Importance of Friendship

5 Videos to Help You Make New Friends

I’ve been making more videos lately than I have been blogging (come join me on my YouTube channel to be notified when a new video goes up!) but here on one page you can see a collection of short videos I did to help inspire you to make the friendships that are crucial to your health and happiness!

xoxo

1) 3 Ways to Meet New Friends

We know we have to meet people before we can potentially become friends, but where exactly are we supposed to go to find new friends? While most common advice makes a list of places, that unfortunately isn’t super helpful to most of us if we don’t go to those places they suggest! Let’s brainstorm the places and ways that will be most helpful to each of us specifically! At the end of this video you will have a personalized list of the best methods for YOU!

2) How Many "Potential Friends" Do I Need to Make a New BFF?

We know we can’t just go out and simply place an order for a new best friend, but that rather we have to go meet a bunch of people first. But how many people do we need to meet? How do we go looking for a new BFF? How many people does it take to find one new friend?

3) How Important is Chemistry to a New Friendship?

Do you wish you knew exactly who you might bond with? Do you think you know who you’ll get along with best and feel like you’re on the look for a very specific person? Do you wonder what actually helps determine who we bond with? Here I lead us through looking at how friendships are developed and what healthy expectations will serve us as we meet new people! At the end of this video you’ll know the one thing we can practice that matters more than chemistry!

4) How Long Does It Take to Make a New Friend?

Do you find yourself wanting to feel close to people right away? Do you wonder whether you should be able to predict instantly whether the two of you will be friends? Do you want to feel close to people but then find yourself not wanting to put in the time? So often what we want is to meet someone with whom we instantly feel close but what we usually find is a stranger that we have to get to know, and it never feels as fun and easy and familiar as we want it to feel. Here I lead us through looking at how friendships are developed and what healthy expectations will serve us as we meet new people. At the end of this video you’ll know how much time it typically takes for you to make new friends!


5) How Can Introverts Make New Friends?

Do you worry that it’s harder for you to make new friends because you’re an introvert? Do you feel anxious when it comes to reaching out to others? Do you hunger for connection but feel weary and exhausted at how to get those needs met? At the end of this video you’ll have all kinds of tips and ideas for how to maximize your friendship time and decrease the energy output as much as possible.

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Yesterday, I felt discouraged.

My Pain Blocked Me

Like, really discouraged. The kind where I start to question my capabilities and my worth. My voices of fear whispered, "You're never going to make it. You're a loser. You're a failure."

While there was a big part of me that wanted to retreat and be all by myself in my misery, there was also another part of me that desperately wanted to hear other voices besides my own.

I wanted to reach out and say to my friends: I need you to remind me that I'm not the loser that I feel like I am.

Top 10 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2016

Every year I round-up my top ten most popular friendship articles and share them once more.  Many of you joined us half-way through the year, missed a post here-or-there or just want to re-read some of the best ones to see how they resonate with you now. 1. In Sickness and in Health: 5 Things I Wish My Friends Knew About Friendship and Illness

With nearly 1 in 2 of us suffering from some form of chronic (often invisible) illness, we all want to become more sensitive and thoughtful in how we interact with one another. This blog talks about how to make and keep friends when energy and health often feels limited, challenged or uncertain.

2. How much do you REALLY want good friends?

What price tag is friendship worth to you?  Unfortunately, the actual process of making friends includes activities and feelings most of us would rather avoid.  This blog challenges us to ask ourselves how much we value friendships and what we are willing to invest for the outcome we desire.

3. The 7 Verbs for Better Sex, Works for Friendships, Too

The acclaimed “sex therapist”, Dr. Esther Perel, offers 7 verbs for healthier relationships and these apply to platonic friendships too!  This is the perfect blog post for reflection on the year 2016.  Ask yourself how comfortable you are at practicing these verbs, how hard or easy these actions are for you, and what you want to work on in 2017.

4. 2 Ways to Respond to Friends Who Annoy or Frustrate

This amazing video blog talks about how to respond to frustrating friendship experiences and taking steps to build upon what you have rather than giving up and walking away when your needs are not met.   While these steps won’t fix every situation, they are certainly the first two steps we should practice in our attempts to repair or enhance a friendship that isn’t feeling super meaningful.

5. Do You Talk Too Much?

Your friendships are at risk of not reaching “frientimacy” when your friends aren’t practicing speaking up or when you’re not listening as much as you’re sharing.  This blog post helps us identify if we are giving our friends the space they need to be seen and provides over-talkers with 5 practices to pave the way for deeper and more meaningful friendships.

6. How to Respond to a Friend’s Pity Party

I think it is safe to say we have all had moments where we feel our inner mean girl come out and our self-doubt, fear, personal gaps and a general feeling of failure takes over our brains.  In this blog post, Shasta shares how her friend responded when she felt under-attack by herself so we can all feel inspired to show up for each other.

7. A Practice for “I Don’t Have Time for Friends”

Lack of time for friendships is one of the most common complaints when it comes to doing what we know would develop our friendships toward greater fulfillment.  We know that time together bonds us, but where does one find that time?  This blog post talks about an ancient practice called Sabbath and invites you to re-orient your life.  Cease and desist for one day to focus on you!

8. The Cost of the Constant Catch-Up Cycle

Are your friendships caught in a vicious cycle of not spending enough time together to feel really meaningful?  This blog post helps us understand the price of the Constant Catch-Up Cycle and invites us to move beyond just catching up and achieve the frientimacy we crave.

9. The Other 3 Most Powerful Words

These 3 words can open up repairing conversations with a friend where we might feel some tension, distance, or frustration.  Therapist, Tricia Andor, reminds us how simple and easy it can be for all of us to take on an awkward or uncomfortable conversation that may help deepen the friendship and grow our emotional muscles.

10. The Verdict: Can Men and Women Be Close Friends?

Our lives can be enhanced from all types of relationships.  The goal isn’t to limit what type of love and community we can create in our lives, but rather to do so in ways that are healthy and honest.  This blog post challenges us to reflect on your cross-gender friendships and take a deeper look into how meaningful and supportive they are in your life.

A huge thanks to all my GirlFriendCircles.com members and readers of my blog!

May we continue in 2017 to honor all that is right with friendship, committing ourselves regularly to the practices of healthy personal development and relationship joy.

- Shasta

p.s.  As always, I welcome your comments!  Share with me which one is your favorite!

p.s.s  Want more popular articles?

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Article of 2015

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Article of 2014

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Article of 2013

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2012

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2011

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Moving and Making New Friends: Embracing the Change

When we want to make new friendships, we're often dismayed at how challenging it can feel. Katrina Emery, a GFC member who lives in Portland OR, recently interviewed Maggie Chang about how she ended up seeing a move as the best excuse to start over with greater intention!

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by Katrina Emery

Maggie Chang had lived in New York City all her life. Her big move had been from Queens to Brooklyn, and that was far enough. But moving to California? Terrifying.

“My husband made me do it!” she laughs. At first she had scoffed at his suggestion. She was perfectly fine, had family and friends nearby, and California was so far away!

Maggie Chang-- thank you for sharing a glimpse of your journey with us as you continue to develop the friendships that matter most to you!

Gradually she warmed up to it, though, and two years ago she, her husband, and her then-9-year-old son found themselves new residents of San Bruno, right outside San Francisco.

She tackled the move by pursuing new interests and passions, which was also a way to make new friends. After adopting a dog, she started volunteering at SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). She’s gotten outside more: hiking, beaches, dog parks, camping, exercise, yoga.

Her yoga passion actually led her to a deep friendship journey, in a roundabout way. In researching a yoga retreat, she ended up at Shasta’s New Year Retreat (“Reveal: A weekend where good friends dream up a great year.”). “It definitely wasn’t yoga!” she laughs, but she ended up loving the chance to delve thoughtfully into her own wisdom and intuition. The retreat offers women a beautiful place for guided personal reflection and facilitated group connection designed to reveal the themes and feelings that will best lead each person in the year ahead.

Shasta's Reveal Retreat at Mayacamas Ranch in Calistoga, CA

Maggie used the intention created at the retreat to focus on her relationships, and it was there that some realizations about her life in Brooklyn came up. “I was not actually happy in NYC,” she says, “not very connected to the friends and family I had there.” She hadn’t realized it at the time, but there was a distance growing in her old friendships that wasn’t being addressed or augmented with new ones. She discovered she had been suffering from a lack of meaningful healthy friendships for a while, even before moving. The research that shows we replace our friends every 7 years was especially striking to her. “Nobody teaches us these things!” She had been stuck in past versions of friendships that had changed. “There was some shame connected to it,” she admits, noting that since she claimed she had current friends (even though the dynamics had changed), she felt uncomfortable searching for “new” ones.

It wasn’t until the move forced her into new relationships that she suddenly felt ok pursuing them. Now, she was new to an area and had practical reasons for making new friends. The need to reach out made it ok to try. She joined GFC as a GFConnector last December, and committed to facilitating events for a period. “That’s helped. Not that it’s been easy or I’ve made a lot of friends, but it’s like I’m strengthening that muscle.”

Since moving to California, Maggie describes herself as being more intentional and more mindful of friendships. Her son, now 11, has his own friendships at school. “I’m now encouraging him, making it an actual goal.” she notes. “I want him to know that it’s important enough to work on.” She hasn’t found the perfect way to be vulnerable to him about her own friendship struggles, but hopes she can keep working on that. “One new struggle that has popped up is: Should I be making friends with moms of kids his age?” she wonders. More requirements for hopeful friendships (that they live close, that the kids get along, etc.), though, just ends up adding extra layers of complications.

Two years in, and Maggie still feels she’s in the middle of the transition. Her advice is to embrace the uncomfortable: “You’re going to learn and grow from change, so let it happen.” With the freedom of a new location, the pursuit and opportunity of new relationships is an important part of her life. “I’m not saying it’s easy or doesn’t take work, but I’m starting to meet new people and start new relationships.” She sounds hopeful. And proud of herself.

And she did find an actual yoga retreat to go on recently. An intense camping-and-yoga experience, the women there naturally bonded, and Maggie is hoping they can continue to form some meaningful friendships. She’s also already signed up for Reveal Retreat again this January, looking forward to connecting with other personal-growth minded women!

**By the way, if you’re interested in more information on the next Reveal Retreat, January 20-22, 2017, in wine country, CA, check it out here! http://www.shastanelson.com/retreat/ There are still a few spaces left!

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Dopamine: Relationships are "Supposed To" Give Energy

We keep hearing how good relationships are for us, but what do you do when relationships drain you, scare you, or exhaust you? Or maybe life just feels so blah now that you're left feeling lethargic, stressed-out, weary, or flat? Maybe the idea of peeling yourself off the couch to connect with someone just sounds like way too much work? Maybe you're not getting enough life-enhancing dopamine?

