet rewarding things you’ve ever done.

Although this month can be full of unknowns, it also can be a really special month of bonding between parents and their teens. Make sure you never take your time with them for granted and try to make the most of their last summer at home (and really, their last summer as a kid).

Happy summer!

Qualities of Workplace Superstars: Friendliness

A7E8FBAF-9AAC-459A-9FCE-75A3FC66A3F2A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.

~Douglas Pagels

Friendship improves happiness and abates misery by doubling our joy
and dividing our grief.

~Joseph Addison

Winning friends begins with friendliness.

~Dale Carnegie

“TGIF.” It’s arguably the most common weekly comment I hear or see on social media. Shared by people who can’t wait for the weekend. And, more often than not, by people who aren’t especially happy in their jobs. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t recall ever “TGIFing,” even though I enjoy my weekends just as much as anyone.

For 28 years, I was blessed to work for a company I loved, in a job I loved, and with people I loved (or, at least liked!). Our leaders, George and Jane Russell, believed that success was all about putting employees first. We even had a People Division to ensure that we were doing all we could to bring out the best in our people and create a positive work environment. I made many lifelong friends there that I cherish to this day. We worked in a high stress industry, yet our friendly culture made me look forward to coming to work every day. Not surprisingly, our company routinely won awards for being the “best place to work.”

There were many reasons for our company’s success during my tenure, and a top one was our culture of friendliness. Yes, friendliness! Here were some of our secrets:

  1. Our “employees first” culture, where everyone felt valued
  2. People took a genuine interest in each other and were united in our mission
  3. We valued “likeability” in our recruiting. If it came down to two finalists, we’d pick the person we wouldn’t mind as our next-door neighbor. Seriously!
  4. For the most part, we avoided politically charged conversations that had nothing to do with our work and serve mainly to divide. HINT!!!
  5. Leadership challenged us to live out the values to which our company subscribed.
  6. We had fun and found many occasions to celebrate each other.

From my experience, this culture of friendliness improved sales, cemented customer loyalty, increased morale, reduced employee turnover, built friendships, and brought out the best in each employee. It also helped us deal with conflict and disappointment because we genuinely cared about each other and the company. It helped frame and soften our responses.

All this is why friendliness can be one of the most important qualities of employees and organizations. The fact is, most of us work in diverse organizations with colleagues of different backgrounds, worldviews, positions, and personalities. We may not become long-term friends with everyone, but we can (and should) be friendly to everyone. It’s a win for you, a win for them, and a win for your organization.

So, how friendly are you? Especially with people who are not your friends? Here are some descriptors of friendliness to help you evaluate yours: collegial * affable * kind * considerate * good-natured * positive * cheerful * cooperative * helpful * patient * genuine * good listener. From this list it’s obvious that friendliness is a choice. How are you choosing?

But, let’s be honest. Sometimes we work with people who aren’t destined for “BFFhood.” They may be socially awkward, irritating, self-absorbed, or have personalities or worldviews that clash with ours. In these situations, peaceful coexistence might be the best you can hope for. Regardless, friendliness is still the best way, and who knows, it might just rub off!  And, in case you haven’t, familiarize yourself with the DISC personality test (a free one is available at 123test.com). It might help you understand your colleagues better, improve your communications, and even increase your friendliness quotient.

There’s an old saying that cleanliness is next to godliness. I think friendliness is too.

Enjoy your week and remember to share with your friends. Next week we’ll discuss the all-important quality of Resilience. Catch you then!

 

Friendsgiving and the Four Stages of Friendship

The holidays are already just around the corner (how did that happen?), and so many of us are already filling up our calendars with festive events, dinner parties, school functions, and traditional gift exchanges. It’s a season to focus on family and friends. How many of you are having a Friendsgiving celebration this year? I know that I am, so I definitely have the topic of friendship on my mind.

With so much focus on spending time with those we love, I’m reminded of what real friendship looks like. “Friend” is one of those words that has taken on a new meaning in today’s social media-inundated world. Now, the word “friend” can easily refer to a life-long confidante, or simply someone you just connected with on Facebook or started following on Instagram! BIG difference, don’t you think?

