How do your friends affect your life?

As a parent, I often worried about the kind of friends my children kept. It’s a major concern for most parents of pre-teen and teenage children. Group mentality is powerful among the youth as they crave a sense of belonging and identity outside the home.

But what about adults? We are all social creatures by nature. The friendships adults keep is no less important in determining one’s outlook on life than for a teenager. We care a lot more about how people within our “inner circle” perceive us than any of us would like to admit. We compete, we support, we inspire, we stifle and we compare amongst friends. In a lot of ways, we develop our identity from our friends and family.

From personal experience, I know that once I left my hometown of Tacoma, away from my high school “jock” friends, and traveled abroad, my perspective on life drastically changed. I’m not saying it made me a better person, but it did make me prioritize my career aspirations. That’s because those whom I met overseas were more focused on their careers. My desire to have status and credibility amongst my new friends certainly affected my actions from thereafter.

Today, I’m fortunate enough to know so many great people. Almost every day, I meet with people who challenge my thoughts, and sometimes even my motives. Especially as I now start a new venture, a broad perspective gives me a more clear understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish, eliminating some of my blind spots.

These friends also keep me motivated with encouragements, as well as by competing with their own ideas, efforts and successes.  They help me aspire for higher goals.

People often say networking is important and “who you know” is critical to success. I guess I’m saying the same thing in a slightly different way. You will inherently want acceptance and praise from your friends, people you care the most about. So, what is the focus of your group of friends, because that is the area you yourself will most likely focus in on? Remember we have a choice here. You have no choice on who is your family, but we all get to pick our friends.

So, yes, by all means, go out and network. Expand your circle of friends with people who can inspire and motivate you in the ways you want to live. Do it in an authentic manner, true to yourself. Then, your opportunities, and your perspective will grow as well.

Along the way, you must also ask yourself this obvious question: What kind of friend are you? Do you inspire, motivate, elevate and support those who are the closest to you?