In my latest class for Friendship University I had the awesome fumc-dr-amy-banksprivilege to interview the foremost authority on the combined fields of neurobiology and relationships.  Dr. Amy Banks, the author of Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link Between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships, walked us through the four ways we can improve our brain function in order to improve our relationships.

Science is continuing to reinforce that every single one of us is hardwired for connection.  Which means that when we feel loved and supported: our immune system is healthier, we recover from surgery and sickness faster, our bodies protect us from the impact of stress, we feel happier, and we live longer. And... in light of our conversation today: we feel more energy when we connect.

How Do Relationships Give Us Energy?

The human brain is designed to give us a dose of dopamine--the  chemical that not only lights up our pleasure center but also helps give us the energy to move toward rewards--every time we do something life-sustaining.

Dr. Banks says:

"Eating, drinking, water, exercise, sex, and healthy relationships are all supposed to trigger feel-good sensations, to make us want to do the things that are good for us."

She is quick to caution us that we "all live from one dopamine hit to another" (because it's natural for us to want to feel good!) but that if the human brain can't get that hit in healthy ways this is what drives so many of us to look for substitutes: shopping, gambling, over-eating, or anything that leads to addiction.

But What If Relationships Don't Give Me Energy?

In an ideal world, as babies we received love, touch, and connection that paired those actions with our dopamine producers.  Studies shows that when that link between relationships and reward was reinforced, it set us up for improved social status and social support.

But for many of us, if our childhood relationships were stressful or harmful, or if we were taught to be fiercely independent or perceived as weak for wanting connection, then relationships didn't get paired with our dopamine reward system as they were supposed to.  Which, according to Dr. Banks, means that "instead of becoming energized by friendships--even good ones--they are drained and depleted by the interaction."

Feeling disconnected provokes our stress response systems which raises our anxiety, provokes irritability, and leads us to assuming that we're being left out or rejected, even if we aren't. Which means what we need the most--connection--is unfortunately not only what we probably fear the most but also what we're least likely to feel energized to pursue.

But Dr. Banks and numerous other voices out there are encouraging us: we can heal our damaged pathways.  (If you haven't yet watched Johann Hari's TED talk reminding us that the opposite of addition isn't sobriety, but connection-- then it's a must see!)  In the book Wired to Connect she says,

But there is plenty that you can do to nourish your neurological pathways for connection. If they are damaged, you can start to heal them. If they are neglected, you can cultivate them. And if they are stressed, you can soothe them."

How To Move Toward More Energy in Relationships

Dr. Banks gives so many brain exercises and activities in her book to practice reconnecting the dopamine reward system to healthy relationships, and our GirlFriendCircles.com community is so enjoying the class, our worksheets, and our conversation this month as we dive deeper on the subject, but let me leave you with just one of her very practical ideas to try.

  1. Identify the relationships that give you energy.  Who are those people for you?  With whom do you feel the safest? What relationships in your life give you some sense of reward or pleasure, even if small?
  2. Try to spend more time connecting with those people. For many of us, depending on our jobs, we might be spending the bulk of our days around people we didn't choose, or with people who drain us. It becomes even more imperative to try to lean in to more time with anyone who does energize us.  It might mean calling our mom a bit more often, initiating time with a friend, or practicing more conversation with a safe person.

It seems counter-intuitive that when we lack energy that we need to then identify relationships to seek out, but Dr. Banks assures us that identifying our "strongest sources of relational dopamine" will give us our best shot at repairing our reward systems. Perhaps knowing that as you reconnect those wires, that what costs you energy now will reward you with energy down the road, will give you courage.

I do want to point out, what I hope is obvious, that "more relationships" aren't the answer to everyone's weariness. Much like how food is good for us and also gives us energy-- the answer isn't just eat more food! Over-eating can make us lethargic, too!  Or not eating the right food.  Or not having a good relationships to food or our bodies.  Or maybe your food is perfect and what you need is more sleep!  :) But please, when you're avoiding people because you don't have the energy, consider the possibility that sometimes, counter-intuitively, we need to connect instead of withdraw.

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Interested in the Friendship University class? It comes with membership to those in GirlFriendCircles.com.  Every month we offer a new theme, a new teacher, new worksheet, and new friendship actions to practice-- join us in October and get access to this class immediately!

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Friendship Trends & Changes

I'm feeling a bit reflective this week as we are re-launching GirlFriendCircles.com after our initial opening nearly 8 years ago. In a few ways now feels very similar to then as every new beginning is fueled with both a sense of calling that change is needed and a slight vulnerability as one puts a new offering into the world.

And it's also got me thinking about how culture has changed during that same amount of time.

I've seen some big shifts in the world of friendship since 2008:

  • Increase in Research and Studies:  I wish I had actual numbers to offer up here as proof, but what I can say is that back then it was easy to read everything that was being published (or had been) on friendship, and now it seems like there is a new study every time I turn around! (Which I love, obviously!)  I think Facebook and social media sites have helped heighten the interest in exploring friendship and social interaction (whereas our romantic and parenting relationships seemed to take precedence before), as well as giving researchers an easier pool of people to study.
  • Renewed Desire on Quality, Not Quantity:  With the rise of social media, we ran headlong into a greater number of connections than most of us had ever attempted to manage.  And as time wore on, we started hearing more expressed hunger for deeper connections, not just more of them. Social media has adjusted by giving us "groups" and creating algorithms to highlight the people we know, more than ones we don't.  We got what we wanted: connection to everyone; and then realized we were full, but not fulfilled.
  • Creeping Awareness to our Loneliness: The stereotype of loneliness used to be someone who was isolated, reclusive, and lacked social skills; but the loneliest people today are those who seemingly know everyone, are too busy to go deep, and are talking to people all day so they lack the energy to really connect with a few.  My own studies show repeatedly that our loneliness isn't due to not knowing enough people as much as it's because we don't feel known by a select few.  We are slowly admitting that we're lonely even though we aren't alone.
  • More Openness to Online Friendship Sites:  Remember back in the day when people would feel shame and lie about meeting a romantic partner online and how now it's commonplace?  It'll be no surprise then that the same path is  happening with friendship.  I won't go so far as to say that there aren't people who fear meeting friends online, but now our members are much more likely to share their involvement on social media without feeling like they need to hide it!
  • Growing Media Interest in our Friendships: When I started in 2008, the most common response from TV producers and magazine editors was something along the lines of, "Oh we covered friendship in a piece last year" as though that were all that was needed for another year or two! Ha! (And yet they think we need to learn how to "lose 5 lbs" every single month!) But I have been so encouraged by the growing number of books, segments, and articles on friendships in recent years!  The New York Times alone has published countless op-ed pieces calling out our loneliness!  And one major national magazine, in an interview with me in May, said "We have decided to cover friendships more than romance this year!"  That, my friends, is progress!
  • An Inflation in Bad Advice: With the increase in interest and heightened awareness of our lack of depth comes an escalation of bad advice from people who respond more to our fear than to our growth.  If I had a penny every time I see "advice" telling people some version of "get rid of your toxic friends" then I'd be rich!  The truth is that it's less about who is toxic and who isn't (research shows that 86% of us claim to have a toxic friend so that would imply that we're all friends with the same 14% of toxic people or that some of us are considered toxic to someone else!) and more about how to teach people how to create healthier friendships. In other words, if someone does something we don't like (which is 100% likely in every relationship at some point!) let's learn how to communicate that and develop greater trust in each other than to simply drift apart, while righteously patting ourselves on the back for being so much better than everyone else.
  • An Uptick in the Desire to Learn About Friendship: Book publishers have long known that women will buy any book that promises love and good sex, and will buy up every parenting book when they are pregnant; but that far and few between are the women who walk into a bookstore thinking they need to learn about friendship. And I can't say this has changed drastically, but I have seen far more willingness by women to come to my workshops, pay for classes, and share my book with their friends. I am encouraged that with the realization that they don't have the close friends they want, more women are willing to start doing something about it.  We've long assumed, wrongly, that we should just know how to do friendship, but I'm witnessing entire audiences walking away in awe of what they didn't even know they didn't know. We are willing to pay to learn in every other area of life (i.e. how to lose weight, how to do social media, how to look stylish) and I'm seeing more women choose to learn over the alternative of staying lonely.

May these trends continue to increase, and more importantly, may your life reflect your awareness of your need and your willingness to learn how to create more meaningful friendships!

What have you noticed and observed in your life and in those around you?

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GirlFriendCircles.com-- Re-opening to meet these trends and needs

GirlFriendCircles.com is being re-opened based upon these needs I see in the world: I want to connect all the women healthy enough to realize they are made to give and receive more love than they're currently experiencing; I want to provide them a place to learn all the things we were never taught about friendship and share the research with them in applicable ways; and I want to inspire them regularly to pay attention to different aspects of their friendship and help hold them accountable to the outcomes they want! 

GirlFriendCircles.com is open to women all over the world and of all ages (over 21) and they will receive:

  1. connection to other like-minded women and introductions to new friends
  2. a new class/worksheet/goal with a different focus each month (i.e. how to set boundaries, how to meet new people, how to practice vulnerability)
  3. and access to coaching and advice from me, other teachers I bring in, and the wisdom of the community!

3 Tips for Successfully Making New Friends

I've got good news and bad news as I share my 3rd video in our series this week.

The good news is that with practice I am getting better:  it's shorter and I don't think I use any of the words that I apparently have a tendency to overuse: "abundantly", "just", or "right?".  :) The bad news is that I didn't shower and my hair reflects it! haha! oh well!?!

If you haven't had a chance to watch the other two videos this week then I'll catch you up today! This one covers it all!!

In this video I reveal:

  1. Which of the 3 Friendship Benefits Matters Most to You.  I remind you of the three biggest benefits that we covered in our 1st video, plus I share which one was overwhelmingly the most important to all of you based on all your comments! (Thank you! It was so fun to hear from so many of you!)
  2. Which of the 4 Type of Loneliness is the most Common to You.  In a poll that we took after this video-- there was a very clear front-runner to which of the 4 types of loneliness is the most common one.
  3. And, My 3 Tips If You Want to Successfully Make Better Friends.  I share three expectations or things to encourage you to do if you want to make sure that you actually make better friends and not just say you want to!  (I expect that you're not doing at least one of these!)

If you're willing, please leave a comment and share with me which tip is the hardest one for you!  Which one do you find yourself most resisting or refusing to believe?

May we all stay open and willing to doing whatever it takes to create meaningful connection,

Shasta

CEO, GirlFriendCircles.com

p.s. We are re-opening GirlFriendCircles.com THIS Tuesday, July 19! Get ready to say "yes" to greater connection in your life! Watch your inbox for your personal invitation!

p.s.s. Not sure if the new GirlFriendCircles.com will provide what you most need and want? Watch today's video to find out what's coming!

