Or maybe friendship means something more than this?
Thus read one of those pretty little pictures you see popping up on Facebook and Pinterest, the ones that are meant to inspire or entertain, but more importantly, to be shared.
It’s a commonly-offered piece of personal growth advice from coaches and others in the personal development movement. Whether it’s in this form or the more well-known Brian Tracy-esque version, “You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” the message is the same: increase the “awesomeness quotient” of the people you hang out with and you’ll become more awesome—by osmosis, by influence, by proxy.
Why Do I Rebel Against This Bit of Personal Growth Advice?
This advice often comes a missive, whether implied or stated bluntly. The message is, in essence, “Dump your less successful and less ambitious friends and spend more time with super-successful people.”
So why do I rebel against this advice? It strikes me as cold. Friendship is about more than just how others serve you. It’s also about how you serve others. And I’ve never felt that my friends who are less successful or less ambitious than me are somehow less deserving of my friendship.
Success comes in many forms. Some of my friends couldn’t be less interested in financial or material gain or power (a commonly-held definition of success, I suppose). To them, acting for the betterment of the world, to create peace or to improve conditions for people in desperate need is a higher purpose, a much more meaningful type of success. Some of my other friends find their success in parenting and developing their children into people of high character. And some of my friends are content to live life along the prescribed path, happy and comfortable exactly where they are. To them, that’s success.
I guess I’ve just never liked the notion that, in order to become more successful, I had to discard those who are awesome sans ambition, in order to spend time with people who were as or more successful than I am so that I could somehow be more. I’ve met lots of super-successful people, and while it’s true that many of them are really nice, let’s be real here…some of them, not so much.
Who Weighs You Down?
The question is, who “weighs you down?” There’s certainly nothing about my “less successful” friends that weighs me down. In fact, each of my friends, in his or her own, unique way, lift me up and inspire me to be more than most of the “successful” people in my own industry have motivated me.
I have to admit, I’ve never really attracted friends who tend toward draining my emotions, my energy, or my time. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never had the time or interest to sit on endless phone calls listening to someone’s self-inflicted woes, or if I’ve sent out some kind of “not interested in toxicity” vibe that sends those folks in another direction.
If you are someone who has attracted time-and-energy-sucking people, though, it might be useful to spend a little time introspecting about why you’ve left that door open. Spend a little time looking at your life and ask yourself what dysfunction in your own life attracts others who live in dysfunction. That’s usually where the answer lies. If you have friends in your life who weigh you down in this particular way, it’s likely because you’ve left a door or a window open for them to do so.
But don’t discard a friend in need, simply because she or he is having a rough time. Friendship is about being there when someone needs you as much as it is about having fun and lifting each other up. And sometimes a bad time can last a year or two—what kind of friend abandons another friend when that happens?