When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me, “You are who you spend your time with. Respect that, and respect yourself.”
But it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I fully grasped what she was trying to say to me. I learned the hard way that the people you surround yourself with either lift you higher or bring you down – they energize you or drain you – they support you or criticize you – they make you smile or make you cry.
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, or call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. You need a small group of people in your life that lift you higher.
As Anaïs Nin so profoundly said, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
So right here, right now, make it a goal to spend more time with nice people who are smart, driven and like-minded. Remember that relationships should help you, not hurt you. Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be. Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you – people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it.
Ultimately, the people in your life make all the difference in the person YOU are capable of being.
And life is just too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. When you free yourself from negative people, or simply the wrong people, you free yourself to be YOU – and being YOU is the only way to truly live.
Thus, it’s time to remind yourself of these…
Reminders to Spend Time with the Right People
- Sometimes the most ordinary things can be made extraordinary, just by doing them with the right people.
- The best thing you can do is to let go of what you can’t control, and focus on the things you can – like the people you choose to be around.
- You intellectually grow to be like the few people you spend most of your time with. So surround yourself with only those who are going to lift you higher.
- The right people for you are those who inspire you to be who you always knew you could be. Keep this in mind. Anyone who helps you make your half-hearted attempts more whole-hearted through kindness, commitment and teamwork, is a keeper.
- A healthy relationship will never require you to sacrifice your happiness, your other important relationships, your dreams, or your dignity. (Angel and I discuss this further in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Don’t listen to those who tell you exactly what to do. Listen to those special few who encourage you to do what you already know in your heart is right.
- Healthy relationships don’t just happen – they take time, patience and two people who truly want to work together to create something meaningful and lasting.
- What you give to another person is really what you give to yourself. When you treat people you care about with love, you learn that you are lovable too.
- The people you take for granted today may be the only ones you need tomorrow. Never be too busy to make time for those who matter most.
- Pay attention to the little things, because when you really miss someone, you miss the little things the most, like just laughing together.
Strategies for Nurturing the Right Relationships
If you feel like your relationships have been suffering, or if you hope to build new healthy relationships, read on. Angel and I have spent more than a decade working with individuals and couples through our course and coaching, and the three strategies briefly covered below are game-changers! I encourage you to implement them, gradually, one at a time, into your life. And if you need further assistance, we’re here.
1. Learn to enjoy your own company.
Ironically, the prerequisite to building healthy relationships is being comfortable when you’re all by yourself. If you’re starting fresh, with a minimal number of friends in your immediate vicinity, the reason for this is obvious: spending time alone is your only option. Likewise, if you have friends that have been dragging you down and negatively impacting your life, withdrawing from them and starting anew will likely require a bit more alone time.
Appreciating solitude starts with the conscious awareness of the freedom it brings. When you enjoy your own company you don’t need others around for the sake of having others around. You can be flexible about who you choose to spend time with, instead of letting your fear of being alone suck you into social situations and relationships that aren’t right for you.
2. Make time for the important people in your life, and be 100% present.
The healthiest relationships are comprised of two people who are intimately familiar with each other’s evolving stories. These people make plenty of emotional room for their relationship, which means they sincerely listen to each other, they remember the major events each other have been through, and they keep up-to-date as the facts and feelings of each other’s reality changes.
The key thing to remember is that nothing you can give is more appreciated than your sincere, focused attention – your full presence. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of the next event is the ultimate compliment. It is indeed the most valued gesture you can make to them, and it arms you with the information you need to truly know them and support them in the long run. (Angel and I build mindful relationship rituals with our students in the “Love and Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
3. Work together on something meaningful.
If there are one or two people you already know who you would like to strengthen your relationship with, try to find a way to work together on something that intrigues both of you. You could plant a communal garden together, or meet once a week to complete unfinished projects – such as a writing, painting or website project. Working with others on meaningful projects can help you strengthen your bonds with them.
Attending a life-enhancing conference together (live or virtual), and then mindfully examining and discussing it, is another related opportunity for working together on something meaningful. (Note: The title photo at the top of this article was captured at our annual Think Better, Live Better conference. Next February we’re hosting it in San Diego.)
If you’re up to it, we’d love it if you shared something you’ve personally learned about the importance of spending time with the right people.
How have your healthy relationships helped you?
Do you have any other thoughts or insights to share?
Please leave a reply below.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Amy P. says
This post is a great reminder that who we choose to spend time with makes a big difference in our lives and our happiness. Personally, I know I’ve been been spending far too much time with people who bring me down, and not enough time with those that boost me up. Time to make some changes as I head into the 4th decade of my life tomorrow.
Also, my sister and I actually enrolled in your course together about three months ago and we’ve been slowly but surely working through the lessons and discussing them. Doing so has really helped us get on the same page and find some healthy inspiration. =) Thank you for making a difference in our lives and our relationship.
Jennifer Harry says
Hi Amy, I feel the same as you. This post is a great reminder that life is too short to be wasting it in the presence of people who only want to make you feel as bad as they secretly feel on the inside.