Three Biggest Reasons We Need Friends

Hello GirlFriends! GirlFriendCircles.com is getting ready to re-open on July 19 with a bigger vision and a more beautiful interface! Woohoo!

I want to share with you WHY we're going through all this effort to revision and relaunch our community for women's friendships, so I made a 12 minute video to share with you:

  1. The Two Friendship Problems I see in our world that are stirring me to action and inspiring me to brainstorm solutions for connecting us in meaningful ways.
  2. The Three Biggest Possible Reasons Why We Need to be Connected as pretty much every other benefit falls under one of these three!
  3. Some of the Excuses We Use for giving up or not committing ourselves to action and learning... and how those objections aren't serving our needs.
  4. A Glimpse of My Vision and Hope for All of Us as we commit ourselves to creating better friendships in our lives.

 

At the end of the video I invite you to leave a comment and share with all of us which of the 3 BIG reasons for better friendships speaks most to you today?  (Of course we all want all three of them, but which one feels most valuable or urgent to you?)

p.s. This video will be the first in a series of three so watch for my next one on Thursday when I want to remind us all of the 4 most common types of loneliness!

How much do you REALLY want good friends?

Rare is the person who will say "I don't want more from my friendships." Whether that "more" means making new friends, feeling more fulfilled with their current friends, or feeling like they have the time to enjoy those friends-- most of us want more.

And yet... unfortunately all to rare, too, is the person willing to really do something about it.

Unfortunately, the actual process of making friends includes activities and feelings most of us would rather avoid:

  • putting ourselves in situations to meet people (and, unfortunately TV characters don't count)
  • small talk with strangers (every friend starts out as one!)
  • initiating a get-together (why can't they just appear on our door when we have time?!)
  • annoying logistics (back and forth emails, anyone?)
  • feeling our insecurities (what will I say? what if I look nervous? what if I'm too shy?)
  • fearing rejection (they probably won't like me... they probably don't need new friends... they probably won't make time for me)
  • believing the future can be different from the past (ever been betrayed? ever felt de-valued? ever felt like nothing works?)

The very process of making friends quite different from the outcome we hope to experience.

What we want to feel is supported, loved, seen, known, and valued.  What it takes to get there sometimes is awkwardness, small talk, exhaustion, insecurities, and uncertainty.

What we want is intimacy; what we have to start with are introductions.

What we want is familiar; what we have to start with is foreign.

What we want is a best friend; what we have to start with is a new friend.

His Question: Are you willing to suffer for what you want?

A blog post written by a guy named Mark Manson in 2013 is now making it's rounds on Facebook (I had two separate friends send me the article this week!) where he challenges his readers: are you willing to suffer a process for the outcome you desire?

He argues it's the most important question you can ask yourself.  Reminding us that we all want pretty similar things in life: healthy bodies, amazing relationships, meaningful work, abundant money, and realized dreams, but we're not all willing to suffer the process that comes with those things.

Here are some examples, besides the friendship one I started with:

  • In the book writing world, it's said that 81% of Americans say that they want to write a book-- but only a small fraction do.  Understandably... since it's a long road of time and emotion.
  • Most Americans want to be thinner or healthier... but not all of us are willing to go sweat or say no to our pleasures in order to achieve it.
  • Mark said he wanted to be a rock star, but he wasn't really willing to play small gigs, haul his music gear, and round-up a band. It's a lot of work!

He says, "I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way."

My Answer: The Price Tag

I agree with him that we do in fact need to ask ourselves what we're willing to give toward the outcomes we desire...

But, and this is a big but: our ultimate goal isn't to suffer as much as it's to invest in what we say matters to us.

The metaphor I often use with myself is that of a price tag:  How much am I willing to pay for this?  Which has to be asked with the question: how much do I value this?

price of friendships

When we go shopping-- we have choices.  We can buy the used, beat-up, 10-year old car for $2500... or we can buy the newest one that boasts a few more zeroes on the price tag.

Which one is the right choice? It depends on what you think you're buying, how much it matters to you, what you most value/prioritize, how many resources you have, and what other things you need to buy with what you have.

Sometimes the "cheaper" option is the right choice and sometimes it's not.  Sometimes the higher price tagged item is the one we choose because we value what we're getting with that extra cost.

We all have things in our lives we're willing to "pay the higher price" for... we do that because we believe the outcome is worth the cost.  We pay more for what we value.

So the goal isn't just to be pay the cheapest price for everything, nor is it to pay the highest price for everything we say we want; the goal is to make sure that we invest our resources in the areas that we say matter the most.  That may mean, since we have limited resources, we have to "spend less" in some areas in order to "afford more" in other areas.

What Price Tag is Worth Friendship to You?

I invite you to really ask yourself this year:

  1. How much do I really want more in my friendships this year?
  2. How important is that outcome to me? How valuable is it?
  3. What price tag or investment am I willing to make for that outcome?
  4. Do the two--the value and the price-- match? (Does the value and price feel fair or am I hoping for "a new car" while only willing to pay for "a used one"?)

The goal, of course, isn't to "suffer" but rather to know that what we're investing in is worth the outcome to us.

If experiencing more in your friendships is important to you... what might be some of the "costs" (see list at top of post for some ideas!) that you think would be the best investments you're willing and able to make toward that outcome?

My prayer for you: that you reach your friendships goals and say "it was worth every cent."

Hitting Pause on Romance for Friendship

Last week, while watching Grey's Anatomy (am I the only one still watching?!?), I had a bit of a "hmmmm.... I don't know if I agree with that friendship rule" moment. Meredith and Alex, platonic friends on Grey's Anatomy, as they keep practicing what friendship is supposed to look like between them.

Meredith was explaining to Alex (who is supposed to be trying to be her new best friend since Christina moved away) that his job was to answer every text from her, even if he was in the middle of having sex. Which he had been.

She said that "The Pause" is one of the rules of friendship.  Real friends will stop whatever they are doing--and spouses and lovers just need to get used to it--to respond and be present. The text wasn't even an SOS text.. it had simply said something along the lines of "What are you up to?"

I wondered if, as an advocate for friendship, I was supposed to agree with her rule that gave such priority to friendship?

But I don't.  I definitely don't. Our marriages/family are a priority and bonding time should never be interrupted. But even if we don't interrupt "moments" that doesn't mean we shouldn't interrupt our lives for each other.

With that said, there are a few more times I do think women, in general, should be willing to hit pause on romance/family for the sake of our friendships.

The Rules for "Pausing" Romance for our Friendship

Our reputations precede us when it comes to how much more important we think romance is than friendship. We have left a wake of broken and missed friendships in our past because we haven't practiced pausing the love in our homes to keep up the love in our circle of friends.  Here are a few places I think we can afford to pause romance in order to maintain friendships:

  1. Hit pause on romance when you're on a girls weekend: I had someone write me last week and describe how thrilled she was to finally go on a weekend-away with a friend she hadn't seen in years, but then felt disappointed by her friend who called to talk with her husband throughout every day. It left her walking beside a friend who was on the phone a lot feeling like even when she had her friend, she wasn't really with her. I love my husband and could talk to him all day long and want to tell him everything... but GirlFriends, come on, we can go a day or two without having to catch him up on everything in real-time. On a girls weekend? Then tell your lover you'll see him when you get home or call only when it doesn't leave your friend out. On a romantic weekend? Same thing! Tell your friend/sister/mother you won't be calling for a few days and gift your lover with your undivided attention. In other words-- give your undivided attention to whomever you're with.
  2. Hit pause on romance when it's new to make sure your friends still feel their importance I've seen and heard A LOT about women ignoring their friends for new love. Even if what we think we want is 24/7 with some new romantic interest, we will tell him/her "As much as I'd love to spend the whole weekend with you, I have a standing date with my friend on Sunday mornings so I can't get together until after that." Communicating you have a life and good friends can only improve a healthy relationship!
  3. Hit pause on romance/family when you're busy and time is limited. Yes life is full, no one is minimizing that.  But if having friendships is important then the intimacy has to be maintained with ongoing love and connection.  We will not go MIA on consequential relationships just because we're distracted with a busy life.  We will fit in the important people, including our friends, even if it takes time we could give to family/romance. We will find creative ways to make sure that
  4. Hit pause on romance even if he doesn't go out with his friends.  Many a couple, myself included, feel like they get almost all their needs met in each other, being married to their best friend.  It can be hard to give up time with him-- I love being with him. But we have to carve out the time and perhaps say, "If left to my own tendencies, I'd probably just spend every moment with you, but it's important for me to make/keep my friendships so please don't take it personally that I need to go out at least once a week to maintain my friendships." We HAVE to peel ourselves away from family to give time to our friendships... the more we do it, the more meaningful those times with them will be. Our goal is to have a wide support circle made up of many different kinds of love and connection in our lives.
  5. Hit pause on romance even in the midst of engagement and wedding euphoria.  With many women getting engaged this month and lots of weddings being planned this spring, it makes sense that woman are rightfully caught up in their love stories.  No need to feel guilt about that!  But we do need to hit pause to not only still make time for our friends, but also to make time for their lives when we are together.  We don't need to only talk about the wedding. We can hit pause and ask them about their lives, being intentional to make sure we're thoughtful of what they are feeling and experiencing.

I'm all for love.  Lots of it!  So no need to choose one or the other-- all love is important!

This Valentines weekend, even if we're caught up in romantic love, we can still pause in some way, to remind our friends that we love them and can't wait until our next get-together.  That's what friends do.

With love,

Shasta

p.s.  What rules so you wish you could set? What hurts you the most that your friends do when they're dating? Do you find it hard to go out with friends when your lover doesn't? Share with us!  :)

Top 11 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2014

I typically round-up my top 10 articles, but this year there was a tie between two of them so it's my top 11! Thanks for being a part of this community as a woman who is committed to being a healthy friend in this world! It's been an honor. For all of you who joined us half-way through the year, missed a post here-or-there, or just want to re-read some of the goodies to see if they speak to you where you are now,  here are the 11 most read, popular blog posts from the last year:

1.   The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

I want meaningful friendships for you.  So very much, I do!  But we have to come to the table with healthy expectations and thoughtful beliefs, rather than with hopes, myths, and limiting beliefs that sabotage us from creating substantial relationships. Here are the five most common beliefs that are damaging you and your friendships.

2.  The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women’s Groups

In this post I share with you several of the Circles that I have participated in-- each one feeding different parts of my life-- so that you can see how those groups got started, what happens at each of them, and which ones you might crave inviting into your life!