Generally speaking, healthy long-term relationships progress through four stages and—no offense to Facebook—“friend” isn’t the first stage. Ideally, each relationship stage should build on the other and at the proper pace. What advances a relationship to new stages or levels, IF it is meant to advance at all, are: mutual trust, compatibility, a shared interest in cultivating a deeper friendship, and the tests of time.

The stages go like this (imagine a pyramid, starting at the base):

  1. Acquaintance
  2. Prospect (a potential friend)
  3. Friend
  4. V.I.P. (Very Important Person)

Every person who becomes more than an acquaintance will start in the first stage.  Most stay there forever while others may progress into the next stages. Only a very few will make it to the VIP stage—and that’s the way it should be. Most of us usually have 4-5 VIPs, the crème de la crème of people in our lives.

Unfortunately, many people—particularly young people—can rush the stages, prematurely moving from one to the next in a quest for intimacy, new friends, popularity, or a full social calendar. When the stages are rushed, people exhibit behaviors in one stage that should be reserved for a deeper one. Inevitably, these relationships disintegrate due to a breakdown in trust, a loss of interest, or a pace that is uncomfortable for one or both of the parties. Note this applies to both friendships and romantic relationships.

If you want healthy, lasting relationships, don’t rush to stage four (like they do in the movies!). When you do, you risk making an emotional investment without really knowing the person—a mistake that can take a major toll when the relationship ends. It’s better to go slow through the stages and reserve the VIP level for people who really prove their friendship, commitment, and compatibility over time.  Don’t forget that good friendship and true love take time and good timing, and that’s okay.

Take some time to think about your current relationships. Can you recognize which stage each one is in? This holiday season, make a conscious effort to invest your deepest relationships and those poised to move up to the next stage. Those are the friendships that will build you up and last a lifetime!

Four Ways to Form Authentic Friendships at College

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

– Zig Ziglar

For many first-year college students, one of the most exhilarating aspects is living in the dorms.  It’s an amazing opportunity to test their new wings of independence (albeit with some supervision from the resident advisors and directors), make new friends, and be surrounded by a community of people in the same boat. However, living on a college campus comes with its own set of challenges, and we’d like to address those today.

When students leave high school and enter college or their career, peer pressure does not just simply go away. In fact, the pressure to fit in can feel even feel more intense for some college students. Living with hundreds of other young people can, unfortunately, lead to negative peer pressure, striving to fit in, poor decisions, and even loss of self.  So, here are four ways that you (or the college student in your life) can form authentic and edifying relationships while living on your college campus:

  1. Deliberately seek out friendships in areas in which you’re likely to find people with similar interests. For example, if you’ve never partied in your life, hitting up a frat house party on a Saturday night is not exactly a sure-fire way to land your next BFFL. Do you enjoy staying active and spending time outdoors? Join an intra-mural and seek friends out here. Are you spiritual? Join an on-campus religiously affiliated club or group. Are you a brainiac with a love for academic challenges? Apply for your school’s honor’s program.
  2. Step outside your comfort zone and BE INTENTIONAL. This is a tough one for all of us because no one likes to feel uncomfortable. But, this is how friendships start and you take an acquaintanceship to a deeper level. As cheesy as it may sound, don’t be afraid to ask someone if you can sit by them in the “caf.” Ask one of your hall mates in the dorms to come over and play board games. Or invite an acquaintance from your Art 101 class out to coffee. More than likely, they’ll be glad for the offer! Be proactive. You’re worth it and what’s the downside?
  3. Be aware of your (potential) friends’ core values. This is crucial, because if you fundamentally oppose someone’s values, your friendship won’t be fit for the long term. If you want to do a self-check on the values that are most important to you, you can use this free checklist Make a list of your top ten, and never waiver from them, no matter what! Remember, not everyone in the world is meant to be your friend. So, if someone’s behavior does not align with your values, or you feel you have to change in order to fit in, it’s time to kiss that friendship goodbye.
  4. Be yourself and be vulnerable. Authenticity is the key to lasting, mutual friendship. You must allow yourself to be seen and appreciated for who you really are, and give up trying to be someone you’re not.

