As a child, I remember fantasizing about the things I would do when I became an adult. The list included things like staying up past midnight and nibbling on whatever candy I wanted, whenever I wanted. Free reign to do whatever I want? Yes, please!
Now that I’ve made it to the big leagues of adulthood, I’ve learned just how “off” my perspective was. No, I don’t nibble on candy endlessly (although I've definitely been known to raid my children’s stash from time to time!). And, while I’d like to say I’m a night owl, the reality is that I can usually be found in bed by 9:30 . . . my childhood self would be so disappointed.
As it turns out, there is one thing I had right as a kid: as adults, we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. Let that sink in for a minute. Sure, most of us need to work and we all have responsibilities, but at the end of the day we get to choose which activities we participate in and what things we place importance on. We get to decide how we prioritize our lives.
This begs the question: what things are at the heart of a good life? Depending on who you ask, you might get slightly different answers -- but most of us would probably agree that having a solid circle of friends is a key ingredient.
Kids make finding friends look easy. If you’ve never done it, take some time one day to sit at a neighborhood playground and watch how they interact with one another. Those situations usually go something like this: child arrives at the playground and doesn’t know anyone. Then, within minutes, they’re making sand castles together, playing tag and calling each other besties. The funny thing is, all of us used to belong to this special club, but some of us have become a little rusty in the age-old art of making new friends as we've gotten older.
Strong friendships happen over time. Bonds become stronger by sharing experiences, making memories and by just being. For some, “how” to do this can seem a bit elusive, but it doesn't need to be! Here are 5 things you can do to strengthen your friendships:
Invest the time. Look for ways to spend more time with people you want to do life with. Set up regularly scheduled time to get together, whether it’s a weekly coffee meetup, a monthly dinner date or a regularly scheduled yoga class. No matter what you choose to do, always be on the lookout for opportunities to spend quality time together.
Celebrate one another. There’s a reason kids look forward to birthday parties . . . it’s time spent surrounded by some of the most important people in our life. The same applies to adults! Birthdays are a great excuse to gather together and a perfect way to remind friends that they are loved beyond measure. Take the time to celebrate your friends and remind them how special they truly are.
Be a helper. The best friends in life are the ones you can count on. Next time yours need a helping hand, be there to lend yours. Maybe they need help with a move, watching their children for an afternoon, or house sitting while they’re out of town. No matter what the ask, be someone who's always on the lookout for ways to help out.
Show up. We all have ups and downs in life, and good friends are the ones who show up in those moments. Ask how you can be a friend to them during their difficult time. Consider bringing a meal, showing up with a bouquet of flowers, running errands, or shuffling kids around. Ask how you can pray for them, and be there to lend a listening ear. Small acts of kindness can be a welcome ray of light during otherwise dark times.
Stay in touch. If distance separates you from some of your dearest friends, look for ways to keep your close bond. Regular phone calls, FaceTime sessions, text messages and even thoughtful cards are all great ways to stay close across the miles.
Above all else, remember this: strong friendships matter. If you play your cards right, your friends can be a source of joy, of encouragement, of advice, and of inspiration. They are your biggest cheerleaders, your voice of reason, and your shoulder to cry on when the going gets tough. They are the ones who will inspire you to be better and do better.