Recently an ETR University student reached out to me. He’s struggling in his relationships.
Craig, he wrote to me in an email, “You said life is about the people you spend your time with and the experiences you have with them.”
“But you also wrote, ‘The harsh reality is that most people do not want to see you succeed. The average person will try to hold you down. So you must play up a level. Spend time with people of the highest moral quality, with those you seek to emulate, and with those that provide only the best example for your children. Leverage their knowledge, support, commitment, and success. Be clear about who is right for your life.”
“I struggle mightily with this and think this is my last hurdle to overcoming my anxiety. My family comes from a small farming town and has no desire to change or improve. My friends are the same way and still spend too much time partying.”
“Does this mean you leave these people behind and find new friends (which creates anxiety for me)? Does this mean I need to spend less time with my old friends, even though he’s the person I have the fondest memories of?”
These are excellent — and common — questions.
Most successful people deal with this issue. Anyone who cherishes their childhood friends and memories likely comes to a point where they realize they no longer share the same goals, dreams, or values. I’ve dealt with this, my friend Bedros Keuilian has dealt with it, and I’m sure even Mark Ford had to deal with it.
Take my story, for example.
Like our ETR University student, I’m from a small town and had many great memories with high school buddies.
But eventually those same friends took one road in life and I took another. The road less traveled, as the old poem goes.
Throughout the years, this dichotomy has left me wondering, “How should I spread my energy across the new and old relationships in my life?”
Fortunately the answer I’ve found is positive. It doesn’t hurt anyone or harm your friendships. In fact, it can be quite healing for everyone.
Let me give you the permission you need to make the right decisions for your relationships.
1) Find new friends that support your interests, goals, and dreams.
You can find them at events (seminars, etc.), online (FB groups, FB pages, Linked In), in community organizations (Toastmasters, Chamber of Commerce, Meetup.com groups, etc.), and through business / work.
2) Share your big goals and dreams with only the most positive and supportive people from this group.
These are the people that will go out of their way to help you achieve what you want in life. They are driven to do that. It’s just an automatic action built into their good nature.
3) As for our old friends, stay in touch with them on a regular basis.
But, you do not share your big goals and dreams with them.
You do not give them advice unless they ask for it.
You don’t try to convert those that don’t want to be converted.
Of course, there is also likely to be a bottom 10% of your old friends that actively seek to harm your ambitions. Unfortunately for them, those folks must be cut from your life. People that trash your dreams, sabotage your hard work, or try to pull you back into old, destructive habits, simply do not serve a purpose in your life’s grand plan.
Wish them well but do not give them your time.
As for the old friends (and relatives, too) that remain positive, but uninterested in playing up a level in life, here’s the good news. You can — and should — still love them, enjoy them, honor them, and spend time with them.
If some of them eventually see you leading by example and want to join you on your path in life, then give them a helping hand when they ask.
I’ve been living through an extremely healthy example since my late teens. Back then I received an enormous amount of peer pressure and teasing from my good friends. It led to strained — but never broken — relationships as I bore the brunt of their ball-busting.
But here’s the remarkable twist to this story. Today, some of those guys have become healthier, fitter, and more focused on fitness than me.
Those old friends, who were once nothing more than party buddies, have evolved on the same path. Something finally clicked in their minds and they came over to my way of thinking. Now are relationships are stronger than ever.
That will happen with you, too.
The bottom line is that you can — and should — foster all types of relationships in life.
Most of us will always appreciate having the high school buddy that we can grab a beer with while we stare mindlessly at a football game. There’s nothing wrong with that once or twice a season. You’ll catch up, share a laugh, maybe help each other out, and share a firm, friendly handshake as you part ways.
But you can’t be out at the bar three nights a week commiserating about ‘the man’ or ranting and raving about politics. That doesn’t serve anyone.
Pick and choose your spots to relax back into those old relationships, but make sure to keep most of your time focused on relationships that foster your personal development.
If you want to play up a level in life, you must spend time with people that set a high bar for your performance and behaviors. You need social support and accountability. These are your pillars to success.
These are the people that will bring out your best.
That’s what you want, and that’s what you must do.
You don’t have to leave anyone behind that you love.
It’s not an US vs. THEM situation.
It’s about making the right decisions for our right lives – always.
Here’s a follow-up email I received from our ETR U student…
“Craig — I’m overwhelmed by your graciousness in writing so much helpful advice back to me. I was only hoping to see a future article in your newsletter and you wrote all that just to me! I’ve only begun to digest it but already feel less anxious and have a better direction for how I can proceed towards my goals.
“This has been something paralyzing me for several years and you helped bring clarity to me in one email. I will re-read this many more times, but you have given me more than I can put into words, so I had to respond immediately. I will not let your gift to me go wasted nor forgotten, that I promise! Thank you so much.”