By Ryan Scott Oliver
Let's talk about friends, baby.
Maybe lately you've been feeling unmotivated, uninspired. Or maybe you had coffee with a mentor, and suddenly a jolt of action hit you?! Did you hang with a friend who booked a huge gig — and you left feeling small, and bad about yourself ... OR, did you leave feeling like anything was possible?
The people we hang out with, or rather, the people we see most often (like our coworkers, roommates, family members) have a tremendous impact on our lives. We absorb the energy of other people — some of us more than others (the most spongy of which we call "Empaths") ... meaning, when your boyfriend is in a great mood you're like, wow I'm in a great mood too! Or when your friend vents for the 11th day in a row about her shitty job, and you feel sad afterwards ... Or when your roommate you normally go to auditions with suggests "What's the point?" while the other roommate says "Hey, come with me to the gym!"
Some people are great influences, and others are really fucking shitty influences.
EXERCISE PART ONE:
Make a list of the 5 people you see most. (Again, this is not necessarily your "five best friends." This is simply who you end up seeing the most and spending your time with.)
Then ... maybe a secondary list of 10-15 more you would say you see once every six months. Likely these are closer friends you don't see too much, and peripheral acquaintences. Maybe some family members back home.
Interesting: They say you are the average of the 5 people you hang out with most. I have found this to be true! What about you?
EXERCISE PART TWO:
Now let's do something that some of you might find a little icky — while others of you (the Type A folks) will find tremendously illuminating ...
It's called the Friend Matrix.
Inspired by The Approval Matrix, where a list of items are placed somewhere within two axes which equally influence the item.
Vertical axis: Brain Stimulation
For our purposes, I suggest our "up axis" is INSPIRATION. Only you can determine what really inspires you. I find hard-workers, brainiacs, mentors, and anyone I feel like I am challenged by to be HIGH inspiration. People who make me feel lazy, unmotivated, and reluctant to take care of myself would be LOW. You might also think of this as a scale of "brain stimulation." But then, power and clout may also factor in here ... perhaps a playwright friend who is always getting things done whom you admire (and may want to work with some day); or even a director you worked with once that makes you career-hungry (in a positive way). So you might also factor in "influence/power" here as well.
Horizontal axis: Heart Stimulation
This is about SPIRIT ... It's about feeling HAPPY and fun, enjoying your life, enjoying being you. Your best friend from home doesn't know anything about musical theatre and can't help you with auditions or getting to the gym, but when you're with him, you feel your heart is bursting, and you're laughing all the time. A drink with this person makes everything better ... they are HIGH on this axis. But someone who puts you down, makes you feel badly about yourself and your choices, who yells at you and chastises you, criticizes you, makes you feel unnecessarily and unfairly jealous ... these are LOW on the axis.
Now take a moment and register your list of folks on the matrix. It may feel weird at first, but the results may create a permanent life change that makes it all worthwhile ...
You may discover there's someone in your life you need to see more, who for whatever reason, you haven't taken seriously enough and you need to simply put more time into
Or, you may discover you're spending too much time with someone who, frankly, isn't worth your time and consistently brings you down
- Most of the people will only reaffirm their existing positions, but once you factor in the importance heart and brain stimulation, you may become newly aware of someone.
People in your upper right quadrant are the most valuable people in your life (highest brain and highest heart). See them more! Text and call them more! (If it's possible!!)
There is someone in your life you aren't loving hard enough and they deserve MORE from you.
People in your lower left quadrant are the least, and you may consider more distance from them. No excuses here: why do you HAVE to see her every week? Why do you HAVE to spend your lunch break with him? Get "busier." Have new commitments.
This is your life, and people who aren't earning your time simply don't deserve it.
Make a list of 5 actions you can take after reviewing your matrix. Chances are actions look like:
Texting/seeing someone more regularly (challenge yourself to do it every Monday, or every three weeks, etc.)
Taking more time for yourself and finding the strength to tell bring-downers "no."
- Even if The Friend Matrix feels too calculating to you, it's vital to review our relationships occasionally, or you may wake up one day realizing you didn't appreciate someone enough and they're gone ... or that you've gotten into an unhealthy pattern with an emotional monster. :)