 

When life gets busy and your days are filled with lectures, studying, and practice, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain friendships. However, remember that friendships require deliberate actions from both parties in order to stay afloat (maybe ask one of your friends to study alongside you in the library!). More than anything, be true to yourself, never be afraid to say NO if something doesn’t feel right, and don’t hesitate to rely on help from a trusted adult (mentor, teacher, parent) if you’re struggling with your friendships.

Let’s Make 2017 the Year of Listening

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

~ Epictetus

Question: what one action fosters unity, common understanding, mutual respect, healing, better decisions, more effective management, stronger marriages, families, and friendships, and greater empathy, civility, harmony, knowledge, and perspective? (I think we can all agree these are worthy causes!) Answer: Listening. If we dedicated ourselves to becoming better listeners. I believe it would change the world.

So, what about making 2017 a year when we do more listening and “sharing with” and less “talking to?” A year when we fully engage with each other to forge stronger relationships and greater understanding? And, maybe a year when we celebrate what unites us instead of focusing so much on our differences?

From my perch, this would go a long way in healing our nation, our communities, our families, and ourselves. Here’s what I’m observing:

  • Almost everything today has become politicized, with people holding entrenched views and often vilifying others simply for having different opinions or solutions (as if this will persuade). We’re talking/shouting at each other, rather than sharing our perspectives and seeking common ground. We’re spending most of our time with people who share our views rather than respectfully engaging and listening to others with different points of view (hello college administrators!). This polarizes and divides, rather than unites, and it’s impairing our relationships, mutual understanding, and civility.
  • Technology is significantly interfering with interpersonal engagement and is eroding our relationships. (Question: was this ever listed as a potential side effect when we bought our smartphones?!?) We’re allowing ourselves to be distracted when we’re together, without realizing how this devalues others.
  • Our careers are so consuming and our schedules so full that we aren’t preserving the needed time to nurture, guide, and listen to our children as we should.
  • Businesses are often so consumed with their bottom lines that they’re not fully engaging all that their employees have to offer. Some are even expecting 24-7 responses to emails, which is interfering with family time.

So, where do we go from here? Perhaps if we try these out, we can reverse course:

  1. When we’re enjoying the company of others, we adopt a no-device rule (unless we are using them together). We fully engage with our eyes, ears, and body language.
  2. We adopt the 40/60 rule in how much we talk versus listen in our conversations. (Note: with parents, it should be more like 30/70!)
  3. We spend more time trying to understand each other rather than persuade each other. We keep our conversations constructive and strive to find common ground where it exists (we might discover that our goals are the same but our methods are different!).
  4. We reserve time to invest in our relationships and fully engage
  5. We exhibit self control, respect, and civility when we differ
  6. We listen to positive influences and tune out others
  7. We seek out varying perspectives in forming our views, making decisions, and teaching students (college administrators, take note)
  8. We put our employees first when we manage our businesses
  9. We take time to listen to our spirit, to pray if we are so inclined, and to bask in the beauty and tranquility of nature. Someone once said that “silent” and “listen” are spelled with the same letters. How cool!

As someone who tends to be outgoing and opinionated, this may be among the most convicting blogs I’ve ever written. But, I’m committing myself to do better in 2017 and beyond. I hope these ideas work for you, and the people you’re influencing, too.

Parenting is a Team Sport

Last Valentine’s Day, the parents of our teenage daughter’s best friend took the girls and a third friend out to a fancy restaurant. The dad gave the girls pretty rings and a pep talk about their priceless worth and the importance of loving and respecting themselves. He had contacted my husband Doug and me earlier to ask our permission and we happily consented.  After all, he was reinforcing something we felt strongly about and we were glad for Hillary to hear it from more than just us.

