For many, friendships come a dime a dozen when we are younger. We make them quickly and lose them even quicker. There’s no real effort or thought dedicated to this system. It just works.
But as we age–most likely due to our growing maturity–something interesting begins to happen. We become more selective and the boundaries of our friendship circle begin to dwindle. At the same time, the circumstances of life begin to emerge. We move to different cities, become more career-focused, get married, and have children. Before we know it, we look around and realize that the friendships we once had are in disarray.
That’s what happened to me.
During my early years, my family lived in a small town in South Carolina. Standing in the living room of our modest home, my parents announced we would be leaving that summer for better days in Atlanta. I was terrified. I immediately thought of my best friend and how much I would miss her. Everything feels like the end of the world when you are a child. I was certain I would never fit in or make another friend, destined for a life of solitude.
Of course, my fears were ill-conceived. Once we settled in I made friends quickly, eventually meeting and cultivating a batch of new best friends.
After high school and into college, I began to focus exclusively on my career goals. I put everything I had into landing a decent job and building my videography business. Eventually, that expanded into youtube, this blog, and other business endeavors. But the constant chase to advance my career caused my relationships to suffer. Before long, I realized that almost all of my friendships had dissolved, some friends I hadn’t seen in months.
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I came to the sobering realization that I hadn’t put enough emphasis on establishing and maintaining new and existing friendships. It was at that moment, I resolved to make a change.
Why You Should Maintain Friendships
A lot of people, myself included, overlook the importance of friendships. A good friend will be there for you when times get tough, support you when things are good and vice versa. This exchange of consistent social interaction brings value to your life that isn’t easily quantifiable. This abstract quality may be why most people fail to notice its incredible power.
Studies show that we meet the most people we are ever going to meet while we’re in our 20s. Makes sense, many of us are in college or starting careers around this time. But that stage in our life is chaotic, with many things competing for our attention. It’s that very reasons why our career, studies, or romantic relationships take priority, leaving friendships to fend for themselves.
This leads to men and women seeing a downward trajectory of friendships after their 20s, and it continues over the course of their lifetime–if gone unchecked.
But we do this at a cost. We need positive social interaction in our lives to maintain our physical and mental health. Yes, I said physical health! Maintaining healthy relationships can actually support our immune system and help us fight off disease.
Here are some other sobering facts from a study done by AARP in September of 2010.
- 45 million Americans over age 45 are sufferers of chronic loneliness.
- Loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health. Those who rated their health as poor were twice as likely to report being lonely.
So for the sake of our health and the health of our loved ones, we need to prioritize maintaining healthy relationships. But how can we start to make the change?
Here are a few tips to help:
Evaluate Your Schedule
If you can’t seem to find enough hours in the day and you’re constantly saying ‘you’re too busy’, it’s time to reevaluate. Take a look at your current schedule, if you don’t have it written down start there. Where do you truly spend most of your time? Be honest with yourself.
Once you have your list, ask yourself:
- Can things be condensed?
- Can they be shuffled around?
- Do you need to hire someone like a virtual assistant?
- Are the things you spend most of your time on really important to you?
Take a close look and see what you can do with your current schedule. You may find that you aren’t as busy as you think.
Make Time In Your Schedule
Even if your schedule is fully booked, you’ve got to make time for the things that matter most to you. I’ve mentioned how incredibly important good friendships are to the quality of your life, and this is especially true for women. Female friendships affect the type of person we ultimately become, so this is a serious matter!
I imagine that if you clicked on this article you understand this, and you are really missing the value that great friendships bring to your life. You want to make a change. That will require you to carve out the time in your schedule no matter how booked you are.
Keep it Simple
Maybe you don’t have time for a full-on hangout, but what about a phone call? Maybe a coffee date or working lunch? Making some sort of plan is better than having no plans at all. If you don’t have an hour, make time for 30 minutes. Aim for something simple and more manageable. Every little step matters.
If you make plans, don’t be the person that cancels all the time. If you say you are going to call, call. If you make plans with someone, put it on your calendar and make a reminder. Put your get-togethers in the same category as your business meetings, honor the time of everyone involved.
Make a Commitment Right Away
Pay in advance for the tickets or decide to carpool together. Make a real commitment before the get-together so that you have some skin in the game. Out-think yourself and design it so that you don’t give yourself the ability to cancel plans.
Create a Monthly Hang-Out Schedule
Along with carving out the time it’s a good idea schedule in advance. If you create a reoccurring event you can build a routine around that. Routines are extremely important when you want to form new habits. Maybe you start a book club? Dinner Parties? Or schedule a time to meet up for drinks. Whatever you can put into your schedule in advance, do it!
Combine Your Current To-Do List With Your Friends
What are some things you are already doing that could include your friends? For example, do you workout often? Maybe you can go to the gym together or go on walking trails. Going shopping this weekend? Maybe you can invite your friend. Kill two birds with one stone!
Maintain Life-Long Friendships
I hope you found value in this post as you work to establish and maintain meaningful friendships. Now, I want to hear from you!
Have you noticed your friendship circle is shrinking? What actions are you going to take to change that?
Have you been able to maintain friendships with your busy schedule? How do you do it?
Let me know in the comments below!