The past few years, loneliness has become the new normal.
Yes, we want to learn how to self-soothe, to sit with ourselves, to be bored. What’s NOT good? Constantly wishing you had more connections. Society tells us that making friends is hard as an adult, but I believe we CAN impact this area of our life through small actions that build up over time.
So today, I’m going to tell you how I’m trying to figure out this problem in my own life through my 5 friendship goals for 2023 – plus the small actions I’m taking to get there. (Side note: listening to my episode about friendship goals might help in understanding today’s show.)
In this episode you’ll hear about:
- How I’m mixing up my patterns and putting myself out there in the world, from having random conversations with people in coffee shops, to going to classes
- Benefits of formal communities, including: never knowing who will walk through the door, common goals, learning and improving ourselves, and different perspectives
- How I’m trying to make more business friends – specifically, entrepreneurs building online-based businesses – including partaking in more groups and saying YES
- One way Michael and I have decided to use our money to further our goals of spending more time with friends who’ve since moved far away from us
- How I’m reinvesting in my historic friendships, from connecting virtually to reinvigorating our old traditions through travel and check-ins
- Getting creative and using your resources to create your own systems to invest in social wellness
It’s one thing to have friendship goals – but yet another thing to execute them!
Using some tips from today’s show – or your own ideas! – what are some ways you’d be willing to use your time and resources to invest in your social wellness this year?
Notable Quotes from Alex:
“There’s a lot of conversation going on out there about how maybe our baseline for loneliness has shifted – and not in a good way. That the past few years, lonely has become our normal. We got really good at just sitting in our loneliness. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing. Sure, we want to know how to self-soothe ourselves. Sit with ourselves. Be bored, sometimes, yes. But what I’m talking about is when you’re just consistently wishing you had more connections.”
“The other reason I really have enjoyed investing in this formal community is because I never know who’s going to walk through the door. It’s an open group. Anybody can join, any week, as a guest. Anybody can become a member. I have met so many interesting people that would not be in my daily orbit otherwise. It is really broadening my horizons for the people I’m connected to. Different ages, different occupations, people from around the world. And I love that I never know who I’m going to meet.”
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Approaching Your Own Friendship Goals List
Think of your “closest friends.” Memories of friends in HS and college might appear. Want to know how you got so close? YOU LIVED LIFE TOGETHER. Grocery store, laundry, cooking. FYI- You can still do that.♬ Sweet Disposition FeelingBlew – Feelingblew
Until next time…
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Podcast Intro 00:02
Alrighty, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers!
Podcast Intro 00:18
Hello, Hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends… They would tell you; I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you, too.
Alex Alexander 00:44
It feels like a while since I’ve recorded a solo one. Is that right? I don’t know. But here I am. Just me and the microphone. And you from wherever you are, in your car in your air pods, maybe playing over your speakers are saying up. I am so happy that you are here. Today, I’m going to talk about myself. And this really never was my intention to do this. But what I’ve been hearing lately from people is one of their favorite things about this podcast is how real the conversations are. These are examples from people’s real lives that you then can take and potentially implement in your own life. You can see if this feels right to you and try it. There are actionable steps and examples. And so in thinking about how everyone keeps telling me that I was saying with this episode and thinking like, okay, well, if that’s what people’s favorite things are, what can I record that gives some more of that? And then I realized, I could talk about how I’m using these practices in my own life? What am I working on? So that’s all we’re gonna do today. We’re gonna talk about what is at the forefront of my mind when it comes to my social wellness, my vision of like an ideal friendship and community situation for me, and what I’m doing in my day to day life, the small actions that I am focused on to try and get there. So a couple things. First, if you skip around and listen to random episodes, going back and listening to the one I did around New Year’s about setting friendship goals, might help you understand this episode. But the basic summary of that is that I think that our friendship community is an area of our life we have influence over. Now, I think society leads us to believe kind of that we’re given people we’re given our family, we’re given, you know, some