There’s nothing like leaving a country to rapidly simplify life.
For starters, you get rid of your stuff. Which is the moment you realise how little you actually need (and how much lighter life feels without it).
For seconds, you tie up loose ends. You clear up or give up on all those little should, could, have and must dos which have amassed like thick silt on your psyche.
But something I wasn’t expecting when I packed up 6 years ago was the impact it would have on my relationships. Because, as soon as I left the UK, I lost touch, almost instantly, with nearly all of my usual acquaintances.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d expected something similar. But the stillness was still faintly unnerving. It felt kinda like Nyepi, here in Bali – an annual celebration when the whole island goes silent for 24 hours. They shut off the lights, close down the internet and ban people and cars from the roads. The quiet is magical but it’s not until everything stops that you realise how conditioned you’ve become the habitual hum of humanity.
And yet, what surprised me the most wasn’t how many people I lost touch with. It was who I lost touch with. It was the bright buddies who flickered away into nothingness. It was the family members I’d too often overlooked. It was the quiet companions who turned out to be my most proactive and loyal of friends.
And as the dust settled, I became overwhelmingly aware of one thing. I realised how little I’d thought about who really loved me and why. Not to mention who, why and how I’d loved (and failed to love) other people in return.
So, I decided to do something about it.
And because I’m a bit of a nerd, and because I love making lists, the first thing I did was to sit down and start mapping things out…
First, I scrolled through my contacts and wrote down everyone who I was, wanted or felt obligated to stay in contact with.
Next, I wrote headings 5 headings on a new sheet of paper:
- Best friends – My Inner core;
- Good friends – My middle core;
- Stay-in-touch – My outer core; and
- Everyone Else – My core-bit.
And finally, I re-wrote the names of each person on my short list of contacts under one of those headings.
Result? Instant clarity.
Just writing this stuff down helped me start thinking about friendship in new ways.
I realised how many people hadn’t made my list and how much time and space I’d unlock by intentionally letting them go. I realised some people on my list shouldn’t be there (and I needed to do something about that). I realised there were big gaps which I needed to fill and rebalance. I realised I wasn’t doing a good job of being a great friend to the people who were on there already. I realised I wasn’t even sure what my ideal friendships and friend list would look like.
Now, we’ll talk more about each of those steps in our upcoming updates but what I want you to take away from this story is this…
That the first step to being more intentional about friendship isn’t difficult. It doesn’t start with difficult conversations or big gestures or tough decisions.
The first step in being more intentional about friendship is just to get clear on who your friends are, right now.
And I don’t just mean in your head.
I mean by writing them down.
I mean out on paper, where you can see the big gaps and black sheep and potential opportunities in all their unmissable glory.
The first step is mastering friendship is to:
- Imagine you were leaving the country;
- Open up your contacts on your phone;
- Write down a list of people you’d want or have to stay in contact with;
- Allocate each of those people to one of the 5 levels of intimacy; and
- Ask yourself what your gut tells you about what that means and about what you need to do next.
I won’t give you the answers quite yet (we’ll get to those in the next handful of updates). But I will ask you not to let this opportunity slip through your fingers.
Take 10 minutes now to run through this exercise.
Then COMMENT BELOW and tell me about your experience. What did you learn? What surprised you? Where are your gaps? What instant steps will you take?
Take a few moments to think through and tell me your answers. It’ll help you get clear. It’ll unlock new ideas. It’ll make you much much more likely to take action.
Then look out for my update tomorrow where I’ll show you a few more next steps.