There is nothing worse than having an hour conversation with someone who pulls you down and makes you feel worthless, who asks embarrassing questions and at the end of the conversation then starts lecturing you about your life.
It makes me feel drained, then all evening I’m thinking about it and subsequently I am unable to sleep.
The best thing you can do is drop them as a friend and move on.
Marc Chernoff says
Amy, it’s inspiring to hear that you and your sister are working through our course together. Congrats on the progress. And don’t hesitate to contact us we the course email whenever you have questions, etc.
Spending time with the right people is one of those lessons I need to be reminded of at least once a month. It’s so easy to get into the rhythm of making too much time for those who drag me down. You mentioned conferences, and I agree. Whether I go alone and meet people there, or attend with a friend, the new ideas, experiences, and perspectives gained really help me understand how important it is to step outside of my little bubble of comfort and communicate and learn from likeminded individuals who share my quest for personal growth.
Your Think Better conference sounds intriguing too. I may get myself access to the digital version and then attend live with a friend once you announce the 2017 dates.
Marc Chernoff says
Excellent perspective. Also, “Think Better, Live better 2017” details will be announced soon. Stand by. 🙂
Very practical and healthy relationship reminders and strategies. Thank you, you emails always arrive in my inbox at the right time.
I especially loved the point about learning to appreciate your own company. That’s something I need to work on. Because sometimes when I’m stressed out about being alone, and so I end up hanging with the wrong people.
Last Wednesday, I dropped the kids at my brother’s place so they could spend some quality time with extended family. I didn’t stay because I wanted some time to myself. Recent events involving my husband had been bringing me down despite me trying not to let it affect me. I’m going through a tough time where I am contemplating getting divorced. I wanted to spend some time with close friends to help me lift my spirit. No one was available. So I had a choice: to sit at home and dwell on matters or take myself out. I chose the latter. I chose to go to the cinema and watch a movie by myself. It felt odd sitting there by myself whilst everyone was with friends or family. However, at the same time it felt hugely liberating. I’ve done other things on my own before, such as going to the park, for a walk or shopping. But never something I considered to be a ‘social’ experience. Throughout it all I kept saying to myself that I liked and valued my own company. After the slight discomfort at the beginning (probably involving letting go of expectations) it turned into a hugely enjoyable experience- one I will definitely do again. When I left the cinema I had a smile on my face. Right now, I am on my own. Kids due to return this evening. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on my own and it’s been great. Just me and myself.
Don’t wait for happiness to come to you. Create your own moments and memories. Sometimes these will only involve you.
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for sharing this personal story, Aysha. I know many of us can relate, and gain important insight from reading stories like these.
This post contains a very nice message that I needed to hear. I need to find enough balance in my relationships, so that’s I’m looking out for myself TOO.
Thank you for a another GREAT post!
My relationship went south. A friend has been there from its last breath. She reminds me almost every day to count my blessings (she is definitely one!) and to be aware of how far I’ve come.
Thanks for the important reminder to value oneself enough to guard the inner circle and spend time with those who are positive forces in our lives.
The other part about being happy solo is especially timely for me. At the age of 50, I am not currently in or actively seeking a romantic relationship, and am really loving the freedom to reconnect with my authentic self, find my voice, pursue my passions and grow in any direction I choose. It’s turning out to be an incredibly challenging, exciting and rewarding time. I may start a blog soon 🙂
Thank you so much for this..I’ve always been a loner..but I need to learn to truly appreciate my own company..
I am just starting to get used to being on my own after getting divorced, I do struggle with it at times as it has come later in life when it was the last thing I expected to be doing. I have also let go of a group of friends who were so close at one time but turned out to be people who drained everything from me. Physically and mentally, I stayed as I thought that’s where I was supposed to be and was scared to leave and say no. In the end for my own sanity and before every penny I had was gone I said no more and cut them out of my life for good. They didn’t make it easy for me and I had a rough couple of years, then I got divorced as I couldn’t stay and watch the person I’d spent so long with ruin his life with alcohol. I’ve lived with depression all my life and some days are very dark but I’m as always taking one day at a time.
Thank you for the posts. They encourage me to keep going.
Just had a weekend with a “friend” that was packed to the gills with drama – which is an on-going pattern with her & her family. Continuing to be a friend “just to be nice” in spite of continued insults from her just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. Your article is a GREAT reminder to surround myself with situations & people that make me happy, bring goodness and contribute to my life. Being alone is SO MUCH better than people who are angry, judgmental, creating conflict where it doesn’t exist, looking to blame and arguing. Yuck.
My new mantra: Bring on the good times, spend time with GOOD friends and be good to myself. Life is all too short already.
I opened your email to find the exact perfect message for me. I’ve been struggling with two friends relationships who used to spend time with me and we’re very close. However, since their lives have brought in a significant other, they have not spent any quality time with me which has been very painful. Also I realize that their reporting to me on their social activities which did not include me, made me feel bad and hurt my feelings . It took me to the negative mindset of “you’re not good enough to be included “. I had already been thinking lately about saying something and finding friendships elsewhere. Your article confirmed this is what I need to do to take care of me! Thank you so very much!
igor Griffiths says
I have heard the advice about being careful who you spend time with and so glad you mentioned in this post that being on your own is an option.
