You probably already know how important friends are in your life. But do you know how important real friends are in your life? Have you ever seriously considered how big of an impact your friends have on you? Maybe you don’t realize that your company is influencing your life choices, habits, goals, energy, and virtually all parts of your life.
When I first started reading about this, I was blown away. Soon, I went from “I accept my friends the way they are” to “I know they’re important, so how do I choose my friend carefully?”
You might be wondering: Who said choose your friends wisely? Well, Buddha did. Because your friends and environment are extremely crucial, especially if you are walking the spiritual path. Buddha has emphasized the importance of good company over and over again in all of the Buddhist scriptures. However, whether you’re a seeker longing for spiritual attainment, or just a person trying to live a happy life, your friends have a huge role to play in it. In this article, we’ll take a look at the ways your friends shape your mind and personality, and why it’ll be a lot better for you if you choose them wisely.
So, why should you choose your friends carefully?
- Your close friends can bring out the best or worst qualities in you by the way they act around you. Good friends will encourage the good parts of your personality.
- The people you spend time with have an influence over your lifestyle. They play a big role in what you like, do, or choose.
- If your friends are disciplined in their personal lives, you’ll also be pushed toward getting your own life organized.
- Studies show that people who have strong social connections tend to live longer and healthier than those who don’t.
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4 Reasons to Choose Your Friends Carefully
We are going to take a closer look at the above four reasons, they are all backed by scientific study and get a better understanding of how our friendships shape our life.
You might be surprised to know that your friends can help you become your ideal self. Back in 1999, researchers found out how the company we keep (especially intimate relationships) influences our will, how we see ourselves, and what we think about. They discovered what is known as the Michelangelo phenomenon. Let’s understand it with an example.
Say you want to become more sociable, and you’re with a partner that already sees you as someone easy to get along with. They also behave around you in a way that brings out those qualities in you – encouraging you to spend time with your friends and families, taking you to social gatherings, etc. As a result, you’re now more likely to become that ideal person simply because you have a partner that encourages you to move towards your goal.
This is the Michelangelo effect in action, and it doesn’t just apply to partners. A similar effect can be expected from close friends as well. On the other hand, of course, if you have a friend circle or partner that is not interested in your goals, or fears you leaving them behind, they may discourage you and tend to pull you away from actions that will help you improve your life.
The music or fashion tastes of friends can rub off on each other. They might begin to like the same kind of music or dress similarly. Now, this influence might seem minor, but it can have a much more significant impact on you. In the long term, it affects your life choices.
Your company decides whether you stay trapped in materialism or build good financial habits. It decides how you spend your free time, like choosing to engage in social work versus spending most of it with a glass of wine in your hand.
It dictates your priorities in life. If you spend your time with people who stay in their comfort zone and are complacent with their lives, you will also start to choose comfort over the struggle for improvement.
“Most people’s lives are a direct reflections of the expectations of your peer group.”
I am reminded of my high school Chemistry teacher. I used to admire him for his 24 years of experience and the beautiful way in which he arranged his lectures. Even though he was a pedagogue, we would talk about different things, and I used to watch him closely as he wrote so perfectly on the board. I paid so much attention in those 10 months that it changed my own handwriting, and I began writing and even speaking like him. I kid you not, my handwriting still resembles his style to this day.
It’s a trivial example, but it just goes to show how powerfully you are influenced by your company in ways you can’t even imagine. So, be careful who you surround yourself with.
We all know that discipline is a vital ingredient for success. Self-discipline is nothing but the habit of postponing instant gratification for long term gains. Mostly, it is up to us when it comes to building discipline in our lives, but our surroundings also have a crucial role to play in it.
Your friends influence your level of self-control or will power. If you have problems resisting temptations, surrounding yourself with people of greater self-control may help develop those qualities in yourself. Whether your mind tempts you to skip a workout or overspend, spending time with a disciplined friend can inspire you to stick to your goals. We have already talked about the importance of getting support when you feel like giving up in one of our other articles – How To Not Give Up So Easily.
Back in 2013, a study published in Psychological Science revealed that when people are low on self-control, they value it more in others and seek out self-disciplined people to increase their own willpower. The study also suggests that people who lack self-control themselves, have the unique ability to pick up on self-control cues in others and use them to overcome temptations.
Needless to say, it works both ways. If spending time with disciplined friends can boost your productivity and self-control, then sitting around with a bunch of procrastinators who may have a goal but will start it “tomorrow” will diminish your ability to be a go-getter in life.
Harvard research reveals that strong social connections improve our health and boost longevity. As we’ve already established, who you know directly influences what you do and what kind of lifestyle you lead. Having a circle of close friends is just as important for our well-being as choosing to eat healthier food, getting enough sleep, going to the gym, etc.
Another review of 148 studies that included more than 300,000 participants found out that people with stronger social relationships were 50% more likely to survive than those with weaker social bonds. The study included participants of different ages, races, and gender, which means that your friendships determine the quality and longevity of life regardless of whether you are male, female, young, or old.
If you think about it, the opposite is also obviously true. This study also suggests that a lack of strong relationships will increase the risk of one’s premature death by 50% – which is an effect comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it’s greater than physical inactivity or obesity.
The positive benefits of social connections come only with close confidants, so you’ll have to choose your friends wisely if you want to have some people to talk to when you’re old. Not only that but if you end up inviting the wrong friends into your life, your overall health and well-being will start to suffer in a matter of months.
We are naturally social. However, the modern way of life is decreasing the quality and quantity of social relationships, and social isolation can be bad for human health. Your friends on social media hardly mean anything. So, it becomes very important to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and have some true friends we can count on.
If you keep the above points in mind when meeting new people, you won’t end up as someone who just keeps wondering: “Why do I choose bad friends all the time?”
If you want to be successful, surround yourself either with successful people or with those who’re working to be successful. If you want to progress spiritually, surround yourself with spiritual people who live a simple and disciplined life.
“But people around me aren’t compatible with me. I can’t find the kind of friends you talk about. Is it better to have no friends than bad friends?”
Walk alone! Keep following your passion and developing yourself. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t make friends just for the sake of having them. It is better to have no company at all than to have a bad company. Being choosy with friends is not a bad thing. As Buddha has said in verse 61 of Dhammapada:
“Should a seeker not find a companion who is better or equal, let them resolutely pursue a solitary course.”