Sometimes it just feels like you are just being tossed about during your day or week. Maybe you feel like you are crawling to the proverbial shore at the end of the day as your ship (plan) was wrecked and sunk again.
It’s not difficult to fall into a cycle of despair and even hopelessness as circumstances around you influence your life and well-being. To help you re-establish or reinforce your control over the day, here are some reminders of the things that you do have control over both in your personal and professional life.
What you consume
When people think of the word “consume” they may naturally think of something like eating or food. While it’s true that you have control over what you consume from a nutritional perspective, broaden that thought to other things that you consume on a regular basis. Your regular consumption includes
Interactions with your friends, family, and co-workers
Reflect on the past week. What has been a negative influence or perhaps overly influential on your thoughts and actions? Perhaps the weight of the news is dragging you down or there has been drama at the workplace that has taken up a lot of your headspace. Here are some tips to take back control of the things that you consume:
Find different news outlets to get your information from. Counselors will often suggest outlets outside of your country if you get too worked up by the news. They are more neutral and have no agenda to drive you toward one conclusion or another.
Take social media breaks and see how it impacts your outlook on yourself and your day.
Put limits on the amount of entertainment you consume to allow space for other productive things.
Check your knowledge outlets for alignments with your goals and ambitions.
Some tips to control your mental and physical fitness:
Studies share that you need 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigours exercise a week and strength training for all major muscle groups two times a week. Forget that! Do what you can. You can control going out for a 10-minute stroll. Don’t let studies that highlight how you may be coming up short hold you back. Take control of those small moments to give yourself the break and conditioning you need.
Read a book or engage in some mentally stimulating activity. At my current stage, it’s mostly working on art with a little bit of reading. Neither one, do I spend a large block of time on except perhaps the weekend. Take control of small segments here as well. What does that look like for you?
Find reading or fitness apps to help get you started and stay motivated. You can find an endless amount of fitness apps out there. I use Caliber for strength training; it’s free and includes plans and videos based on what you have available at your house. I use Apple Fitness for my aerobic, core, and additional strength work.
Find things that you have an interest in and carve out time to take of both your mind and body.
Your work ethic
No matter what others do, or don’t do, no one has control over your work ethic except for you. For better or worse, the choices you make in how you do your work are yours alone. Need resources to help drive a strong work ethic? Check out:
Your work ethics are your calling card. More than anything, it’s how people know and think of you.
How you approach and deal with people
How do you show up for people that you interact with? Even in those tough circumstances that may rock our day, we still ultimately own and have the power over how we interact with others and come across in conversations. How well do you control your approach with others? Are you a reflection of your day; nice on a good day and distraught during the bad days?
Be mindful to be consistent in how you interact with others. Most times it should be effortless; it’s your authentic self where you (hopefully) want to add value to others. At other times, you’ll need to make the choice to be super intentional to keep steady in all the negative noise of the day. Don’t let your day influence who you are. Let yourself influence how your day is going to be.
If you look more online at the types of things that you can control, you’ll find a myriad of opinions out there ranging from a list of 100 down to an article saying that you can only control one thing. Evaluate your day. What do you have influence over that you perhaps don’t give yourself enough credit or power over right now? Get a solid grasp on those things you can control as you get ready to let go of the things that you can’t control.
This was Max Dickins asked himself as he thought about proposing to his girlfriend and realized that he didn’t have any close friends that she could ask to be his best man. Max considers himself to be an outgoing guy with decent manners, but as he began to go through his contacts he realized that he had plenty of colleagues, acquaintances, and work friends, but no close personal friends. He also realized that he was using his girlfriend’s social network as they all hung out together.
Maybe you are a little like Max. Your work is the main social connection and any connections to others in your personal are really due to other people’s friends. Perhaps you don’t have close friends that are truly your own.
Hope’s not lost! Today we continue with our tips to help fuel your friendships. (See part 1 here)
A good cadence of connection has always been my life raft when it comes to close friendships. All the other tips are easier to do when there is a good rhythm in place. I’ve also found that when that rhythm gets off, everything else is harder to do as well, action takes more action, time takes more time, etc.
What that cadence looks like is all up to you and your friend to decide. Mine have looked quite different depending on the person, the shared connection, and life stage. Some included
Meeting twice a month to train for a team adventure race
Attending a weekly Men’s Accountability group
Going on twice-weekly rucks with friends
Weekly band practice
Quarterly lunches together
Other activities that keep a good cadence:
Monthly outdoor activities
Fun group chats
There are so many ways to connect and ingrain a good cadence of connection with the other person.