3. The Problem: My Friend Doesn’t Ask Me About My Life!

If you have relationships where you feel like you’re always the one doing most of the listening and question-asking, I challenge you today to consider how you’ve contributed to that imbalance and what you can do to show up in a way that builds the relationship and better supports you.

4.  How to Not Feel Judged

While it was my high school reunion that prompted me to worry about being judged, the way I showed up differently this time may be of service to you in any setting where you are prone to feel insecure, unaccepted or judged.

5. Men Really Need Intimate Friendships, Too

Are men's and women's friendships all that different?  And if they are, is it because they're hard-wired to be different or is that cultural influences shape them differently?  This article showcases some fabulous research that you'll want to share with the boys and men in your lives!

6.  Do You Feel Like People Pull Away From You?

Some of us might have intense personalities-- lots of energy, words, and enthusiasm that can sometimes overwhelm others.  We are who we are so it's not about changing us or saying that there is anything wrong with us... but we do have to learn how to use our energy in meaningful, helpful, and mature ways!

7.  5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend There are few things more bonding than time away with friends that extend beyond a dinner or an afternoon together.  Throw in an overnight experience and the bond factor goes waaay up!  Here are practical tips for planning and inviting women in your life to an adult slumber party.

8. We’re giving the wrong advice for “toxic” friendships!

Friendship experts commonly encourage you to get rid of any friendships that are toxic, stressful, or negative.  I have a caveat that I want to add to that!  This article shows why we can't simply get rid of people we have called friends without trying to improve the relationship first.

9. Quiz:  Am I a Good Friend?

We put a lot of focus on what we'd like to fix or improve in how our friends treat us, and here's a good quiz for helping us hold up the mirror in our own lives to see where we might be able to practice being a better friend!

10.  5 Types of Vulnerability: It’s Way More than Skeletons in Your Closet!

What is vulnerability?  We all hear this buzz word all the time but often mistakenly think it means we have to get better at sharing our shameful secrets with people... This blog post covers 5 different types of vulnerability that will help deepen any relationship as you practice them more regularly!

11.  The Myth that Keeps You Lonely

When we’re feeling that little nagging angst of loneliness– it’s for her that we want.  It’s for the fantasy best friend that we know would be the Thelma to our Louise, the fork to our spoon, the laughter to our jokes.  She would be the finisher of our sentences, the reader of our minds, and the affirmer of our hearts.  Our time together would be effortless, easy, safe, and comfortable.  But then we meet a whole bunch of candidates who aren’t quite good enough to fit our BFF opening so we quietly reject them and keep looking, albeit somewhat disillusioned. This post will help you see the pattern that might be preventing you from feeling more connected!

With gratitude for a year where we all grew in our maturity and loved more deeply,

Shasta

p.s.  As always, I welcome your comments!  Share with me which one is your favorite!

p.s.s  Want more popular articles?

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Article of 2013

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2012

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2011

Friendships Don't Just Happen - for Guy Friends

From Shasta:  I've long-held that most men crave more meaningful friendships and while I don't have the same expertise and experience in teaching men as I do to women (that won't stop me from trying though! ha!) I have been long interviewing men about their friendships because I think there is a lot there that we aren't yet talking about, and need to be.

Greg Tjosvold has preferred friendship with women much of his life but is grateful to be exploring meaningful friendships with men now.

One of the men whose opinions and experiences on this subject has impressed me greatly is Greg Tjosvold, a middle-school teacher, husband, father, and author living outside of Vancouver, Canada.

Greg's story is poignant... as he comes to have faith in other men wanting and willing to grow in closer friendship with each other.  I hope that as we keep modeling men having deeper friendships and giving more permission (as a culture) to men to get together to talk and share life (without sports being the only acceptable excuse) that we will see that frientimacy is something that enhances all of our lives, regardless of our gender.

Huge thanks Greg for sharing the story of the Barley Brethren with us!  :)  Love it!

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Friendships Don't Just Happen - for Guy Friends

by Greg Tjosvold

He stopped trying to shove my head in the toilet when I started to cry. Grade 8 boys weren’t supposed to cry, but it worked.

Most of my interactions with guys have been like that. Until I was 14, I was very small for my age. I was an easy target for wannabe bullies trying to establish themselves. I was not athletic, so I was always picked last, if picked at all. And if I was on the team, invariably the captain would call me out in front of my peers for my less than stellar play. Being small gave others the chance to be “big.”

As a teen, I didn’t drink, tinker with cars, or “chase tail” - the favorite activities of most of the guys I knew in my small Canadian logging town. I was attracted to solo adventures like fly-fishing and astronomy. Those were safe for me. And so were girls.

My best friends have always been women.

In school, the girls I hung out with never attempted to give me a “swirly.” In fact they told off people who tried. I was always included by my amazing girl cousins whom my family visited frequently. My best friend in high school, a wonderful young woman of Japanese heritage, always kept a seat free and a meaningful conversation ready for me on the bus ride home. I played flute in band, but rather than shunning me, the cool girls in the band, the “Fearsome Five-some” I called them, made time for me. Girls were there for me; guys were not.

Things have not really changed much for me as an adult; by comfort and profession, I am still surrounded by women. My wife is my absolute best friend and soul mate. My BFF is a former teaching partner; I was her “man of honor.” As a teacher in the lower grades, I once found myself working in a building where everyone other than me, from janitor to principal, was a woman. And I was OK with that. I still feel safest in my female connections.

So I was as shocked as anyone when I said yes to an invitation from a colleague to join the founding chapter of “The Barley Brethren.” I am the rebel seventh – the lone non-drinker in a group of men coming together each week to share each other’s journeys over a six-pack of quality craft beer. For the first time in my life I am hanging out with guys and enjoying it.

What happened? This new adventure, this new friendship experiment, is a happy byproduct of navel-gazing, need, and Shasta.

Navel-gazing

As I approached my 50th birthday, I became very self-reflective. One of my realizations? That it is hard being a married, middle-aged man with female friends. On more than one occasion an outside observer has assumed I’ve been up to something. Or that I’m gay. Sometimes, I just don’t fit in with my friend’s activities (e.g. having a guy at a bachelorette party is lame!). Still other times, my offered friendship has left the other person's spouse feeling threatened and jealous. I’ve even had people tell me outright that married men should not have close female friends. Period.

All of these things do not just affect me; they also affect any potential female friend. While I have to believe that I'm worth it, it is a special lady indeed who is willing to take on such a challenging friendship. In light of that realization, I started to toy with the notion that, if I was going to need a new friend, it might be better (albeit scarier) if that person was male.

Need

It turns out that I did find myself needing new friends. My best friend and teaching partner moved to the other side of the continent (following her husband's employment) and I had a rather painful falling out with another very good friend at nearly the same time. The full weight of my needs for companionship and camaraderie all of a sudden fell almost exclusively on my wife's shoulders.

Shasta

Fortunately, in the midst of all of this, I came across Shasta Nelson, friendship expert, via Twitter. While her company and mission, girlfriendcircles.com, wouldn't be any help to me, her book, "Friendships don't just happen!" was a timely godsend. So much of the book resonated with me, especially:

  1. Friendships come and go. Shasta references research that shows we are now replacing about half of our friends every seven years. It was reassuring to know that what I was going through was not unusual. It's hard on the ego to admit you need new friends.
  2. There are different types of friends. For many people, I suppose Shasta's five Circles of Connectedness are largely self-evident. However, for me, it was life-changing revelation. As someone who had very few friends growing up, I just assumed that the very definition of friend was someone who was a BFF - a "committed friend" per Shasta's terminology. I distinctly remember times in my life when the phrase "Everybody's pal, nobody's friend" hung over me like a black cloud of loneliness and unworthiness. I had never really considered the importance of my "left side" friends on the continuum - how they can be the seeds of deeper friendship and who are no less important to a rich life of connection all on their own.
  3. Friendships don't just happen. I spent most of my life with the unspoken assumption that people just connected or they didn't. The book challenged me to look back at the best friendships I had in my life and understand that they were the byproduct of gradual progression. More importantly, it made it clear to me that this progression was something that could be replicated; that I could start with "contact friends" and, given time, consistency and gradually increasing intimacy, there was hope I might be able to move friends from the left side of the friendship continuum to the right.

Enter the Barley Brethren

Retired school principal Phil Ballard started the Barley Brethren to a meet a perceived need; the need for men to have the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

Per his early notes, he envisioned the Barley Brethren as a "club of like-minded gentlemen in search of spiritual coherence. Membership in the Double B would involve a commitment to become a connoisseur of quality craft beer and would require the sharing of 'cicerone' duties for the weekly gathering. While quaffing their favorite brew, the brothers would discover meaning for their own lives while sharing in each other’s journeys. Meetings would be convened on the “MV Kairos,” a 45 ft. motor yacht."

While we couldn't come across any group photo-- this is supposedly Phil's hand holding one of the lucky beers.  Ha!

The concept of bros and booze in a man-cave should've sent me running, given my history. However, my desire to establish male friendships and the concepts in Shasta's book give me a framework for courage.

My BFF had moved (my committed friend would soon become a confirmed friend), so when a respected colleague (a "contact friend" worth investing in) asked if I was interested in joining a group planning to meet weekly (ingredient: consistency) to learn about beer ("common friends") and discuss life (ingredient: intimacy), what might have looked scary before, I now recognized as the perfect recipe for developing friendship. The fact that founding father Phil was a "confirmed friend" with whom I had lost touch over the years seemed serendipitous.

Note from Shasta: Greg, Gold stars for making the real life application to the concepts!  Love it!

Each week during the school year we meet.

Beer pours at 7:30 sharp. We spend time reviewing the beer, its history, and its characteristics. As a non-drinker, but a life-long learner, it has been fascinating learning the terminology of surrounding craft beer. I also know what sort of beer to bring to a gathering if I am asked.

The rest of the evening is a little less structured. In theory there is a go to study we listen to or read, but just as often as we just talk about what needs to be talked about. We talk, laugh, and yes, even cry about the things that are affecting our lives. Marriage, children, death, illness, work, retirement, faith... we all bring different perspectives and wisdom to what is important in the moment.

The Barley Brethren have been meeting for two years now... at least our first group. Somewhat ironically, the friend who initially invited me became the leader of a second group when the success of the idea and the need to open the concept up to more members became self-evident. (I see this friend outside the group now though.) For the first time in my life, I am hanging out with men on a regular basis. I still have my uncomfortable flashback moments... I'm overly sensitive to teasing about my beer selections, for instance... but I am so thankful for the growing friendships in the group built on vulnerability and sharing that, frankly, I didn't believe was possible among men.

Apparently friendships don't just happen. It's an important concept for guys too.