Doug and I (Arlyn) joke all the time that parenting is a “team sport”—and our team extends beyond ourselves as Mom and Dad. Some experts believe the magic number is five—that every teen needs at least five adult voices in his or her life that will reinforce positive values and a healthy self-image. For our kids, these voices have included:

  • their grandparents and other extended family members
  • family friends
  • youth group leaders/mentors
  • teachers and coaches
  • parents of some of their friends

It’s been rewarding to see the different perspectives and qualities these other “voices” have contributed, especially at times when Mom and Dad were a little less popular! They offered wisdom in diverse areas like:

  • work ethic
  • integrity
  • perseverance and self-discipline
  • relationships
  • financial management
  • spiritual life (faith, encouragement, prayer)
  • practical skills like construction, painting, cooking, and car repair
  • the value of family
  • aspirations for college and a successful career
  • modeling a lifelong marriage

Do you have the benefit of other influences in your teen’s life that will tell him the same things you would? The unique value of other adults in our teens’ lives is not just the wisdom they offer, but the fact that they are listened to. So, if our voices are temporarily devalued and our influence seems to be waning, we can recruit others to “shore us up.” Plus, sometimes other adults offer unique perspectives and insights that we as parents simply lack.

For example, when one of our kids was going through a rough patch in high school, his track coach stepped in and brought some much needed perspective, encouragement, and accountability. This coach was also our son’s AP Psychology teacher. Because of that expertise, he was able to offer him unique insights that spoke directly and objectively to his logical nature, helping him better understand himself and his reactions. It ended up being a win on a number of levels.

Guaranteed: your children will stumble here and there as they make great strides. Sometimes, they will want you there to pick them up, dust them off and set them straight again. Other times, they’ll prefer you keep your distance and let them handle it. In these instances, having those important third part voices in place will be great backup support.

If your teen is having a tough time, who in your life could become an asset for the situation? It always pays to know, and to keep them in your “hip pocket” just in case!

What do you think about the idea that “parenting is a team sport?” Who are other adults that you would consider to be on your “team?” If you need to shore this up, who are some likely candidates?

Building Lasting Friendships

Do you have a trusted confidante with whom you can share your innermost feelings; one who has your best interests at heart? What about someone who will encourage you to be your absolute best and hold you accountable in your career, relationships, and even your spiritual life? Is there someone you can turn to when life throws you a curveball? A person of your gender with whom you can connect on a regular basis?

If your answers are “No,” then this could be a valuable New Year’s resolution for you!  Here’s why: Friendship—the enduring, here-til-the-end-for-you, holding-you-accountable kind—is good for you! These friendships make you a better person and are an essential ingredient to a strong support system.

It doesn’t just make intuitive sense, it’s also supported by clinical studies.  People with long-time friends live longer. They experience less stress. They are more likely to survive cancer. They even contract fewer colds! I am not kidding here, folks!

Just last year, Virginia Tech researchers took a group of students from the University of Virginia to the base of a steep hill, fitted them with a weighted backpack, and asked them to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others stood alone.

Interestingly, the students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the hill’s steepness—and the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared to them.

This principle holds true across the board. Trusted friends make our life journey smoother (especially when the going gets rough) and our experiences all the richer. They enable us to live life fuller and provide companionship and support along the way.

Granted, it takes time and effort to build a trusted friendship of that caliber. It’s easy today to be lulled by the superficial “friendship” that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and online forums offer. But, remember that true friendship takes time: getting to know each other, identifying and building on shared values, accumulating a library of shared memories, weathering conflict and crisis, and more. It’s all worth the investment, and the best part is, it’s never too late to start.

Not sure where to begin? Here a few tips to help get you there.

  1. Take a personal inventory of your interests and the qualities and values most important to you. Chances are, your forever friendships will reside where your interests and values intersect. Together with trust, they’re the building blocks of companionship.
  2. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down. People relate to others who are real and transparent. Instead of trying to appear a certain way to your friends, be your authentic self, warts and all!
  3. Ask questions that will reveal their inner selves. While it’s easy to gauge compatibility of interests, it takes time, in-depth conversation, and experiences to gauge compatibility of values.
  4. Say yes. Even if you don’t feel like getting off the couch and changing out of your sweatpants, it’s important to say “yes” to new opportunities with new friends.. You never know what might come from each new experience!  Saying yes also means returning phone calls with phone calls (and not text messages). Remember, cultivating friendships takes energy and personal engagement!