What your friendship becomes is only limited by your imagination. Yes, they can make great accountability partners (EP 191 How an accountability partner can help you on your journey) But can your friendship be more? I know couples that are close friends with each other that go on vacation together and help raise all their children together. Another one gave a kidney to his friend. A different pair go speaking engagements together.
Sometimes we think of friendships as that ultimate cheerleader, cheering us on from the sidelines as we triumph and encouraging us when we struggle. Your imagination will keep you out of that dynamic and you are an active part of each other’s lives.
All the things before this one; Time, Situational Awareness, Action, Cadence, and imagination are all great…. but no one is perfect. You can’t live up to all of those expectations and nor will your friend.
Grace is a true gift that you should freely give to close friends. It may be easy to write off someone you don’t know very well when an interaction goes south. Your close friends shouldn’t be that dispensable. They are worth your forgiveness and grace. You can show them grace by:
Letting go of grudges, jealousy, and slights against you
Extend your hospitality to them and those close to them
Be flexible with each other and remember that sometimes the seasons in your life will dictate a change in the dynamic of the friendship. Be graceful with each other as your friendship flexes during those times.
The story about Max is what led him to do a lot of research specifically about Men and friendship, and wrote a book called: Billy No-Mates: How I realized Men Have a Friendship Problem. Max sums up his advice for growing friendships as, “Show up when you’re asked. Go first when you are not asked, and keep going even when it’s hard.” He ended up with two people in the best man role by the time his wedding came around.
Gain and nurture your close friendships. They’ll be there when you need someone the most.
I can honestly say that I have been blessed with some amazing friendships over the years. My closest friends have been there to celebrate the great times and to support me during the hardest times of my life.
Great friendships always bring out the best in you and the other person. They are the funniest, generous, and caring, in their own way, with those friends that they are closest with. Here are some tips to fuel great relationships.
The first step could be the most powerful and likely the largest hurdle to any friendship; time. Friendship takes time and for many adults, time can be in short supply, especially without good time management skills.
In order to build a friendship that lasts, it takes a time investment. One study estimates that it takes 40-60 hours with someone to turn that person from an acquaintance to a casual friend. Invest a total of 80-100 hours to elevate the casual friendship into something else.
The time gate is also the reason you find many of your friendships where you spend lots of time anyway like, work, school, church, and extracurricular activities. Sometimes that time investment is over a long period of time, think about someone you may see during your extracurricular activity (softball, soccer, volunteer, etc) vs someone that you became fast friends with because of life circumstances.
If you want impactful friendships and relationships it will take some kind of time investment on your part.
Typically as you get older, your social circles begin to settle and tighten. Routines aren’t a bad thing and you are actually being exposed to more future friendships than you may realize.
Fueling new friendships takes paying attention to your environment and discovering new friendships in unexpected ways. It’s now a normal occurrence to hear stories of people becoming friends in online games and becoming best friends in real life. Look in the online forums that you frequent. Who have you bumped into while on your errands and out and about in your town? Perhaps there is someone in a different department at work that you find interesting. There are lots of places that are in your normal routines for that next friend.
Neha is a great example of that for me. We initially met a few years ago as we volunteered at the Atlanta Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. At first, that time investment was slow, but it sped up as we got to know each other more and discovered several shared interests. Now she’s celebrating a year and a half as our podcast co-host.
Don’t limit your situational awareness to just new connections. Look around at some people who perhaps have entered your circle of influence for a little while now. What connection may be good to take to the next level?
Time and awareness hold little value if you don’t take action to advance the friendship. Action does take a dose of courage. You need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone at times to put yourself out there for the other person. The beginning stages of a strong friendship can seem a bit like dating. You see something in a person and you may need to step out to make a connection to get things started.
Not all action is created equal at the beginning of a friendship. Some may just easily happen with a little extra effort. I’ve made lots of friends by being paired up with people in both military and civilian training environments. The action hurdle is lowered when you are together morning, noon, and night.
Outside of time, action may be the hardest part of keeping a strong friendship going. Friendship can be work. It takes thought, intentionality, and effort. All that effort may seem hard or discouraging, but remember the joy and connectedness that you, and the other person, experience as a result.
Friendships won’t grow without action, and that’s ok for a large population that you encounter. Nurture those relationships that you want to have in your personal and professional life. The benefits of friendships include:
A stronger sense of purpose and belonging
Reduced stress and increased happiness
Higher self-confidence and self-worth
Support systems during challenging times
Guardrails during major life choices
Bonus Tip – Reconnection
Perhaps you’ve had strong relationships in the past and for whatever reason, you both drifted away. This is a natural part of life and is a natural conclusion for some friendships as the dynamics between the two change. Other times there is an opportunity to reignite those friendships.