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While "just a group of guys," for more information, there is a site under construction: http://www.barleybrethren.com, they are on Twitter @barleybrethren, and here's their un-official theme song that sort of encapsulates the Barley Brethren: Brother, by Need To Breathe.  :)

From Shasta: Bravo guys!  Well done!  May your willingness to engage be contagious! :)

Not Enough Time for Friends? Awesome Examples of Structuring Life Around Relationships

When I ask women what one thing they wish they could change about their friendships-- the number one answer is along the lines of wishing their friends made more time for them. We're weary by how we have to schedule each other 3-weeks out, initiate a dozen emails back-and-forth, and wonder if we're a priority to the other person.

We live in a time-crunched culture where everyone believes that time is scarce and many a friendship is falling victim to a lack of time together.  We aren't just sitting on front porches, sipping iced tea late into the evening, talking about life, and watching our kids play in the quiet tree-lined streets together.

So in a world where many women are putting relationships on the back-burner, I want to hold up three of my friends who are making amazing decisions to structure their lives around their friends. May they inspire all of us to not just do what is easy, but to do what is important to us.

Willing to Schedule Time FOR Friendship

My girlfriend, Sherilyn, and I try to talk on the phone at least once a week, often for up to an hour at a time. That is impressive considering I do it in the middle of my work day, between writing, giving interviews, and running my company; and that she's doing it with

Sherilyn and me together earlier this summer in Seattle on one of her get-away's with friends. xoxo

three kids running around and begging for attention.  But we set aside the time, knowing that if we want to feel close to each other and really know what's going on in each others hearts that it's easier to do that on a regular basis than an irregular basis.

But last week she upped the ante and impressed me even more in proving just how important friendships are to her.

She's been gone this summer a bit more than normal, including at least two trips to spend time with friends, so when the husband of one of her close friends called to see if she could fly out for his wife's birthday over Labor Day weekend, she was tempted to say no.  And none of us would have faulted her: her husband has gone above and beyond this summer watching the kids so she could take off at various times, her kids start school the day after she would get back so she'll miss much of the school prep, and her schedule is nuts between now and then.  Had she said no, we would have supported her for not over-extending herself.

But she and her husband have a habit of separately thinking and praying about something for a period of time before making a big decision so they decided to convene in 24 hours to decide.  Both of them showed up in that conversation on the same page, with her husband articulating, "Life is about relationships... if there is anything we should be structuring our life around it is for this. Go be with your friends."

Wow.  So he's watching the kids one more weekend, and she's practicing not feeling guilty, trusting that she's making time for what they feel matters the most in life.  Most of us would have simply said no because we're busy and tired without even stopping to think about whether it supports our values or not.

Willing to Commit Finances FOR Friendship

Another one of my friends, Ayesha, announced two years ago to a monthly group of us that gets together to support each other, that her husband was taking a job in New York City.  But because her friendship meant so much to us she said she was going to keep flying out once a month to spend that evening with us.

Here I am with Ms. Ayesha in CA where I am so grateful that she still comes back frequently to be with her friends.

Buying a place in New York City isn't cheap and as they've been trying to get more established in their new city it would have made sense to say "this monthly expense of flying back-and-forth is too costly."  Indeed it has a pretty expensive price tag on it.

But she knows that if these are friendships that are important to her to maintain face-to-face then she will have to invest in them.

We can't all afford to do that, but what she's showcasing is amazing.  What she invites us to look at in our own budgets is how sometimes it costs us something to maintain the friendship; and that a price tag isn't bad if you're getting meaningful connection on the other side of it.

Willing to Move FOR Friendship

When one of my best friends, Daneen, texted me in June to let me know that she and her husband were thinking about moving away from San Francisco, my heart just fell.  We all know how hard it can feel to finally develop meaningful friendships so the idea of losing a little bit of that time together was tough to swallow.

And yet... I was so immensely proud of her because her reason for moving was to go back to a community where she feels like she belongs.  She and her husband met in college in this community, where his family lives and where they still have many friends.

A few days ago, Daneen, (in the middle) drove over an hour from her her new home to come into the City to spend an evening with me and Vania!

Since having a child, San Francisco has felt like a hard place to have community that both includes children and spirituality.  (Her story in her words.) While there is much they love here, they are moving away to a place where they hope to have more families over for dinner and more engagement in a church community. It's a small community so they're likely to run into people they know at the grocery store and can walk down the street to connect with neighbors.

In a world where people move frequently for jobs, more money, or for love--leaving friendships to chance; (Here's an article I wrote for Huffington Post called 5 Things to Consider Before Moving Away From Friends) I find it amazingly inspiring to move for friendships, and trusting that they can find the other pieces.  All too often we leave a place, walking away from friendships, forgetting that it will take years before we can build those up again. And while she's moving away from me and a few others; she's leaning into a place where her life will be far more established around the community she craves. She is willing to plant herself where she believes her opportunities for meaningful friendship will increase.

What Am I Willing to Invest?

I hesitate to tell the stories because I don't want anyone feeling any guilt, whatsoever; but I choose to tell them because I think there's an inspirational element to them, also.

We are so often modeled by others that friendships come-and-go, that they are the first thing to let go of when life gets busy, or that they are only important when it's convenient.  So I think it's important for us to hear stories of what other women are doing, what they're willing to invest, what they're willing to do to maintain their friendships.  It's important for us to know that it's not crazy to make choices in favor of friendship. It invites us to ponder, "Maybe I do have one evening a week to go out with friends" or "Maybe I could commit to one hour a week to talk to one of my best friends."

Time isn't necessarily scarce; we just have to prioritize what we believe is worth structuring our lives around during the time that we do have.

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Starting in 3 weeks!  "The Friendships You've Always Wanted! Learning a Better Way to Meet-Up, Build-Up, and Break-Up with Your Friends!"*

Friendships Wanted banner-01One way to practice committing more time to our friendships is to choose friendship as your priority this September for International Women's Friendship Month!

Here I am with the wealth of books I selected to feature in this month's "The Friendships You've Always Wanted!" friendship course!

I really hope you'll consider joining us for this 21-day class filled with up to 13 expert interviews where we will all make a commitment for one month to focus on increasing the frientimacy (friendship intimacy with other women) in our lives!

With our workbook and lots of inspiring interviews-- we will find ways to 1) make more female friends and 2) do so in such a way that we are structuring our lives around them in a way that feels good to us!  :)

www.FriendshipsWanted.com

* Sign up early and we'll send you a free copy of my book "Friendships Don't Just Happen!"

I Believe in Making Friendships Happen

I believe in making friendships happen. To me, that means:  I will be brave.

Brave enough to believe, to hope, and to admit that I want meaningful friendships that support my life.

Betsy from Dallas believes in making friendships happen!  :)

Brave enough that I can acknowledge when I'm lonely and see that as an invitation, not an indictment.

Brave enough to look in the mirror and say, "I am worthy and capable of creating intimate friendships."

Brave enough to initiate.  And then to do it again.  And then to not take it personally when she can't, or won't, or doesn't.

Bravery means showing up when it's scary because we believe in something that matters more.  And I do.  I believe in making friendships happen.

To me, that means: I will foster my joy.

I want my joy to first sustain me.  I will foster a joy in my life by growing, seeking, creating, playing, learning, praying, and laughing.

In fact, I want to laugh more.  God, help me to laugh more.

GirlFriendCircles t-shirt

But I also want-- deeply want-- my joy to nourish others. That when they leave my presence they feel more hopeful about their lives, more loved for who they are, and more joyful for what we experienced together.  May my quiet joy remind me to show up with love to give, rather than with attention to steal.

Because I believe that what you seek is what you find.

And I want to find joy.  So may I remember to look for joy in my relationships.

I believe in making friendships happen.

 

Which means acknowledging that they don't just happen.

I swallow bravely, and then I whisper what I know is truth: "I make them happen."

They don't happen to me.

Nor would I want them to...I am not a victim in this process. No.

I am a powerful, capable, strong, loving person who creates my destiny, invites community, and facilitates the relationships I crave.

Now instead of a whisper, I speak with volume, my voice getting stronger in my conviction.

I will be a creator, a maker, a sustainer of that which matters to me.

And friendships really matter.  Romance isn't enough to capture all the laughter, joy, and memories I want to share.

I will courageously set aside time for friendships.

Courageous because it means no longer falling for the scarcity myth, pretending that I don't have enough time.  For I do.

I have all the time in the world; it's mine to spend, it's mine to savor, it's mine to prioritize, it's mine to invest in. And I choose to invest in people, and moments, and laughter, and honesty.

I will own the fact that if I want relationships then I must initiate.

And then do it again.  And then not take it personally when she can't, or won't, or doesn't.

I will intentionally ask questions.  And listen to the story she weaves.  Not listening

GirlFriendCircles t-shirt

just until it triggers another story for me to tell.  Not listening while judging her for her choices.  Not listening to look for differences between us.  Just listening with a curiosity; seeing her as another wonder in this world.

Oh and I will share... and I'll practice doing it with vulnerability.  I say practice, because few of us do so with ease.  But I will practice showing up with less pretense, less need to impress, less agenda, less PR-mode, less worried about how I am coming across, less committed to an image.

It's scary... but that's the kind of friendships I want to make happen; so I know it's the kind of person I need to be.

I believe in making friendships happen.

And this girl, this woman, this queen-of-my-heart, lover-of-life, powerful and sacred vessel-- yes, I am all that more... and I am going to make my friendships happen.

A-men.  And it is so.

 

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This cute t-shirt is available at www.ConnectedGifts.com

If you're a member of GirlFriendCircles.com then that means you also believe in making your friendships happen!  YAY!  Take a step today to remind yourself you believe this-- call someone, RSVP to a ConnectingCircle, send a friendly email to another woman in our community-- let's make our friendships happen!

Want a t-shirt?  You can get it for free if you're an active member of GirlFriendCircles or you can buy one here at www.ConnectedGifts.com.  Welcome to the movement!  xoxo

Feminism is a Friendship Issue

Last night three of us sat in the beautiful living room of my friend's brand new condo. It was gorgeous. We toasted her buying her own home (in the Bay Area that is a HUGE feat!), and indirectly toasted the business she started several years ago that has given her such financial opportunities.  She is nothing short of amazing as she builds her empire, hires employees, travels the world, and fills her life up with the experiences that matter most to her. Not being married....

And yet she shared how exhausting it is to feel like others assume she's done something wrong to still be single. Their statements, their questions, their looks of pity, their advice... it can all feel isolating and condemning.

She'll be the first to say that she so looks forward to being in a relationship that feels healthy, fun, and meaningful so it's not that she prefers being single. But she prefers being single to being in a relationship that is empty of the things she values; she's unwilling to get married to just be married.

