I met Thanh at a business conference in Las Vegas some years back.  We hit it off as friends almost immediately there was lots of synergy between our interests in personal development and in expanding our entrepreneurial business ventures but the kicker is the immense (and immediate) positive impact Thanh’s friendship has had on both our personal and professional growth.

The undeniable truth became crystal clear to us rather quickly: Who you associate with makes all the difference in your life. In many ways we, as human beings, are like Koi fish.  The Koi fish grows in proportion to its environment.  If you keep it in a small bucket of water, it grows to only a few of inches in length.  But if you let it loose in the wild it can grow up to two feet long. So are you like the Koi fish that has been kept in a small bucket?  Is your environment and social network stifling your personal and professional growth?

If so, how do you make changes and build healthier relationships? During our conversation with Thanh, all three us agreed that it’s not hard to build and nurture healthy relationships as long as you are willing to uphold three essential rituals for doing so:

1.  Practice walking alone on your own two feet.

Ironically, the prerequisite to building healthy relationships is being comfortable when you’re all by yourself. Appreciating solitude starts with the conscious awareness of the freedom it brings.  When you enjoy your own company you don’t need others around for the mere sake of having others around.  You can be flexible about who you choose to spend time with, instead of letting your fear of being alone suck you into social situations and relationships that aren’t right for you.

With that said, however, journeying through life on your own two feet is a learning process you become stronger as you go.  It’s like a kid who can’t find her way home when she’s alone doing it the first few times is daunting and scary, but in the long run she’s safer and better off having learned the way. So just remember, it’s always better to learn to stand on your own two feet and walk alone when you must, rather than have someone carry you around your whole life.  And once you are reasonably self-sufficient, then relying on someone else from time to time is an act of inner strength, not weakness.

2.  Practice generosity – find little ways to help people.

Be friendly and introduce yourself to someone new when the opportunity arises.  Come from a place of generosity.  Focus on how you can help them.  Do you have information that could benefit them?  Do you have a skill that could assist them through their current situation?  Do you know someone who they should meet? One of the best investments you can make in yourself is to take a genuine interest in other people.  The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.  Love and kindness begets love and kindness.  And so on and so forth.

Ultimately, the happiest and most successful people are always looking for ways to help others, while the unhappiest and most unsuccessful people are still asking, “What’s in it for me?”

3.  Practice putting yourself out there in the right social settings.

The best places to plant new seeds of friendship are at organized events covering particular topics that interest you.  For example, a good event might be a community focus group, a professional association meeting, a fitness class, a weekly group meditation hour, or any other gathering of people who share common values and goals and since you’re on a personal development blog right now reading this article, attending a life-enhancing personal development conference. The bottom line is that finding the right group of people that share your values and goals may require some time and effort, but it’s worth it.  Finding a community of like-minded souls is the most effective component in building positive, lasting relationships.

Next Steps for Building New, Healthy Relationships

If the aforementioned points make sense to you, but you’re still struggling with what seems to be unhealthy, unsupportive relationships in your life, then I have a suggestion for you: Make a list of the five people you spend the most time with and your top three personal/professional values and goals.  Then compare the lists, are the people you spend the most time with congruent with your values and goals?

Are YOU and your daily rituals congruent with your values and goals?

If not, it’s time to make some positive changes – it’s time to get comfortable (and proficient) standing on your own two feet, reaching out to others with a helping hand, and meeting some brand new, like-minded people that can bring positive energy into your life.

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