Who is your most trusted confidante? How have you invested in that relationship throughout your life? Have you been cultivating and investing in new ones?

Recognize and Release Stress


Did you know all stress is not created equal? There’s good stress and there’s bad stress. What’s good stress? Your first big job interview. A plane to catch on an exciting vacation. A first date for which you want to look your best. These kinds of stressors can keep us motivated, moving ahead, and putting our best foot forward.
 
            But then there’s the bad stress. That’s the ongoing pressure we face during hard times, like breaking up with a loved one or battling a difficult health issue.
 
            The fact is, when we go through our most painful times, we often don’t take very good care of ourselves. We may eat terribly (if at all), sleep miserably (if at all), and bottle up our pain and stress. Some people hibernate like bears, lacking the self-confidence to be in public, or become tempted to seek solace in false comforts like alcohol and drugs.
 
            There is a better way.
 
In order to deal with your stress and preserve your health, it pays to tap into your stress outlets and learn to release your pain. That’s right: you’ve got to learn to let it go.


            For starters, when going through a rough patch, it’s essential to sleep and eat well and get cardio exercise. My best physical stress outlet is running. Not only does it help relieve my tension, but it also gives me time to pray and think more clearly about my situation.  I’ve found my best thinking comes when I run and allow my mind to roam free.  That, together with the physical exertion of my exercise, really helps restore my peace of mind.
 
            I also recommend reaching out to your support system. Friends cheer us up, offer helpful perspective, and, even help us stay healthy. As mentioned in an earlier blog, people with good friends get sick less often and recover more quickly! 
 
            Sadly, people are often reluctant to ask for help, forgetting that it’s a blessing for loved ones to answer that kind of call and offer needed support. By forgoing this option, we deprive them of sharing their gifts of love and encouragement with us.
 
            You may have different stress outlets than mine—and that’s okay. The important thing is that you have them. Whatever they are, don’t forget to use them. Remember that you still need to take care of “number one” while you’re traveling through life’s inevitable, turbulent times.
 
How well do you take care of yourself—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—during times of trial? Are you open to receiving support from loved ones who would cheerfully help? Do you stay connected relationally when times are tough instead of isolating yourself? Share your thoughts and ideas with us by commenting below; we can learn from each other!
 

Develop Long Term Friendships

Do you have a trusted confidante with whom you can share your innermost feelings and who has your best interests at heart? Someone who will both encourage you and hold you accountable when your spiritual life, relationships, or actions get off track? Someone you can turn to when life throws you a curveball? A person of your gender with whom you can connect on a regular basis?
 
If your answers are “No,” this should become a life priority for you.  Here’s why: Friendship—the enduring, here-til-the-end-for-you, holding-you-accountable kind—is good for you!


If you need proof, simply check the clinical studies.  People with long-time friends live longer. They experience less stress. They are more likely to survive cancer. They even contract fewer colds! Seriously!
 
Just last year, Virginia Tech researchers took a group of students from the University of Virginia to the base of a steep hill, fitted them with a weighted backpack, and asked them to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others stood alone.
 
Interestingly, the students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the hill’s steepness—and the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared to them!
 
This principle holds true across the board. Trusted friends make our life journey smoother (especially when life hands us a lemon!) and our experiences all the richer.
 
Granted, it takes time and effort to build a trusted friendship of that caliber. It’s easy today to be lulled by the superficial “friendship” that Facebook, social media, and online gaming offer. But, remember that true friendship takes time: getting to know each other, identifying and building on shared values, accumulating a library of shared memories, weathering conflict and crisis, and more. It’s all worth the investment, and the best part is, it’s never too late.  (I agree with Professor Glenn Sparks, Communications Professor and author of a recent friendship study who put it well: “Making friends is like managing a bank account. You must make investments, and it is never too early to start.”)
 
Who among your closest friends of the same gender do you consider to be your most trusted confidante? How have you invested in that relationship throughout your life, as well as cultivating and developing new ones?


Share us with a friend or post a comment below; we’d love to hear from you!