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Making Friendly Choices

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ssmallfry
Is your crowd helping you be more resilient?

It’s the lazy days of summer and feeling a bit lazy myself, it’s taken me a little while to figure out that I’m not really going anywhere.  I’m busy enough, but I’m not making progress.  In fact, I feel way too busy and way too unproductive.

What made me realize this was that last week I had a personal mini-crisis.  I realized that in my circle of friends and family, I was putting out a whole lot and not getting much in return.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been so taken up with OPP (other people’s problems) that I personally have been going in circles.

When this happens, I find that I need to create a plan in order to recover.  I need to change how I’m spending my time.  Spend more time with people I haven’t seen in a while and less time with the old gang.  Instead of just throwing out the baby with the bath water (to use an old cliché), the best way for me is to connect/reconnect with other people.  This allows me to fill my calendar in a positive way and become busy enough that I simply won’t have time or energy for OPP.


Research shows that people who are connected to other people tend to be happier and healthier both mentally and physically.  According to The Secrets of Aging Well – Live Long and Prosper, maintaining strong social relationships is one of the predictors of successfully getting through middle-age into our 80s.

We start out being part of a nuclear family and over time, we move from our family units into other groups.  When I was working in corporate America, I was assigned to a group whose values involved successfully training the new people who joined the group.  These people were my work family.  When I chose to leave corporate America, I would “do lunch” with some of the folks who had left when I did.  Over time, I became aware of the fact that I usually felt worse after being with these folks – and it dawned on me that they were stuck talking about where we came from, not where we were going.  So I joined a professional business group of entrepreneurs.  Working with these new people changed how I viewed my life AND it expanded my group of friends.

Groups create their own “culture” – not “cultcha” – culture.  Culture, for the purpose of this conversation, is the set of norms that the group adheres to.  For example, part of the culture of our neighborhood group that gets together in the evenings to let their dogs play is that IF you are home and IF your dog is healthy, you come to the Doggy Hour.  It doesn’t matter that it’s 95°F and the dogs have more sense than to run around and play (preferring to lay down and sleep in the shade) — you show up.  If you have any sense, you are appropriately covered in sunscreen and hats and have brought a beverage.  This “command attendance” can be annoying at times (and every once in a while I defy the “rule”) but it also means we can count on pack-time for our dogs.

Pick the Right Group

Because our groups form our connections to society, it’s important that we choose them, not just fall into them.  Group culture can raise us up, or push us down.  Just like when we were kids and it was important that we not get in with the wrong crowd, it’s important that we choose the right crowd today.  Our need to be part of something doesn’t diminish with age nor does the need to carefully choose our group.  When we choose to be with a group that is resilient in the face of adversity, we can take this tremendous journey with joy and gratitude.

Look around you.  Are the people you hang with dragging you down?  If so, choose to expand your horizons and add positive people to your life.  Pick something you’re interested in.  Take a class.  Join a book club.  As your life fills with new activities and possibilities, your balance will start to move towards happiness.  But whether you choose to stay the same or choose to change, MAKE A CHOICE.

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