She doesn't need our advice to try online dating; she doesn't need us trying to encourage her by reminding her the perks of being single; she doesn't need us to tell her that she just needs to get more comfortable being by herself.

What she needs are women who will just let her tell her own story and experience, women who are able to hold both the truth that there are parts that can "suck" about be single and the hope with her that it will still happen; all without implying that there is something wrong with her or that she's not doing life right.

I'm not single, and yet I know the feeling.

Not having kids....

At my most recent speaking engagement I must have fielded the question, "Do you have kids?" at least seventy times in that one day.  For the first 50 responses I kept whispering to myself, "They're just trying to connect with me.  They're just trying to find common ground on the area of life that matters most to them.  Don't read anything else into it."

But by mid-afternoon, I was exhausted.  I was weary of feeling like they wanted me to have kids as though I'd have more credibility to them if I did.  My insecurities were starting to flare up and the fear of "not being enough" was lodging itself in my chest. The voice of shame began to whisper: "You're not a real woman unless you're a mom.  They think you can't relate.  They will trust you more if your life looks just like theirs."

I felt judged and dismissed; but I didn't want to adopt that story because I don't think anyone was trying to judge me.  So I've spent the last week processing those fears with close girlfriends, journaling, talking with my husband, and coaxing my voice of wisdom to speak louder than my voice of fear.

The irony here is that the third friend I was with last night is married and a mom.  But she too knew the feeling we were describing.

Not having enough kids...

She has an only child and fields similar-feeling questions all the time about whether she's going to have another, when, and why it's the best thing to do for x, y, and z reasons.

Without knowing her circumstances, her heart, her body, or the details of her life-- she feels like other women presume there is a "correct" path that should be followed.  Like me feeling dismissed with statements like, "well of course you can do that because you don't have kids," she feels that way because "she only has one and that's easy!"

I've also heard women who have more than the presumed 2-3 kids talk about feeling judged, too.

And let's not sidestep that everything I've seen on feminism lately has more to do with how much a women "leans in" or "reclines" in her career once she has a family so we know that there is massive insecurities getting flared up in that arena as everyone struggles with trying to do it all right.

And, of course we all know, that you can be married, with the 2.5 kids, surrounded by the proverbial white picket fence, and still incur the feelings of not be enough, competing with other moms, and feeling as though no one understands just how unique or difficult our personal experience is-- whether we have twins, an adopted child, a special needs baby, a difficult teenager, or a an adult child that lives at home-- the list goes on and on of things that quickly push us to feel like something is wrong with our lives.

Feminism must start in our friendships and spread out...

Last week, a friend and I sat in the audience to listen to Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, who spoke about how she believes we've lost sight of the original goal of feminism being to liberate women.  The data she shared made a convincing case that not only have the numbers not really budged beyond the "token 1-2 women" in the upper echelons of most industries, but that more discouraging is the fact that we're not yet acting like liberated women on the inside, either.  Our body image hasn't improved in the last number of decades, we're exhausted and weary, we are more educated and yet feel more incompetent, we never feel like we're doing enough, we feel guilty for not making homemade Halloween costumes, and we're not reporting higher levels of happiness.

Last night, sipping tea, I looked at these two dear friends of mine and thought, "How is it that we are all strong, self-aware, healthy, vibrant, happy, spiritually-engaged, and pursuing our dreams, and yet still enslaved by this idea that we're not really a woman until/unless we do x?"

And while I believe there are some serious systemic issues that need to be addressed to help level the playing field, I also think women are doing a lot of this to ourselves and each other.  It's women who are editors of the magazines featuring photo-shopped women, it's women looking down on other women for making different life choices, it's women who are forgetting that every time they judge someone else that it heightens their own insecurity.

Insecurity about our lives leads to judgment of others. We all want validation that we're doing the best we can and that it's enough. And if someone makes a different choice than we do then we are tempted to believe that one of us made the wrong choice.  And we don't want it to be us, so it must be them.

And that is a faulty paradigm.  We aren't competitors, we're sisters. Truly connected; our fate is shared in so many ways as a rising tide lifts all boats.  While we're out there campaigning for equal pay and corner offices, we also have to do the work of making sure we're not like prisoners who no longer live behind bars but still don't know how to enjoy freedom.

The part of feminism I care about most is how we feel about ourselves.  And that is shaped by the relationship we have with ourselves (finding our own peace in our choices and being centered in our own worth), the relationship we have with what I call God (understanding why we're on this planet, our calling, our value, what makes us special), and the relationship we have with those around us (practicing the shining of our light and seeing how special everyone else is, too).

Last night, the three of us women, whose lives don't mirror each others at all, shared our hearts, spoke our truth, and validated each other in meaningful ways.  We promise to cheer for each other, even when one of us has something the other seemingly wants.  We promise to not take it personally when someone makes a choice different from ours. We promise to ask questions and listen to each others stories as if we're each a traveler who has visited countries that we won't be seeing; instead of trying subtly convince each other to follow the same path we did.  And we promise to do the personal work in our own lives to show up with as much vulnerability, honesty, courage, and love, as we possibly can.

We practiced feminism-- liberating each other to live the best life we each created.

And the more we do that with each other, the more we can do that with the women we have yet to meet.

Feminism is in trouble the more disconnected women get from ourselves and each other.

Men Really Need Intimate Friendships, Too

It's a great honor for me to feature today's guest post on my site--the author is not only one of the most emotionally healthy men I have ever met; a dynamic speaker, pulling people in on any stage; a wealth of wisdom on matters of purpose, spiritual growth, and energy management; a transformational consultant, leading teams to function from their strengths; and one of the most intuitive life coaches out there; but he also happens to be my husband.  And I couldn't be more proud. (We each happen think we're the lucky one in the marriage... but between you and me... I definitely was the one who won big time!) I've long wanted to share his blog with you: Soul Ballast.  You really should subscribe if you are interested in living your life with spiritual depth, aware of your strengths, and with intention, but when he wrote a 2-part series on men's friendship, I knew it was time to introduce you to him.

On my book tour I had so many men express to me (almost with embarrassment!) their desire to have friendships the way women do that I am thrilled that research is now confirming what I believed:  the stereotype of men's friendships being different from women's is often more descriptive (what they had modeled and what they thought was appropriate) than prescriptive (what they actually crave and would benefit from.)  I hope you'll share this post with your husbands/boyfriends, male friends, and sons.

Are Male Friendships Different From Female Friendships?

by Dr. Greg Nelson

My wife Shasta Nelson is one of the leading friendship experts these days, especially in the realm of female friendships.  Her book Friendships Don’t Just Happen:  The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Two Greek men having conversation in a cafe in Agiassos on Lesvos Island in GreeceCircle of Girlfriends is one of the most complete and profound explanations and prescriptions of the multifaceted dimensions of healthy friendships – why it’s important and how it can be developed and sustained in deep and meaningful ways.

As I’ve read her book and listened to her speak to multiple audiences, I’ve thought how much men need and crave this kind of friendship intimacy, too.

It’s been a fascinating experience bringing this view up in conversations with men and women.  Invariably, some people respond by saying that male friendship looks different and men approach relationships from a completely different standpoint, their needs simply are different – as one male expert puts it, men’s friendships are more “shoulder to shoulder” compared to women’s which are “face to face”.  Men bond over activities as compared to women who bond in conversation and self-disclosure.

For some reason, most likely a lot from my own personal experience as well as all my work as a coach and pastor with both genders, I’ve had a difficult time with that stereotypical and simplified depiction of male friendship.  I reject the notion that men don’t crave intimacy  (which includes the need for honest and authentic self-disclosure and empathy) as much as women in our friendships.

When I have coaching conversations with men and create a safe space in which they can share their lives deeply and authentically, I’m finding that men are as fully capable, and in fact as sincerely interested, in full disclosure and admittance of the need for intimacy and honest sharing.  They are craving the same kind of depth and closeness in their friendships as women do, but for the most part they’re simply not getting it.

Latest Research on Men’s Friendships:  How the Shift Happens

Turns out, research is now showing this craving for depth and intimacy is absolutely true about men and their friendships.  Men are in fact wired with not only this same desire but also the capability for the same kind of intimate, deep friendships.

According to a recent article in Salon (“American Men’s Hidden  Crisis: They Need More Friends!”) New York University psychologist Dr. Niobe Way studied and interviewed boys in each year of high school.  What she found was fascinating.

Until the age of 15-16, all the boys she interviewed described their friendships with other boys using the same vocabulary as the girls used about their friendships:

“Younger boys spoke eloquently about their love for and dependence on their male friends. In fact, research shows that boys are just as likely as girls to disclose personal feelings to their same-sex friends and they are just as talented at being able to sense their friends’ emotional states.

Then something happened.  From the age of 15-16 on (right at the same age that the suicide rate of boys increases to four times the rate of girls), the same boys talked about their guy friends far differently.

One of the boys described this shift the way almost all of those boys who were interviewed did:

When he was 15:  “[My best friend and I] love each other… that’s it… you have this thing that is deep, so deep, it’s within you, you can’t explain it. It’s just a thing that you know that person is that person… I guess in life, sometimes two people can really, really understand each other and really have a trust, respect and love for each other.”

But when the same boy was a senior in high school, notice the shift:  “[My friend and I] we mostly joke around. It’s not like really anything serious or whatever… I don’t talk to nobody about serious stuff… I don’t talk to nobody. I don’t share my feelings really. Not that kind of person or whatever… It’s just something that I don’t do.”

Why the Shift Happens

So what is happening?  As researchers are noting, as boys get older they are becoming conditioned to disassociate from what are often seen as more feminine qualities in order to be manly, macho, accepted in the male places of our world.

For example, why is it that sports coaches or military sergeants, in trying to motivate guys, call them “girls” — as if somehow that demeaning use of a perfectly neutral term is supposed to inspire guys to be stronger, try harder, be more of a man?

So men learn early on to disassociate themselves from anything feminine–which unfortunately leads to a distancing from the experiences and expressions of need for intimacy, closeness, self disclosure, empathy, and other feelings.  Which in turn serves to isolate them from developing meaningful and close friendships with other men.

But as research continually reveals, this dissociation is actually distancing us as men from our complete selves by cutting vital parts of ourselves out.

Tragic Consequences of This Shift

Here’s the way Lisa Wade, in her Salon article, reflecting Dr. Niobe Way’s significant research, describes the tragic outcome:

“So men are pressed — from the time they’re very young — to disassociate from everything feminine.This imperative is incredibly limiting for them. Paradoxically, it makes men feel good because of a social agreement that masculine things are better than feminine things, but it’s not the same thing as freedom. It’s restrictive and dehumanizing. It’s oppression all dressed up as awesomeness. And it is part of why men have a hard time being friends.”