I work in a closed environment where we work, eat, sleep and play in close proximity and there are several morale vacuums I always try to avoid when I can as they definitely do not raise anyone up!
Love the term ‘tribe’, Marc. Spending time with the right people, who accept us for who we are, speeds up our personal growth. It makes us feel loved, and empowers us to be the best versions of ourselves.
Unfortunately, we often try to please people who are unhappy with us. We seek validation from their approval. Since they don’t approve of us, we keep feeling worse about ourselves. Only when we have a strong relation with ourselves can we decide who should be in our lives, and whom we should let go of. This point of yours resonated with me the deepest.
Deeply insightful post as always, Marc.
Every single sentence in this article is true. I’ve experienced them and learned from them, some the hard way. I’ve learned to just be with a few people who value me and whom I can really trust. I’ve also learned the importance of having a “me” time to reflect and to just enjoy being myself alone. Thank you to March and Angel for another inspiring blog. God bless!
I do only surround myself with positive friends and I have learnt to let go of certain friends who have been draining me. The hard bit is when your own family can bring you down. I can’t cut off my mother and my own daughters as I do love them even though they can be very critical and controlling. My mother in particular seems to love it when things are not going as well as they could be in my life. I have tried distancing myself from my own mum but it feels wrong.
Sally — it is NOT wrong to distance yourself from anyone who constantly tries to tear you down. Yes, the Bible says “Honor thy father and thy mother….” but the implication here is that they should also behave in an honorable manner towards you. For me, it was absolutely necessary to go No Contact with my female biological parent who had a very bad case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That was 58 years ago; she tried to horn into my life a couple of times, but with God’s help, I have been able to live a full life and use the talents and abilities I was given to help others along their pathways. There is a book which might help you to see your way more clearly. The title is “When you and your mother can’t be friends” and the author’s name is Victoria Secunda. Peace and hope to you from Elva.
Thank you for your very helpful reply Elva – I shall definitely be ordering the book you recommended. Love Sally
My new mantra: Learn to enjoy your own company. Thank you, marc and angel, for schooling me on this concept.
retired school teacher 35 years high school health class
perfect article for emotional and mental well being.
I am in an acting class now and have been searching for a 60 sec monologue.. this is it… perfect…. puts me back in my state of mind as a teacher wanting to help students become the best person possible it starts and continutes with self esteem self confidence and hanging out with the “right ‘ people” and to remind my self… to practice what I preach…. thank you
Andrew Kuzilwa says
I enjoy your posts/emails and learn much from your lessons.
Keep it up Marc and Angel
P. Taylor says
If we truly treat others the same way as to how we treat ourselves, than we need to be best friends with ourselves first and truly love our own company before we can actually be great friends to others.
So how well do we really know ourselves?
How well do we even know our friends?
Most of the time we only see what’s on the surface.
But I truly believe that the people who truly care about you are the very same ones who truly make an effort to be in your life, to support you, to cheer you on, to listen, to help you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. They enjoy doing things for you regardless how many warts you have on your head. And it truly works out when in turn, you are that to them. It’s just true love and kindness.
Completely agree. Be kind to others, but be kind to yourself too by giving yourself enough breathing room from social environments that drain you. Find a healthy balance. Such great reminders… Thanks so much!
Please can I get these helpful blogs in Italian language. I would love my girlfriend to read more about these lessons.
Sharlotte Wilcox says
This was what I really needed to hear that others are experiencing separation from negative people also.. I have surrounded myself with those type for a very long time. A scripture that Opened my eyes was to Guard our hearts ?. People pleasing is bad for ones health. I have gotten side tracked and wiped out by negative toxic people. I am finally setting up a big boundary against their deception. I want to live in peace and take care of myself because no one else will. It’s a big step but it’s so worth it
Being alone is really so nice. Not getting tossed to and fro is a great experience. Finally looking forward in a good way.
This is such a good reminder to not divide your attention when spending time with anyone. Sometimes it seems that we get so busy that we feel it’s okay to multi task when we should just focus on the person in front of us. I am guilty of this at times but this post has been a bit of a wake up for me to focus more on my present and immediate situation and relationships rather than getting it “all” done in the next 10 minutes (getting that phone call to mom out of the way whilst reading email and creating my to do list). Mom gets my full and undivide attention today and every day going forward because we both deserve it.
Gemma Moody says
Some great reminders in this article, thank you. It reminds me of the quote “You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn) which when you think about it is so true, we can’t help but be influenced by those we surround ourselves with so if we spend our time with positive productive, happy people who lift us we will be lifted, if we spend out time with negative, excuse making, gossipy people then we will feel this way too. I know when I spend time with people who are just not on the same wave of life as me I just feel so tired and drained, it really has an impact on me, we can’t always just get rid of toxic relationships but we can certainly do our best to distance ourselves from them.