30 day challenges

Focused on self-improvement and living a fuller life.

Robert Waldinger research on the good life.

Robert Waldinger who is the director of a 75 year old study on adult development concludes that close friendship is the number one indicator for long term happiness. So why is friendship important?

Research estimates that 70% of a person’s life-satisfaction depends on the quality of their relationships (Carolyn B. Murray and M. Jean Peacock). The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. If that is not enough, research out of Brigham Young University shows that those who are lonely, socially isolated or living on their own the risk of premature death rises 26 to 32 percent. So having friendships not only impacts your happiness but your health as well.

But how many friends should you have? Robin Dunbar concludes that we are limited to the number of stable social relationships that we can have to roughly 150 people. While some are capable of maintaining larger social circles, we are all constrained by the amount of time we have.

Looking at social networks today very few help promote deep connection. While the goal of these social networks is to connect people, they are driving us farther apart. We are replacing the time that we could be spending having meaningful offline experiences with superficial time spent online with a network that far surpasses the capacity for what we are capable of maintaining.

On average people spend over 50 minutes a day on Facebook’s suite of apps (Facebook, Instagram and Messenger). Social networks should be optimizing for meaningful connections with fewer individuals and not optimizing for time spent within their product. For me, happiness is not measured in the number of friends I have but in the strength of those friendships. I want to devote my limited time and energy to fewer friends to build more meaningful relationships.

As we go through different stages of our lives, our friendships will change. We will make new friends, and drift apart from old ones. But maintaining a close group of friends is a pretty reliable indicator of long-term happiness. The older we get, the more difficult it is to make friends as most of your time is committed to our work and family. I’ve recently entered a new phase of my life, and I wanted to evaluate my friendships and see if I could make a few new ones.

But when you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.  — Seneca

The tricky thing is that making new friends is hard, really hard. You have to open yourself up to rejection and allow yourself to be vulnerable. What I found when trying to form new friendships is that they happen mostly serendipitous and it is hard to game the system. Like dating, there is no magic formula and ultimately making new friends is a game of numbers, but I did ask myself a couple of helpful questions.

Are you going to make each other better people?

All friendships start out as a leap of faith, but you should evaluate them over time. Make sure that you are surrounding yourself with friends who will push you to become better and broaden your perspective on the world. Friendships are a two-way street; both people need to be willing to put in the time and energy required to make the friendship flourish.

Do you have shared interests?

Friendships take time to build and repeat interaction is a necessary component. The more opportunity you have to interact with that person the likelihood of you becoming friends increases. It’s much easier when you have shared interests that provide a common thread to tie all of your experiences together.

The most reliable indicator of friendship is are they there for you when you need them the most.

Coffs Harbour

Couple at Coffs Harbour

I value the memories and experiences that I have created with my friends, both new and old as they have helped shape who I am. I learned that people matter, but some don’t. It’s worth devoting your time and energy to the ones that do.