Two Things Men Need to ReShift and ReFocus On Who They Really Are

First, men need positive male role models to show the power and transformational experience of intimate friendships with other men – friendships built around mutual self-disclosure, honesty, authenticity, empathy, caring for each other, and yes, sharing good times with each other, too.  Male friendships are not an either/or proposition.  It’s both/and.

And Second, men need to be given permission that it’s not caving to a stereotypical feminine way of being by wanting and engaging in deeper, caring male friendships.  Men need this permission from the women in their lives and from other men.  The media isn’t helping at all!  So others need to step up and openly talk about what it means to be a male with all the multifaceted qualities men have inside them that need to be expressed and that contribute to building deep and lasting and meaningful friendships with other men.

Because the truth is, men are hardwired with a yin-and-yang of qualities:  we are both “soft” and “hard” — we crave strength and power, and we also long for warmth, intimacy, caring, and empathetic nurturing and sharing.  Men have been cultured to neglect one for the sake of the other.  But it’s both/and.

And the sooner we men embrace this truth, the healthier we will be emotionally, mentally, physically, and relationally.  We will be living in alignment with who we truly are.  And that’s always the place of greatest authentic power and well-being.

To sign up for Greg's blog or to read his second post on this subject, go here: "Reclaiming What It Means to Be a Man"

I Don't Feel x (Accepted, Connected, Loved)... What Do I Do?

Last week I shared a bit of my process for choosing my feeling words or themes each year... so this week I wanted to share how I take those words and plant them in my life. Because it's one thing to find words that resonate... it's another thing to remember that you chose them, why they matter, and what wisdom they have for your life right now.

I am a person very comfortable in the world of the "unseen"; I love talking about spirituality, ideas, and feelings. And while I think it's important to start there, and spend as much time there as you can--journaling about your word(s), making lists of how you already see that word showing up in your life, defining it in a way that excites you, and getting comfortable with owning that word--for me, the power only continues if I figure out a tangible way to take the word with me.

In other words, I can have an amazing journaling session and get excited about my word(s), only to forget them a month later, if I don't choose how to plant them.  It's akin to going on a retreat and having that "mountain top experience" that stays on the mountain if I don't intentionally figure out how to bring those ah-ha's into my day-to-day life.

Unlike goals (i.e. "Lose x pounds," or "Go to x networking events each month") that can feel all deadline-y, guilt-heavy, and task-focused; our feeling words should feel inviting, hope-full, and come with a sense of ease (i.e. "I desire to feel invigorated" and "I desire to feel supported.")

Transforming Feelings into Tangible Form

So where I get excited is in figuring out how to plant that word into my life so I keep seeing it, regularly choosing to feel the hope of it, and remembering that it's guiding me this year.

It's similar to why some people get tattoos to remember someone or to recall a significant transition in their life, others do vision boards where they can see their dreams manifested, and others make altars that center them immediately in a certain feeling.

Almost all my jewelry reminds me of something that matters to me.  Just touching it or seeing it can focus me immediately on what I believe matters.

I actually do quite a bit of my remembering with my jewelry. Here's a picture of my left hand right now....  every time I touch or see these things, they act like a "string around my finger" to remind me to not forget something that I've said is important to me.  That thumb ring has been there ever since my divorce fourteen years ago.  I remember crying as I took my wedding ring off... and my naked finger just kept serving as a reminder every time I felt for it, and it wasn't there, that I didn't feel loved.  I was living in Guatemala at the time and bought a ring to put on my thumb to remind me that I loved me and God loved me and that was enough.  That ring rarely comes off my hand-- and every time I feel it, play with it, and see it-- I think "I am loved." That belief has been cemented in my belief system in ways that fuel me far greater than I could have ever imagined.

That red string is from a retreat I went on in September where I realized that I was showing up with hesitation and fear in some areas of my life and I wanted, instead of fear, to show up with willingness.  So now, I tug on that string and whisper "I'm willing" whenever I feel fear.  I'm willing.  I'm willing... to show up and stay open even though this person hurt me.  I'm willing... to walk into this room of people even though I feel insecure.  I'm willing... to do what's in front of me even though this project feels so overwhelming. I remind myself I'm willing and my entire body changes almost instantly to match the new message my brain is giving.  (In fact, it's a spiritual truth "by beholding we become changed" that has been proven truth also by neuroscience!)

As a pastor I used to love sharing all the stories in the Bible of how people chose to remember their truths by infusing meaning into physical form.  Whether it was the Israelites miraculously crossing the Jordan River and collecting dry stones from the riverbed to pile up on the other side so that they could "tell their kids about the time that God parted the river" or the story of Jesus in the upper room with his disciples saying "When you eat this bread... remember me" which has turned into the practice of the Eucharist, or Communion, we know the power of being triggered to remember.

We do this almost automatically for much of our life when we want to remember something that has happened.  We take photos to remember events, we save a piece of hair from our child's first haircut, and we bake a family recipe to recall a person or a memory.

I'm inviting you to take your word and choose how you want to remember it this upcoming year.  Not to remember something that has happened, but to remind yourself of what is happening--what is true for you, what is already present in you, and what is also being called out of you in more ways this year.

I'm gifting this friendship bracelet to the women in my upcoming program so that they can remember their intention for the year ahead!

In fact, I think it's so important that I am including a bracelet with the word "connected" on it that will be given to all* the women who are signing up for my 21-day virtual program on friendship this month.  I picture them spending the rest of January just planting their feeling of connection, (or intimacy, acceptance, inclusion, or whatever other word resonates most deeply) as they listen to the interviews and journal for their own awareness, and then receiving that beautiful bracelet that they can wear as a reminder of the connection that they are inviting into their lives this year.  I want them to touch it and see it and remember that they are pursuing the feeling of being close to others in meaningful ways.  I want it to guide them to say yes even when it feels awkward, to initiate again because that's what it takes to build a friendship, and to hold hope that no matter their circumstances or personality or past experiences, they can experience more connection.

This year... I invite you to take the word you want to feel with you.  Infuse it into something tangible that can remind you to feel that feeling every time you see it or touch it.

We get to choose how we feel.  I don't have to feel unloved or fearful-- my ring and my red bracelet pictured above whisper to me repeatedly that I am loved and willing.  And that, I want to remember all year-long.

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* Just wanted to clarify that the bracelet (and the entire Gift Package valued at nearly $100) is only being given to the women who sign up by Wednesday at 10 am PT at FriendshipsWanted.com.  You're welcome to join us... I'd love nothing more than for you to pursue feeling connected all year-long!  (Or, you can buy your own piece of jewelry that says "Loved" or "Connected" here:  www.ConnectedGifts.com.)

An Interview with Tiffany: Why I Love GirlFriendCircles.com

In talking to Tiffany this fall she kept crediting GirlFriendCircles with giving her a circle of friends who helped her through a health crisis. I'd say all credit goes to her for fostering friendly people into friends, but her story was so inspiring, I asked her if she'd be willing to share it with all of you! Tiffany was a member of GirlFriendCircles.com in San Francisco, CA for nearly 2 years and is still a huge advocate and ambassador.

So, Tiffany, this particular part of your story begins this last September...

Yes, it was right after Memorial Day and I ended up needing to go to the hospital because I was in so much pain.  I couldn't have guessed upon arrival that they would be telling me that not only were they keeping me there, but also that I needed emergency surgery.

And how did you respond? 

Well I immediately called two friends of mine (one whom I had met through GirlFriendCircles.com) and they put out the word about where I was and what had happened.

The response was unbelievable.

Anne, Julia, Tiffany, and Maurine-- once strangers, now good friends because of GirlFriendCircles.com

Three of our friends, who we had also met through GirlFriendCircles.com (GFC), came and spent hours with me in the emergency room so I wouldn’t have to be alone.  (What makes this even more special is that one of them is an avowed germaphobe who avoids hospitals!) My surgery ended up becoming a 3 ½ day hospital stay.  And there was honestly not one day that went by that this amazing group of women did not call, visit, text, etc. I am convinced that the love and support from them is what made the healing process go so quickly.

I spent two weeks recuperating at home and the “amazingness” continued.  People visited, called, texted, brought me food, took me to doctor’s appointments, stayed with me when I needed it…. It was a truly humbling experience to be on the receiving end of that much love.

Before all this happened, I had in my head that these women were my “village” and it was gratifying to know that it translated to real life!

Take me back to that moment when you realized you actually had friends who were supporting you through this crisis… what did you feel?

I felt incredibly blessed and grateful.  I met all these women through GFC.  The women who show up to GFC, and are intentional about making friends and building community, really do make the world a better place to live.

As a single woman who doesn't live near family, I basically lived through a crisis that would have been so much worse had it happened a few years ago, before I had built up a circle of friends.  We've all had times where we've wondered, "Who would I call in an emergency situation?" and this time, I knew the answer.

Oh that makes me so happy to hear! How did going through this together impact your friendships? 

The ultimate impact of this was that my FRIENDS became my FAMILY in the truest and best sense of that word.  Even though I was the one who was sick, we all now know that we have each other’s back when the chips are down.  We have a community where we lean on each other and celebrate each other’s wins.  We've proven it to ourselves!

It truly was an amazing experience to be a part of.  To me, it's not too big of a statement to say that none of it would have been possible without GirFriendCircles.com. To meet women who were ready and willing to develop meaningful friendships literally gave me a support system, a tribe in this city.

Anything else you want to say?

My take-away is that it is so worth it to invest the time and energy into building a network of female friendships.  I am convinced they are the root of a happy and successful life!

I hope I've been able to convey how amazing and special this group of friends is / has become and that none of it would be possible without us all meeting through GFC. I am so grateful.  Thank you Shasta for starting this...

You're so welcome Tiffany.  Thank you for jumping in, meeting people, and taking the time to foster friendships-- that's where the magic was!

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Tiffany attended 8 Connecting-Circles & 1 Friendship Accelerator during her membership in GirlFriendCircles and that combination of involvement has given her a strong circle of local girlfriends.

Membership deal: Until Dec. 2, women can save 20% off a GirlFriendCircles.com membership, ensuring that your 2014 is filed with invitations to local ConnectingCircles. Promo Code: UPGRADE

Friendship Accelerator: And if you, or someone you know, lives in New York City, San Francisco, or Las Vegas-- I'll be in those cities in early 2014 offering Friendship Accelerators! More info here.

