Monday, March 7, 2011

Frenemies: Are your Friends Sabotaging your Success?

As the song goes... You've got to have friends. As with most other things in life though, not all friends are created equal!

Most of us would consider a friend to be someone we share similar interests with and enjoy spending time with. A true friend though goes beyond this. A true friend is someone that is there to help support you through those difficult life moments and that is there to help you celebrate the joyous ones. They encourage you to strive for more, taking personal pleasure from your successes.

Why then would a friend, especially a 'true' friend, not want to see you succeed or, perhaps more importantly, why might they even work against your success? Research into what Influences the goals of others offers these possible explanations:

Others may have a strong vested interest in you remaining where you are, in maintaining the status quo. Just as we maintain our relationships with others because we 'get' something from them, so too do others have a motivation for remaining friends with us. However, sometimes those motivators require us to remain where we are in order to support (or enhance) their sense of self. In short... Sometimes they feel better about themselves through their comparison to us, on some dimension. If we shift that dimension then it might require them to rethink themselves. If this is undesirable to them then they will do what they can, whether consciously or unconsciously, to prevent us from changing.

Your goal may run counter to their goals for themselves, or possibly even their goals for you. We may see this behaviour from a parent who dissuades their child from choosing a particular career path because it runs counter to the parent's desired career for them. We see this also in friends who have a perspective on what is 'right' for us and who want to save us from making a mistake. Although this may be their conscious motivation, unconsciously their arguments may be driven more by the fact that our goal wouldn't fit well into their plans than because it isn't the right path for us to follow.

We are influenced by some of the smallest, subtlest most unlikely things every day, each having an impact upon how we view ourselves and the world around us. Most of these influencers occur at the unconscious level, making it extremely difficult, if not nigh on impossible, to mitigate the damage. Instead of trying to control the impact of these messages, look to control the environment and the messages themselves.

The Work:

Take a close look at your circle of friends, the people that you spend the most time with. How would you characterize the nature of their involvement with you? Is their influence predominantly positive or negative in nature? Are they quick to work to support your new idea or be the first to tell you why it won't work, why you couldn't possibly succeed?  A good possible indicator is to ask yourself whether you look forward to seeing a particular person or whether you consider it more of a 'chore'. 

Here comes the hard part... If they fall more on the negative side of the equation, consider why they are in your life, why you continue to allow them to negatively impact your goals, successes, and vision of yourself. If you continue to be friends, then it must be because you are getting something from the relationship that you need...

  •  Perhaps you are unconsciously afraid of taking that next step and their lack of support and/or criticism of the plan gives you the justification you need not to 'try'
  • Maybe you harbour limiting beliefs about yourself and your abilities that their feedback feeds into
  • Perhaps you don't feel you are deserving of anything more in your life and they help reinforce that, somehow making 'not' striving for more feel okay
  • Maybe you are afraid of confrontation and are hesitant to let them know that until their attitude shifts the two of you can no longer spend time together

Whether your reason for keeping these people in your life is one of the above, or one of your own, the time has come to decide whether their value to you and your life path has reached it's zenith...and let them go.

Instead,consciously surround yourself with others that psychologically support and push your dreams and goals, people that actively and genuinely want the best for you. When times get tough you want people around you that will help shore you up and weather through. Always bear in mind that we want quality friendships, not quantity! If your relationships don't positively serve you in some way then direct your efforts to finding ones that do because, in the end, that"s what friends are for!

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