friends that we made when we were younger. And after that, making friends is hard. Meeting people is hard. That’s what we’re told. And if we all believe that there’s all this scarcity, and we just need to really appreciate and focus on the things that we already have because it’s so hard to make new ones, we’re not going to go out there and put a lot of energy into this area of our life. But I don’t agree with society. I think we can impact this area of our life. That through small actions that build up over time, we can change how we feel about our connections, our social wellness, our friendships, our community. So I go way more in depth into that in that episode. But that’s something you’re going to need to understand if you skip around and you’re listening to this episode. Now, my suggestion is usually to kind of think about what your ideal is. What do you do with your friends? What areas of life are you connecting with people about? What do you call them for for support? How do you support others? Are you out and about adventuring? Are you at home more? Are you texting all the time or do you have regularly scheduled ways that you get together? I can’t answer those questions for you. I have my own versions. And the other thing is like those change over time. So the vision I had maybe 5-10 years ago, is different than the vision I have now 10 years looking forward. So as I’ve changed the connections I’m trying to build in my life change. So let me tell you about some of the friendship goals I have at the moment. And the small things I’m doing to try and make an impact in those in my life. The first one, by the way, I’m gonna get you five, five friendship goals that aren’t ranked in importance, or what I think I can achieve. First, the way I’m going to share these with you today, the order is based on my your people framework, which I will link in the show notes. But if you have never seen this before, it’s all the various types of people in your life, everything from your family of origin, your formal communities, acquaintances, the four different types of friends, past relationships, chosen family, all of those people make up your people, the people you support yourself with. So I’m going with like the simpler of connections. I’m starting with kind of that formal community acquaintance. And then I’m going to work around my diagram today. So friendship goal number one, I’m trying to do more random things. I’m trying to just be out in the world more. I mentioned this in a previous episode. But there’s a lot of conversation going on out there about how maybe our baseline for loneliness has shifted, and not in a good way. That the past few years lonely, has become our normal. That we got really good at the times where maybe we would have sought out connection just sitting in our loneliness. I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing. Sure, we want to know how to self soothe ourselves, sit with ourselves be bored sometimes, yes. But what I’m talking about is when you’re just like consistently wishing you had more connections. And I have found myself sitting in the lonely sometimes. I could text a friend and see what they’re doing. I could make plans. This actually happened a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago, Michael was out of town, I knew he was going to be out of town. And I didn’t make a single plan. Even though, deep down, I knew I kind of wanted to. And because I do this, I kind of said to myself, well, you know, I’ll just turn into an experiment. That was just me lying to myself. Really, it felt a little scary to be sending texts and trying to make plans, it felt overwhelming. I didn’t really have a lot of ideas of what I wanted to do. I just wanted to see some people. And I didn’t do it. I convinced myself that it would be fun. And quite frankly, I regretted it the entire weekend. So I’m trying to get out of that funk. And part of that is just going out into the world. Like that’s my easiest way to do it. And not putting in my headphones, but actually trying to have random conversations with people in the coffee shop, or in the store or going to a class of some kind where I’m actually there with the intention to interact with people I’ve never met before. So this is me at my most basic level, heading out into the formal community that is the neighborhood’s I live in, and just seeing what’s out there. I never know who I’m going to meet. And it may be that one interaction, it may not be anything else. But I’ve had some interactions with people that are so interesting, where I learn the wildest things or find out that some job exists I had no idea about, or somebody simply just maybe tells me a book they really enjoyed. But instead of sticking with my baseline, I’m trying to shift it. That’s my first friendship goal. And the small actions obviously that come with that are when I start to feel that set in pushing myself to go do something outside of the house and not just put on my headphones but actually interact with the people coming into contact with. The second friendship goal has to do with formal community. I was trying to think about this before I hit record, I don’t think
PODCAST EPISODE! Take control of your social wellness. Listen here.