A years-long pandemic certainly impacted many relationships across the world. I was not immune to this and found many of my friends that I used to spend my time with were not as close anymore, because of the isolation caused by the heights of COVID-19. I would encourage you to not give up on those relationships if you feel like there is still value in the friendship. Reinvest some time, and take action to re-engage.
Next week, we’ll continue to look at the ways to fuel your friendships by talking through grace, imagination, and cadence.
Two of the most powerful words that you can speak are, “Thank you.” Showing appreciation and gratitude are gestures that no one can ever get enough of. It can make someone’s day, pull someone out of a bad frame of mind, and affirm their behavior.
Don’t fight charity and gifts
Many people have a tendency to fight charity and gifts. You’ve likely seen someone playfully argue with someone else about getting a meal paid for. “You really don’t have to do that. No, no, I can pay for my own stuff. You don’t have to do that.” Maybe you’ve said those things to someone!
Part of the problem is that we can have difficulty accepting gifts. It can be rooted in a sense of pride or guilt that you don’t have anything to give in return. When you fight back against a gift or charity you are robbing the joy from the giver. They shouldn’t have to argue, playfully or seriously, to give you something. If you receive a gift or service, simply thank the person for the gesture and show your appreciation. Doing so affirms that they gave you something of value and makes them feel good for doing so.
Convey the meaning and impact of your thanks
Saying thanks and thank you can turn into the phrase, “How are you doing?” It’s a pleasantry that we truly don’t expect any answer back other than fine or good. Be sure to share the meaning and impact of your thanks from time to time to break up the monotony of just simply saying thanks.
Tell the person why you are thankful. “Thanks for doing this for me. This is really going to save me some time on my project.” “Thank you for mowing the yard. I know it’s a lot of work and hot out there today. It looks awesome!”
Giving them the why and impact of the thanks conveys an extra sense of appreciation and acknowledgment of what the person did for you.
Show thanks and gratitude in other ways.
Words are powerful and your actions can back those words up. Gifts, gestures, service are just a few of the ways you can show your gratitude besides just words. Don’t just do things for others after they first do something for you. Be proactive in looking for ways to surprise and delight others with your thanks appreciation and gratitude. Here are some areas to discover how you can show your gratitude:
Find out what their favorite snacks/restaurants.
Discover what their hobbies and interests are.
Understand what they love to do.
Understand what they really don’t like to do.
Are you saying thanks enough? Do your actions convey the same message? Increase your gratitude and strengthen your relationships.
Work hard, have fun, and make history. -Jeff Bezos
Have fun! It’s sometimes easier said than done. You can’t force someone to have fun. I remember when my dad would get on to me about something and we would then go out in public. He would stop and tell me to smile in a very unfriendly way. I wasn’t exactly inspired to put on a smiling face.
Even though you can’t force fun, you can make it more of a habit in your life. Here are some tips to draw out some fun and joy in your life.
Don’t worry about what others think
We tend to carry a heavy value on what other people think of us when we are in school. You don’t truly escape that want and need to be liked by others as you grow into an adult. A few do, but most are somewhere on the scale of desiring acceptance.
The desire to be accepted, or fear of being rejected depending on your perspective, holds many people back from having fun. Do your best to let go of that. I don’t mean showing up at work out of the blue in your PJs and a unicorn mask. Take baby steps. become more comfortable with yourself and give yourself the freedom to have fun.
It’s common for me to come downstairs, have a dance-off or training battle with my son, have a self-deprecating conversation with my daughter, and a fun talk with my wife. I believe that it’s important for your kids, spouse, significant other, and friends to see you having fun. Your joy gives them joy.
Make fun out of things you normally do
Look for ways to make some of the things that you do more fun. There are several out-of-the-box options available if you know where to look. When I first started to get into running, I found an app called Zombies, run! It has story-based missions where you go on supply runs and build up your base during the apocalypse. It certainly helped me get out and have fun on my runs. It played my music, I got to be a part of a serialized drama and I got my exercise in as well. If you need help to get some ideas, do a search for “fun things to do ______” The blank is your normal routine. Ex. while at work, on my commute, at home, with the kids, etc.
Ask people entertaining questions
This has been one that my wife and I have enjoyed this year. We meet weekly with a small group that we do life together with. It’s equal parts accountability, growth, socializing, and learning. We started kicking off our get-togethers with fun and entertaining questions. One was, “What is your favorite cereal?” That turned into a half-hour-long discussion of passion for cereal, remembering great ones that are now gone, funny stories involving cereal, and an idea to have a cereal social. Even questions and conversation starters that seem mundane can spark all kinds of fun discussions. If you need help here, do a search for fun topic starters or icebreakers.
Be yourself and have fun! Try to let go of what other people think of you and enjoy some fun moments throughout the week. Your mind and body will thank you.