Remember when seeing your friends all the time was easy?
You didn’t think about ‘being intentional about friendships’ or ‘managing personal relationships’. You just hung out. None of you were being particularly deliberate about anything.
But then, of course… life. Careers. Parenthood. Post-grad studies. Business trips.
At some point, you realise you’re just not seeing your friends that often anymore, and you might be going weeks – maybe even months – at a time without anyone outside of your house knowing what’s really going on in your life. Maybe a casual movie or dinner out every couple of months, but really… somewhere along the line in life, friendship stops just happening, and becomes something we have to decide to prioritise.
So how can we do this?
It can be tempting to think that friendships are only authentic if they just naturally perpetuate themselves. That having to plan to keep connected means there’s something artificial about the whole thing. This just isn’t true. Rather, as we embrace the complexity of responsibilities, planning is how we authentically live out our chosen priorities in the midst of competing demands on our time and attention.
If we want to prioritise friendships as we take on more responsibilities, then we must include them in our planning.
Here is one strategy I have used over the last two years which I have found really beneficial – the monthly meet up.
See, I travel a lot. Of my last 365 days, over 150 of them have been spent away from home, mostly on business trips. If I wasn’t deliberate about keeping up some key friendships, I would end up completely isolating myself from real connection. And, in the words of one of the most famous TED talks of all time, –
“connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about. – Brené Brown
So a couple of years ago, I approached a few of my closest friends, all of whom had an existing level of trust and vulnerability with each other (this was key), and asked them if they would be interested in establishing a regular monthly breakfast together, for the express purpose of bringing our real selves to the table and sharing what is going on with our lives.
They all said yes.
Note – I would suggest that if you are considering the same thing, people might be keener than you expect to find reliable ways to meaningfully connect.
So here’s how we do it – practically:
Towards the end of each month, I send around some options for dates. I generally send around the same time each Saturday morning in a month. You might find a pre-work breakfast, a mid-week lunch or some other kind of time best suits you and your group.
I used to use my beloved ‘The Best Day’ app, but it seems to have closed down of late, so other good options are Doodle, Google Forms, or Facebook poll within a dedicated Facebook group.
All these tools let you find the date that the most people within your small circle can do, without the painful exchange of multiple emails, texts, or messages throwing dates back and forward.
Create an event
Once the best date has been identified for the coming month, I create a private Facebook event and invite each person, within which we can discuss venue and any other details. You could also use a calendar meeting invite. Rather than simply sending around a text or other message, I would suggest using some kind of system that has its own built in reminder systems.
Go to the meet up. Then go the next month. Then the month after that. And the month after that.
Decide to go. Go. Keep Going.
So why do any of this?
Firstly, it prevents you from the inertia of life that leads to 1 in 3 people finding themselves in the position of having zero confidantes in their life. That’s what life does to us if we’re not paying attention – it isolates us. Be the exception – and take people with you!
Secondly, the myriad benefits of strong friendships are well-documented. According to none other than the Mayo Clinic, they can:
- Reduce stress
- Help us deal with major life events
- Increase confidence
- Boost happiness
- Encourage healthier life choices
- Increase your sense of purpose
Plus, life is just better with friends!
Do you have any deliberate approaches to nurturing friendships, like a monthly meet up? What other ideas have you found worked for you?