Alex Alexander 10:11
that since college, I have really been a part of a formal community, I might be wrong about this. But a formal community that wasn’t professionally oriented. I mean, I would say I was pretty invested in like the yoga formal community of Seattle. I knew a lot of people, but the thing is, I would go to the classes, and then I would never really talk to anyone. So I wasn’t really making connections. Like I was there, I did feel like I belonged. But I didn’t really know many people’s names. I didn’t know anything about them. So I would go to the class and I would leave. The other formal communities in the past I’ve been involved in were mostly work related. So when I was part of the events industry, there is a really strong community of people that are networking all the time. And I loved that. It was so fun to go to those events and see those people and talk about our work and share creative ideas. But at the end of the day, I really was there to further my business. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with that. But my goal has been to just really enjoy formal community. And I’ve mentioned this on here before, but I am a member of a Toastmasters group. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a public speaking group. We meet every week. And I’ve been a member now for three years. The first couple years were virtual, so that I think impacted how connected I felt. Because it’s hard to have those one off conversations and really get to know people when you’re all on a zoom screen. But since meeting in person, again, I am really enjoying this formal community for a few reasons. One, I feel like I belong there. I understand what the structure is. I could show up at another groups meeting and feel comfortable there. I’m starting to get to know people in other clubs or in like the area leadership. But the other reason I really have enjoyed investing in this formal community is because I never know who’s gonna walk through the door. It’s an open group, anybody can join any week as a guest, anybody can become a member. And I have met so many interesting people that would not be in my daily orbit otherwise. It is really broadening my horizons for the people, I’m connected to. Different ages, different occupations, people from around the world. And I love that I never know who I’m going to meet. And we’re not there for professional gains. We’re all just there because we enjoy public speaking or, I mean, some people are terrified, and they come to get over their fear. But we’re there with this common goal of learning and improving ourselves in this one area of our life with no added pressure. And I have found so much joy in that recently, that one of my current goals is just to continue enjoying formal community, to be present, to partake, I mean, maybe even to really seek out another one to add to my life. I don’t know what that is at the moment, but I think I’m gonna keep my eyes peeled because I’m really enjoying the connections that I’m making there. I have made some friends, some would call me you know, kind of like, familiar friends to find friends in the group. But it’s not even necessarily about making friends. It’s just about having this group of people where I show up for the two hours every week. I know some things about them. They know some things about me. We’re all learning together and I get to see different perspectives. So friendship goal is just to continue to lean into that and keep my eyes peeled for a potential other additional formal community I might be interested in. My third, third ventricle that I’m working on right now, and this one’s been in progress for a while. But it is meeting more business friends. I have a lot of friends who support my business, who support this work, who are very encouraging and ask questions, want to know what my upcoming milestones are. However, before maybe last year, I had very, very few friends. By that, I mean maybe one, who actually understood what I do on the day to day, and what it takes to build this business. And what my various options and routes are. I mean, heck, most of my friends don’t even know how this is a business, how this… how this makes money. They don’t have any firsthand experience doing what I’m doing. And while they’re supportive, it’s just different. Right? I wouldn’t call them to ask them for advice, or their opinion, or probably even to vent about something. Because when I vent about it, they’re not really going to understand what I’m talking about. So a couple years ago, I decided that I need to really invest in meeting more business, entrepreneurial friends, and specifically, like entrepreneurial friends is great, but specifically people who are working on building online based businesses. So how have I done this? What have been my markers? The first one has been to partake in some groups to join various meetups or courses, hop on this virtual happy hour, like go, just go to them. And I have done pretty well at that. And honestly, some of them have kind of been a dud, and others are what have led me to the now online business friends that I have. The second actionable step I’ve done to try and meet my goal of finding more online business friends, has been to say yes to hopping on a call. If somebody wants to just throw around ideas or get a second opinion, or if I have done something in my business that they want to do, for example, starting a podcast, I freely offer my time. Could I be using that time on something else that would further my own business or make me money? Like, yes, I could. And there’s a limit. I can’t spend all my days doing this, but I am definitely in a phase of you want to just hear what it’s been like for me to start a podcast, happy to hop on a call with you and tell you whatever I know. I’ve done this numerous times. But being open to connecting around the shared interest, we have one, where it’s my goal to find more people who have this shared interest. It’s been one of the most helpful ways for me to make these connections. Right? I know what I have to offer. I do not know all the things about online business. And so, I want online business friends. But I did start this podcast, I’m just using that as an example. But it’s a prevalent one. I’ve done this multiple times where people will say, you know, like, “Oh, I’ve always thought about starting a podcast.” And I’ll just say to them, “If you ever want to hop on a call, I’m happy to tell you everything I’ve done.” They don’t need to pay me, they don’t need to do anything in exchange. I can give that. Like that is something I know I can offer to people. I’m happy to offer it. But in doing so, I also get to chat with them and hear about their business and make these connections. So between going to where these people are, the groups, the happy hours, the courses, and then offering up some of my time to connect, I can tell you that I have now made a variety of online business friends. I probably have a dozen if I really think about it. I probably have a dozen people, I could just send a message to, send a text to, voice memo. Like I could pretty casually… I don’t need to send some formal email to them asking, I could just reach out. And that is massive progress from where I was a year or two ago. And because I’m so focused on building this business, this is still an area that I’m prioritizing. I’m still offering to chat with people and give my firsthand experience. I am still seeking out new people in groups and courses and whatever other virtual connections. I mean, heck, Instagram DMs.
