Each day we wake up like a fully charged Tesla (or perhaps a Nissan Leaf in my case). We tackle our morning with a lot of oomph and pep to get past our roadblocks.
But as the day wears on, our battery wears down.
And after a long list of errands, appointments, meetings, and pit stops, we find ourselves running low on power. Yet, we still need to keep some energy in the tank to spend quality time with our loved ones and enjoy life a bit more.
On top of the power required to get over the bumpy terrain of life and carry our workload, our battery’s biggest energy-suck are the people we have to interact with daily.
There are some challenging conversations and people we can’t avoid. These interactions are a necessary part of our lives, jobs, and duties. But when it comes to spending time and energy with so-called “friends,” we have more of a choice than we realize.
The friendship trap
We all have people in our lives we call “friends,” but we use this term loosely.
Much in the way we throw around the word “love” to mean many different things — e.g., “I love my wife,” versus “I’d love to have the opportunity to work with you.” — we also use the word “friend” far too casually. But this designation can lead us into relationship commitments, traps, and obligations that may be unhealthy for us.
We’ve all had that person in our lives that makes us feel bad for not calling them more often or carving out more time on our calendar. And this guilt only adds to our energy depletion.
We spend more time than we realize feeling guilty about the people we don’t have time to meet. But determining who your most important friendships are can be a big step toward improving your energy efficiency.
Before you call someone a genuine friend, make sure they can pass three basic tests of friendship.
My Three Friendship Tests:
#1: Does your “friend” fill your tank with energy or drain it?
If your friend fills your battery with energy, I recommend you spend more time with them. Restorative people make us feel alive, energized, and ready to tackle the world.
However, if your “friend” drains your battery and makes you feel more tired than you were before you met with them, this is a flashing warning sign. And it might explain why you subconsciously put off, stall, avoid, delay, and dread interacting with them.
Let’s be honest; we all put some people off until later. But when we get their voice mall or text message to “catch up,” we let out a heavy sigh of guilt for not reaching out to them sooner.
But before you accuse yourself of being a lousy friend, keep in mind that feeling guilty should not be a part of the friendship equation. Good friends can sense what’s going on in our lives. And they know when to give us the space we need to take care of our personal lives.
Most of us find creative ways to fit the things and people in that fill our tank, and we avoid those that drain us. The former is a slam dunk decision we don’t even have to think about, but the latter choice takes more conscious planning and preparation to plot out the steps and exit scenarios. That’s not really a friendship, but more like doing community service.
#2: Does your friend wish you well?
Although we don’t always realize it, many of the people we spend our time with are more like “friends of convenience” or circumstance. These cellmates are often trapped in the same prison of high school or college or work as we are. And we “do our time” together in a bonded, supportive way.
But would we proactively choose them to be our friends in the outside world? Only time will tell.
As we grow up, our life and the number of options we have available to us change. We can get married, have kids, or stay single and travel the world with just a backpack and journal. We can join a rock band, church, cult, or the Navy.
The possibilities for how our lives will evolve are endless. But the one constant you can usually count on is that your next station in life will probably be different and more unexpected than your previous station.
But not everybody makes these life-changing decisions at the same time. We all take the unplanned hard right turns and detours at different junctures along the highway of life.
And our passengers — or what we call friends and cellmates— may not be ready to let us go our own way. They may want us to stick around for their own selfish needs, companionship, or support. Or they may not like how the bravery of our decision makes their abandoned dreams look. But this is when the most crucial test of friendship kicks in.
The critical question you have to ask yourself is this: Do your friends wish you well, no matter your life decisions? Do they want you to pursue your dreams, achieve your goals, and succeed in life? And do they support you, even when it’s inconvenient for them?
Or do they want you to stay right there in prison with them?
As hard as it may be to accept, not all friends wish us well. And we usually know it and feel it subconsciously when they don’t. But public etiquette and social manners compel us to think and behave otherwise.
And when our friends don’t wish us well, we tend not to want to hang around them. Why? Because it takes too much energy to fake like there isn’t some resentment, jealousy, or ulterior motives operating in the relationship.
#3: Does your friend make you feel good about yourself?
This last question is more personal, but that’s ok because it’s your time and life we’re talking about here.
When you hang out with your friend or talk to them, do you feel better about yourself? Or do you feel uncomfortable, competitive, insufficient, ashamed, or guilty about something?
Despite their show of affection and loyalty, some people make us feel bad about ourselves, our decisions, or where we’re going with our lives. And this feeling not only robs you of the vital energy you need to move your life forward, but it also plants seeds of doubt and second-guessing in you that undermine your instincts. And they play right into the hands of the negative voice and bully critic we all have in our head.
As harsh as this sounds, if your friend doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, don’t waste your time with them anymore.
The choice is yours
If your friends don’t pass the three tests above, pay attention to these warning signs, and think about your time commitments to them.
We forget our overall battery life is not infinite. We only have a limited amount of time on earth to make our way in this world. And to do the things that bring us joy and allow us to feel fulfilled and inspired.
As difficult as it may be, we need to be more deliberate about who we spend our time with and how we want our daily life to feel — like running on empty or full of energy.
I suggest the latter.
This post was previously published on Medium.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member today.
Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: iStock