A recent trip to see some family opened my mind to something I hadn’t thought about in this way before.
I was staying with a close family member which allowed us time for conversations that wouldn’t normally happen when there are many other people around. This family member and I got talking about how she has several friends that she has been close to for over 50 years. This information washed over me at the time but, later, my mind got to thinking about its significance.
Community and a sense of connection to the people around us play a major role in how well we age, both mentally and physically. One thing many people report on their deathbed is they wish they had made more time for the important people in their lives.
What does it take to maintain a friendship that last over five decades?
Frequency: At some point, usually the beginning, there is typically a time when you will be around each other consistently. This will commonly be school, university or in a workplace setting. This sets the foundation for the future.
Shared interests: Having something you can both look forward to doing together will help you maintain a connection. This could be a love of reading or gardening, or maybe something a little more adrenaline pumping. Either way, having something you can share helps to hold things together.
Similar destination: If you are headed for different ‘stations’ in life then you will likely drift apart. If one of you is focused on adventure and travel while the other is all about settling down and having loads of kids, the challenge to stay together will be harder. In the same way that if you are a non-drinker/smoker, you will most likely associate less in social settings. In these situations, we don’t often think, Gee, this person is someone I can see in my life.
So, what are the types of things you might like to cultivate when it comes to the people you are sharing time with?
Transparency: When life struggles happen—and they will—is there an openness and willingness to share? It is not always done with the hope of having an answer provided but rather to hear someone else’s perspective. When we are struggling, we tend to isolate ourselves, thinking we must be strong and figure things out on our own. This is more so with men than women. However, being open allows us to view our situation differently.
Making a priority of each other: We are in a world that demands our attention so much. Are we able to disconnect and focus on other people for a period to reconnect with what is important? Your life won’t be measured by the number of social media stories you had but rather the number of real conversations.
Someone who will encourage your vision of a bigger, brighter future: A friend won’t let you settle for something. They will stretch and challenge you in ways you may not always like but it will be with the intention of building a better you. When you have people in your life that demand the best from you, you will automatically have more richness in your life.
Written by Phillip Chua
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