One Week Challenge: Reconnect with an old friend

21 February 2017 - interviews

This week's challenge:

An old friend I’ve been meaning to connect with is _______. Connect with this person this week.

We all have a name in mind. That ex-colleague you haven’t spoken to in months, that old friend from school you’ve been planning to meet up with for ages but haven’t. If you’ve been wanting to catch up with them, but haven’t, what could be stopping you?

During the past week, Team TMC set out to complete the challenge. We realised that a more pressing question to answer is not what is stopping us from catching up with someone, but why we want to reconnect with that person. On one end, is it out of obligation, because they may be useful to us in the future, or is it nostalgia? Or on the other end, is it because we just want them to be a part of our lives?

Wherever your answer falls on the spectrum, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate that person’s purpose in your life, and your purpose in theirs. If you find that you’ve been wanting to keep someone in your life for the wrong reasons, it might be time to let them go.

“The best relationships with other people are by nature unnecessary,” Charlie Ambler, founder of the online site Daily Zen, writes. “That is, they don’t come from a place of falseness or neediness; they just naturally emerge.”

And if you decide that you do want this person to be a part of your life, then why haven’t you made the time to?

1. The daily grind

Work. Meetings. Errands. There is always something in the way. In 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam writes about how most people feel starved for time. The daily grind leaves them with no time to do the things they actually want to do. She discovered that successful and happy people, on the other hand, don’t particularly feel starved for time. What do they do differently? “The key is to…fill up your 168 hours only with things that deserve your time,” Vanderkam writes.

Upon reviewing interviews with people successful in their own fields, Vanderkam realised that they allocate their time differently from most of us. They evaluate what means the most to them and plan their days around the important things. This means that when things don’t go according to plan and they run out of time, only their lesser priorities suffer.

We can choose how to spend our time, and we have more time than we think,” she concludes. “It's not always easy, but the payoff is enormous.”

Vanderkam shares ways to rearrange our schedules to make room for what matters most to us. Here are our favourites:

Get creative about what counts as quality time with the people that matter. Short breakfasts before work count as much as having long dinners, and they’re often easier to manage and plan. Include friends in daily activities like grocery runs or exercise. We have to do these things anyway, so why not do them together?

Create the circumstances of convenience. Connections borne out of circumstance are easier to maintain, such as colleagues or gym buddies. Find an activity that is necessary and important to you, and make plans with that person to do it together consistently.

Choose the ones that matter most. "Friendships should energize you, so when time is tight, it's best to invest your time and energy in the relationships you know already enrich your life," Vanderkam recommends.

Consistency is key. Recurring events are easier to plan and keep to than one-off ones. Consistency makes things happen.

Small, meaningful gestures help. While not a substitute for in-person time, dropping your friends an encouraging text from time-to-time is a great way to maintain connections between in-person meet-ups.

2. Fear of the outcome

If we haven’t connected with a friend for a while, we may feel apprehensive about how the encounter may turn out. Will it be awkward? Will we run out of things to say?

These thoughts, while perfectly plausible, may or may not happen at all. Focusing on what may or may not happen results in an unnecessary attachment to the outcome. Instead, try focusing on your resistance—why are you feeling this hesitation or trepidation?

In many ways, reconnecting with an old friend may feel more daunting than connecting with a new person. We have more expectations, fears and desires. If, however, we choose to let go of or detach ourselves from these, we allow the moment to be as it is and are open to the possibilities, positive or not. Plus, the only way to find out is to go for it. The lessons and answers you find may be worth it.

Here are Team TMC’s final thoughts:

I've realised that I struggle to come to terms with the friendships that I've outgrown. As the relationships in our lives fizzle out, we don't quite know what the next step is. Perhaps it is about acceptance—accepting that there are some relationships that have taken a backseat in our lives and focusing on the relationships that we surround ourselves with now.”

I find that the older I get, the less friends I have—which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing. I’ve realised that rather than spending time nurturing many lukewarm friendships, I now spend time developing meaningful, deeper relationships. I wouldn’t say that I woke up one day and said, “Uh-huh, this is what I’ll do”, but rather it came with the stage of life I’m in. As life gets busier, as priorities change, it just happened and then I made a conscious decision to continue down that path.    

While I may not see or chat with some of my friends for a month or two, many of these friendships are very strong due to the nature in which they were developed. Because these relationships are mature and we have a common understanding that we’re all busy, when we do we catch up every month, two or three it’s almost like no time has passed at all.

I think relationships are a two-way street. A little give, a little take. If you’re the only giver in the relationship, it eventually gets tiring. If you only take, you’ll find that the other person will eventually drop you as a friend. The relationships that I treasure the most are the ones with old friends, ones that I’ve been through thick and thin with.  As clichéd as it sounds, the best relationships are the ones filled with laughter, care, respect and love.”

“Some friendships are formed due to proximity and convenience. I think my friend and I only got close as we had the same classes together. When that was gone, we realised that we didn't have much to hold us together. I think that people whose company I truly enjoy, people with the same values as I do, are the ones whom I constantly make an effort to talk to. Those are the ones whom I can count upon to make time for me too.”

How did your One Week Challenge go? Do you agree with our comments? We’d love to hear from you (and we’re not just saying it—our favourite thing about this is being able to connect with our readers, so go on and email us at hello@mindful-company.com)!

- The Mindful Company Team