PODCAST EPISODE! Listen to “What is a Friend and the 4 Types of Friends we All Have” to learn more about your diverse support system. Listen here.
Alex Alexander 20:02
I’ve met great business friends that way, truly. So that’s something I continue to prioritize with my time. My fourth friendship goal that I’m working on right now has to do with our present friends. And this is actually one that Michael and I discussed at the beginning of the year when we were checking in kind of on our life goals, you know, just like an overall 2023 check in. And one of them was that we have had a lot of friends move to various places. And we will fly to meet up with them or travel together, things like that. We made a conscious choice, that when we do fly somewhere, we want to try very hard to not have it be an in on Friday, out on Sunday kind of thing. Now, we will do that. And the ability to have the flexible work life balance is a privilege, for sure. Not everyone can do that. But we do have pretty flexible work options. So we’ve decided to use our money to help further this goal this year. And by that I mean when we travel somewhere to stay with friends and see them, especially if we’re traveling to where they live, we decided that this year, we’re going to pay for co-working spaces when we travel. So instead of having to fly in on a Friday and out on a Sunday, we can fly in on a Wednesday and out on a Monday night. And on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Monday, we will pay to go to a co-working space. That allows our friends to continue with their normal Monday through Friday routine. Like we all get up. Everybody gets ready people go to their jobs, or they work from home, but we leave them so they can do their thing. And then it gives us the extra evenings to sit around and have dinner, hang out with them, their kids that we wouldn’t get otherwise. Because if I’m looking at it, friends that have moved away, quite often, we are traveling to them. Now they might be traveling to us as well. But we’re traveling to them probably once, maybe twice a year. So if I’m going to fly down there, or over there, wherever I’m flying to, I think it’s worth it to pay for that co-working space for a couple days, so that we can have six days instead of two and a half days. Because if I’m being honest, looking at it, like I’m probably spending somewhere between 6 and 10 days a year with these friends, you know? And they were probably friends that we used to be roommates or live right by each other and see each other every day. We went from doing life together to now seeing each other 6 days a year out of 365. So if I can even add one or two days, we’ve decided that it’s worth it for us to do that. And that right there is like an actionable step we’re taking with our time and our money to try and maximize the time with our closest people. Now, for my fifth friendship goal, the fifth one is re-investing in some of my historic friendships. And I think I’ve talked about this before, but when I talk about historic friendships I’m talking about like, these might be some of your closest people. But you just really aren’t doing life with them anymore for one reason or another. Maybe they’ve moved across the country, maybe they’ve taken on a super intense role at work. And they just aren’t around as much. Maybe they’ve had life changes, and now they’re a caregiver for somebody in their family, a parent, maybe they’ve had kids. And all this is to say that you love these people dearly, but it’s just… you’re not connecting with them quite so often. But historic friendships don’t have to stay in the historic category. They’re historic because you don’t really have many shared experiences at the moment and you’re really relying on memories, details you know about each other. And your story roots that your beliefs about the friendship. You’re sending memes back and forth. When you get together, you’re reliving old memories. It’s a lot of you know, “Oh, do you remember that time when”, or “You show up with a chocolate cake? Because do you remember that cake we had at graduation, that was the best cake we’ve ever eaten.” Whatever it is, your time where you are in the present experiencing life together is really limited. And I have a goal to try and be creative, and re-invest some energy into making some of my friendships that have turned pretty historic, more present. So what does that look like? This is where those tangible steps come in. I am trying to get creative with some friends on the ways we’re virtually connecting. One way I’m doing that is I’ve tried to convert some friends to joining the app Marco Polo, which if you’ve never used it, it’s a video messaging app. And the reason I love it is because like voice memos are great text messages, also good… you can send photos back and forth. But there’s something about seeing each other’s face on video. There’s an added element of vulnerability that maybe you’re a mess in your pajamas, or you’re walking through your house and it’s dirty, you can flip the camera around and show them the things that you’re looking at. So even though these friends and I are not seeing each other regularly in person, this is just a way to make it so that we both feel like we have some sense of our everyday life. Even though I’ve maybe never been to their house yet, because they just moved across the country, I know what the inside of their house looks like. Maybe I know where they keep their cooking utensils, because well, they’re on video with me, they’ve opened the drawer, and then cooking dinner. So if I walk into their house, even though I’ve never been there before, I might know which drawer to open. And that makes me feel a little more present and connected with them. So that’s one way I’ve been doing this. I’ve been trying to convince some friends to get on Marco Polo with me. Two, the second one. I’ve been trying to re-work, reinvigorate some traditions we used to have with friends. I’m starting these conversations. Before 2020, we had a pretty strong tradition of traveling with a group of friends. Now the past few years have derailed the momentum.
