Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Becoming Your Best Self as a Friend

I have been blessed with so many special friends over the years.  It amazes me how my friendships have changed with the season of life I am in.  An integral part of becoming your best self includes friends.  They walk with you side by side and don't give up on you when the going gets rough.  I bet you are picturing one of these friends right now! 

None of my friends make the quote above more true than the one that I'm married to.  Today my husband and I are celebrating our 18th anniversary.  He has been by my side through thick and thin for over 20 years!  We have this little joke between us that he is my biggest cheerleader.  Whether I'm taking on a new project, putting in long hours of work, or too grumpy to talk to--he is there--pom-poms in hand ready to cheer me on!  I wouldn't have it any other way!  I get to spend my life with my best friend! 

I have learned some really valuable lessons over the past few years about friendship.  Some were delightful and full of the joy of friendship.  Others were rather difficult and filled with heart ache and tears.  I'm going to share some of what I've learned with you so perhaps you can discover the joy of friendship as I have!

I believe strongly that what you offer to others you will strengthen in yourself.  So, if you want to have better friendships, you have to be a better friend.

Here are a few lessons I've learned about friendship:

1.  Some of the best friends you'll ever have are the ones you live with.  After all, they have the same gene pool you do and they "get it".  You know how hormones are!  My sister and I tease that each of us have at least two good weeks out of the month.  You can just about bet that one of us will be calling the other one crying on our off week and the "sane" sister better be ready to bring her "A game". 

Take care of your relationships with your family.  You don't get to choose them, you may not agree with everything they do, but they are family.  Keep your traditions alive and show your children the value of being part of a family of people who love one another unconditionally.


2. The friends that you share a unique experiences with will always be there even if they are hundreds of miles away.  I've heard a quote that says "Good friends are like stars.  You don't always see them, but you know they're there."  You know the ones...those friends that you don't talk to for a hundred years and then you see them or get a chance to chat on the phone and it feels like you just saw them yesterday!  The friends that I travelled with while I studied abroad in college and my friends from Camp Miniwanca are those friends.

So, get out of your comfort zone and try a new experience.  Take a risk!  Even if you don't know anyone there, you might make a new friend who will be come a great friend! You never know!

These are the girls I studied with while I was at Harlaxton College in England during my college years.  We don't see each other often, but these are truly my kindred spirits.
These are my friends from Camp Miniwanca.  We volunteered together at camp for several summers and they are such special people who challenge me to dig deep, follow my dreams, and be my best self.
3.  It is good for your health to have friends that you meet with on a regular basis!  It lowers your stress and helps you live longer!  I met a lady in the airport recently who was in her 90's, but didn't look a day over 70!  As we chatted, I discovered the secret to her youth!  She bowls several times a week and has for YEARS!  Staying connected with friends and being active has done the trick for her!
Find a group of friends you can get together with on a regular basis.  You could start a book club, have holiday parties, share recipes, travel, or just meet for coffee.  Be consistent and set aside the time in your calendar to be with friends.    
These are my Bunco Girls!  We get together once a month to play this crazy game of dice, eat, and laugh till our muscles hurt!  I only knew 2 or 3 of the girls when we started over 5 years ago, but this mixed group of ladies has become one of the most solid rocks in my life!  They are such talented ladies who are leaders in our community and have been an essential part of my success professionally and personally.  I know that no matter how I feel when I go to Bunco once a month that I will always leave feeling a renewed sense of joy!
4. Friendship means hard work and dedication and sometimes doing things that you really don't want to do!  You know what I'm talking about.  This is the friend who stays up late nights helping you pack boxes, gets up early for a ride to the airport, make time to talk on the phone when they really don't have a spare moment, cooks extra food for you so you won't have to cook while you have sick kids, or just sits with you while you are learning how to be a mom or experiencing the feelings of the empty nest. 
Think of friends that you know who could use a friend like this.  How can you help them?  It is also important to allow yourself to be the one receiving the help.  I heard a great radio interview on recently about giving and receiving help from others.  Many people are very good at giving because when they do, it puts them in control.  When we are on the receiving end of an act of service, we have given up control.  That is very difficult for many people.  Be open to receiving help from others as much as you are to giving it. 
These beautiful ladies came to my rescue a couple of years ago when I had to pack up my classroom.  They helped me purge my classroom, helped me laugh when I wanted to cry, and didn't give up until the job was done.
5. A good friend doesn't like all the same things you do, but a GREAT one does!  These are the friends that laugh at the same jokes, love the same movies, share the same quirks, listen to the same music, and even drink the same coffee!  They just seem to get you and love you just the way you are!
Make sure you take the time to thank your friends for their friendship.  It is easy to take it for granted and not notice how special it is until they move away. 
6.  True friends know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, and know when to walk away.  They will tell you their honest opinion about your new hair cut or outfit when you ask.  They won't make you explain what you believe and why, but they will listen while you do.  They are the ones who probably don't agree with everything you do, but love you regardless and stick by your side to the end!  They are your secret keepers.  You could tell them anything and the crazy thing is it just won't phase them and you can rest assured that your secret's safe with them!  What would we do without friends like these!

7. Surround yourself with friends that inspire you.  They are the people who set goals and achieve them and push you to do the same.  They are the ones who share the same passions and interests.  They challenge you intellectually, physically, spiritually, and in every facet of your life.  They will be there with you in the trenches when the sweat is dripping, the muscles are aching, and you feel  like giving up.  They know just what to say to give you the extra boost you needed to bounce back to your feet and keep on trucking!
I can't express enough how important it is to have friends like this in your journey toward being your best self.  They have the same aspirations as you do and are willing to put in the hard work to get there and won't stop short of helping you do the same! 

As the New Year approaches, consider your friendships and other relationships and how you can grow in them this year.  Your connections with other people are essential to your success!  Find some friends that you can share your journey with this year!  Tell them about your goals and share your struggles.  Through encouraging your friends, you will be encouraged.  How will you join with me in strengthening your friendships this year?