 Want more inspiring stories from real GFC members:

Friendships, Stress, and Hormones

This is a blog post I have been so looking forward to writing for the last two months!  Women lean in every time I share pieces of this content around a dinner table, in a workshop on friendship, or at a mastermind group.  It's not only crucial information for our lives, but it speaks so directly to the power of friendship that, even though I heard it first in a business context, I knew I had to share it with my blog community. Simon Sinek's Explanation of 4 Hormones You Need to Understand

I was happy to buy Simon Sinek's first book, but it's his second one that covers the content in this blog that I'm eagerly anticipating!!  :)

In early May, I attended Rock the World 2013-- a women's business conference in NYC--where Simon Sinek was one of the keynote speakers.  Simon is the author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2009) and a motivational speaker whose TED talk is in the top 10 most-viewed ever!  But what he shared with us in May was some of the content of his next book coming out later this year.

Sinek relied on human biology to illustrate what motivates behavior, saying basically that our actions boil down to the good feelings we get from four key chemicals in our body: dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin.  When we trigger any of these chemicals in our bodies, we get a shot of something euphoric whether it's extra energy, joy, calm, or pride.   Here's how we receive those good feelings:

  1. Dopamine is the result of accomplishing goals, it's designed to help us find what we're looking for. Every time we see a finish line, cross something off our to-do list, or see movement toward our goals-- we get that shot of dopamine!
  2. Endorphins mask our physical pain and help us keep pushing ourselves to where we need to be. For most of us who live more sedentary and safe lives, our most common form of endorphins come from exercise. If you've ever had a "runner's high"-- you know this feeling.
  3. Oxytocin is one I talk about a lot in connection with our friendships as it reinforces bonds, builds trust, and relieves stress.  We get this from touch, meaningful conversation, breast-feeding, and when we see/experience acts of human generosity.
  4. Serotonin happens in moments of pride, recognition, and status. When we receive our diploma on stage, say "I do" in front of friends and family, or are the recipients of a meaningful award-- we get that shot of serotonin that boosts our joy.

Now, what I thought was super fascinating is that the first two chemicals you can get all by yourself.  You need no one else present to get your dopamine from crossing something off your to-do list or to exercise and feel the endorphins.  Sinek called these "selfish" hormones.

The latter two--oxytocin and serotonin-- are "unselfish" chemicals since we need someone else present in order to receive the rewards that our body wants to give us.  He gave the example of someone who could just receive an email telling them that enough credits had been accomplished and the bill paid so therefore they earned their diploma-- and that person would have most certainly received a shot of dopamine for reaching their goal.  But it's when that person dons their cap and gown and walks in front of everyone that the serotonin is released.  We need an "audience"-- someone to cheer for us or witness our success-- to give us that sense of pride and recognition.  And the best part of these unselfish chemicals?  BOTH people get the shot.  Not just the graduate on stage, but also the teachers who taught that student, the family that supported them, and their friends who did it with them.  Oxytocin and serotonin need others present to initiate them, but they also benefit all parties.

Warning: We're Not Getting Enough...

He connected these four chemicals to how leaders and businesses can better understand how we're wired to help create more healthy workplaces; I heard the whole thing through the lens of friendship. While all four chemicals have their "addictive" qualities to them, Sinek warned that they are only dangerous when they are out of balance. And I agree with him that we live in a culture that is focusing way more on the selfish chemicals than the unselfish chemicals.  We think it's easier to become workaholics to get more dopamine than it is to go hang out with friends to feel the oxytocin.  (And how much more so when we don't yet have the close friends we find meaningful!)

Furthermore, two other chemicals-- testosterone and cortisol-- are INHIBITORS of oxytocin.  In other words, when we feel stress or anxiety which results in cortisol shooting through our bodies, it prevents us from receiving the benefits of oxytocin which includes feelings of trust, safety, and empathy. We cannot build relationships of trust when we are in survival mode!  That has far-reaching implications, to say the least. So the more stress you have in your life, the harder it is for you to experience the rewards of trust, generosity, love, and bonding with others.  One short-circuits the other.

So here's my plea to the 22,000 women who subscribe to my blog-- please, please, please make sure you're intentionally adding oxytocin moments to your life!  Make sure you're not on an unbalanced chemical loop where you just go after accomplishment and exercise to boost you.  It's the selfless chemicals of oxytocin and serotonin that decrease your anxiety, turn your immune system on, facilitate feelings of trust, and basically make this world a better place where we can show generosity and love to one another!

I find it awesome that our bodies reward us to take care of each other!!!  And who better to be shining givers and recipients of this than all of us who are committed to growing healthy and meaningful relationships in this world!

Virtual hugs!

 

 

From Strangers to Friends: Our Travel Circle to Cuba

After we had all checked in at the Miami airport on June 16 for our charter flight to Cuba, I remember thinking, "Oh wow, I hope this works." And by this I meant, 15 women who had never met each other deciding to travel for 10 days together in a foreign country. It could go one of three ways: 15 women traveling beside each other but not really connecting as a group, 15 women getting sick of each other and whining and judging the whole time, or 15 women ending up feeling the bond of friendship.

In this photo we don't yet even know each others names... but the trip ahead of us is going to be amazing!
In this photo we don't yet even know each others names... but the trip ahead of us is going to be amazing!

I looked around at our group of strangers spread apart in age from 22 to 67, with one trying to figure out if she had time to get a manicure at the airport and others looking like they had never had a manicure in their lives, and observed how seemingly different we all were from each other.  While trying to remember each others names you could tell we each had our questions about how this experience would yet play out...

My Top 5 Take-Away's

  1. We don't have to be like each other to like each other.  No doubt we were all so very different: some women looked like they had stepped out of fashion magazines every day of the trip while others seemed to be wearing the same outfit in every photo; some women undoubtedly came with unlimited budgets while others were rationing out their CUC's with worried eyes; some looked like they were ready to dance anytime a tune was heard while others needed to put their feet up and rest in the van; some never turned down an opportunity to drink the island rum or local beer while others seemed much happier with water the whole time. We were an eclectic group to be sure. I say all that only to help highlight the beautiful truth that we all really, really, really liked each other. From day one all the way to day ten.
  2. One of my favorite aspects of the trip turned out to be the age span of the group.  It was SO enriching to build relationships with women you might not hang out with back home. What wisdom!
  3. Friendships are meaningful no matter how different they might look.  For some, this trip will simply be the starting point of their friendships: some women stayed up late into the night whispering with their roommates, others rented the classic old cars together for adventures where they spent the whole afternoon laughing and sharing. For all of us though, even if we didn't come home with new best amigas, we know we have new friends. Without being asked, we simply sat in different seats in the van and switched who we joined for meals-- making sure we all got to know each other in ways that mattered. We're all writing each other this week mentioning the withdrawals we're all feeling from not being together, sharing our photos, and planning a reunion dinner next month for those who can make it!  I expect to feel close to these women for quite some time.
  4. Toasting new friendships with one of many mojitos!
  5. Group travel encouraged stimulating conversations and sharing. We all too often go on a trip and get lost in our own thoughts; but in a group, we were able to hear different view points, externally process our own thoughts, ask questions, and honor our shared curiosity.  As we all tried to make sense of the impact of the U.S. embargo, how grateful Cubans were for Fidel Castro when most of us Americans had heard only negative things about him, and what socialism looked like in reality-- I was ever grateful to have a group of wise women each processing the same. Several of us walked through the Museum of the Revolution together trying to make sense of the history, my roommate shared with me some background to the political system, our local guide kept revealing how Cubans see their own experience, and all of us kept processing what we were learning in ways that served each other.  At lunches we'd often talk at tables about what we had learned in the mornings and dinners were filled with us sharing our highlight moments.
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  7. Learning makes my travel mean so much more! I've traveled to Mexico to lay on a beach without giving any thought to how their government is structured, gone to Italy to eat pizza without caring about their women's movement, or ridden a camel in Morocco without grasping what causes they are currently struggling with. In order to travel to Cuba legally, though, we had to apply for educational/professional/people-to-people visas which means we had to put in 40 hours of learning. That translated to sitting down with a university professor of gender and African studies to better understand the cultural shifts they've experienced and are still undergoing.  It meant visiting a neighborhood community center and dancing and singing with the locals.  It meant meeting an artist and having him share with us what his work means to him.  It meant meeting with the Federation of Cuban Women and hearing the history of the women's movement in that country.  It meant walking away with a greater appreciation not just for the country as a tourist experience but really understanding and admiring who that country has been and is today. Not every GirlFriendCircles.com Travel Circle itinerary will be as full of learning as Cuba needed to be... but I'm convinced I want to do a little more of it than simply sight-seeing and relaxing!
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  9. Women rock!!! Did you know that Cuba is ranked #3 globally in women's political participation with 48.9% women holding seats in their Parliament? (U.S. is ranked #79 this year!)  Not just are we committed to traveling as groups of women, but we want to learn about the women in the country we're visiting, too! So in Cuba that meant eating dinner in the home of the Three Anna's (a mom and her two daughters who rent out rooms to travelers) in Cuba de Santiago and asking them what it's like to be female entrepreneurs.  It meant dance classes and perfume making!  It meant looking at how free education and free healthcare leveled the playing field in that country for women and minority groups.  It meant that when we were guided through the fine arts museum that the female guide focused on women artists, the women who inspired the male artists, and how women were objectified or seen at different times.  Fascinating!  I loved being reminded of our connection with our sisters in another country.

Cuba was thought-provoking and fascinating.... the embargo means no Coca-Cola, McDonalds, or Starbucks. Where else have you been where you've seen that reality?

Easily the most famous face in Cuba... Che is one of about five revolutionary heroes.
Easily the most famous face in Cuba... Che is one of about five revolutionary heroes.

The whole country is like a land caught in a time warp where it may be decaying, but you can see the grandeur of their history since it hasn't yet been bull-dozed for condos or replaced with corporate skyscrapers. The people have dance and music running through their veins, along with big doses of idealism, love, and generosity.  While we uphold movie stars and singers, they revere their revolutionaries.  It was a city of dichotomy where the vision of who they want to be is so spectacular and yet how it plays out can sometimes leave you feeling pangs of sadness... (which is true of the U.S. too.) What a trip!

A huge thanks to the fourteen other women who made my trip so meaningful and memorable.  You each added such a special essence to our group chemistry.  I wouldn't have wanted it without a single one of you.

One of my favorite photos almost captures the whole group as we head out for an evening in Old Havana!
One of my favorite photos almost captures the whole group as we head out for an evening in Old Havana!

And to those who feel the tug to travel... We invite you on one of our upcoming trips this fall!  We have Egypt from Sept. 26-October 6, Iran from Sept 26-October 6, Peru from Sept. 29- October 11, and Cuba from Nov. 3-12.  So whether you want to cruise down the Nile in Egypt, behold Machu Picchu in Peru, see the Persepolis in Iran, or salsa in Cuba-- we will take good care of you and introduce you to new girlfriends who are drawn to travel! All our trips are for women, by women, about women.  You are so welcome to join the magic!