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Alex Alexander 27:56
And there have been moments where I wonder do people even want to do this anymore? You know, we used to talk about when kids came, we would shift the way we did the trips and people would bring kids because we all wanted to see each other’s kids. Maybe some years we’d do trips without kids and some with kids. And the momentum stopped. So although we haven’t planned one of these trips yet, I’ve started having conversations with people and trying to figure out what this would look like to start a backup, who is interested? Where do they want to go? How long can we go? Is this an annual thing? What kind of things do you want to do on these trips? I think that had there not been the… the hard stop, we would have naturally progressed. But now the momentum has been lost and somebody has to restart it. So, I have started to do that. That will lead to these trips where, again, we get maybe five days a week, to be present with our friends to be together. And especially in a big group to make new memories and not just be reliant on, “Do you remember that time when…” kind of conversations. The third way that I’m reinvesting in my historic friendships, is trying to figure out my own system for calls and check ins. It’s really easy to let really extended periods of time happen between reaching out to people. I can’t be mad at myself for that. That’s natural. We’re all going to have that. But since I want to reinvest some energy into these friendships, I am taking it upon myself to try and figure out a system. And I don’t really have one to share with you yet. Currently, you know, it’s like, okay, am I setting aside time on my calendar on Fridays to actually send those texts? I’m trying to let you know how it goes. Am I trying to make a goal of myself of committing to some bigger get together once a month? Are we going to bring back monthly brunches? That’s been discussed, we used to do those, then they got derailed. I don’t have an answer for how I’m going to do this. But what I do know is I’m starting to try and figure out how to work this into my life and what feels right in my present life. With my other responsibilities, what feels manageable. And it’s gonna take some trial and error. And knowing me, I’ll probably get it up and running. And then something will catch me off guard and I’ll discard it for a month or two and I’ll bring it back. Like I don’t think that creating this habit is just going to be a one and done situation. But I am trying to use some mental energy to play around with finding the right system for me to be more consistent about reaching out to the people that I care about. That is a breakdown on five of my friendship goals at the moment where I’m putting my energy and my time and my resources to build a social wellness situation that feels good to me. And what feels good is going to be constantly evolving. But right now, it feels like trying to mix up my patterns a little bit by just going out in the world and being more interactive, by leaning into those formal communities. Looks like finding a little more support for an area of my life, that is my online business, finding people I can call. And then it is using my time and energy and attention to invest in some of those deeper friendships, my present and historic friendships to find the consistency that I think I’ve lost last couple years. I hope that hearing me talk through this gives you some ideas of what you might try in your life. I think that quite often people, when they want to impact their area of life, this area, their social wellness, their community, and friendships, they say really broad statements. Like if I talk to people, people tell me, “Well, I want to make some friends. I don’t think I have any friends.” And my question quite often is, “Okay, what kind of friends? What do you want to do with them? What do you want to talk to them about?” Because if you just say, I want to make friends, and then you walk out into the world, it’s overwhelming. How do you filter people? But if you go out and like me, say, I want to make some online business friends, that’s really easy for me in an initial conversation to realize somebody has an online business and then see if we drive. It makes it easier for me to decide to use my time and invest it in groups where those people are. I can go find those groups and put myself in them. So if you want to make an impact in this area of your life, I truly suggest thinking about what it is you want to do with people and how you support them, like what you bring to the table, how they would support you, what you would even talk about and let that kind of shape how you are using your resources, your time, your attention, your finances, to put yourself in the places where you might meet those people. And with that, I’m gonna let you go for today. That’s the end of this one. I would love to hear whether it’s via voice memo, or DM or email. If you have some areas of your life where you want to make an impact, tell me what they are. And if you have ideas on how you’re going to do it, I’d love to hear them. And if you’re a little lost, message me or email me too. We can talk through it. I really do respond to all those voicemails and all the DMS. Have a great rest of your day.
Alex Alexander [28:08]
Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you. You can find it at alexalex.chat. You can also find me on Instagram. My handle, @itsalexalexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts. Now if you want to take this conversation a step further, send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out. No need for a teary Goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week.