Because it’s Valentine’s Day, a lot of you probably have relationships on your minds. Maybe you’re wondering about the best ways to impress your boyfriend or girlfriend—or if you’re single, about how or when to make a move on the object of your affection.
While romantic relationships are fun to discuss, they’re not the kind of relationships I want to talk with you about today. Don’t get me wrong, dating can be fun. But sometimes your relationships with friends and mentors can be just as big an influence on your happiness as a dating relationship. Let me show you what I mean.
The Company You Keep
Thinking back on my teenage years, I can tell you I have a very different view of relationships today than I did back then. If I’m being honest, when I was younger, I didn’t really give much thought to how I chose my friends. Like most kids, I just wanted to be popular and well-liked. So anyone who could help me with that was all good in my book!
But today, experience has transformed how I define a healthy relationship. I’ve seen how the company you keep has an enormous influence on all areas of your life. Some of my relationships in the past have cost me in big ways. For example, my desire to impress certain people I thought were my friends led me to make a couple of stupid financial decisions. When the bills came due, those “friends” were long gone. Or take the time I participated in hazing during my freshman year of college. What seemed like a great idea for making friends at the time ended up getting me expelled from school!
The people you choose to give time and friendship to are going to impact your success in so many areas of your life, including your academic performance, your work ethic or how you get along with and treat others.
If you don’t believe it, think about it like this. How do you think college admissions officers or future employers would view you if they met you right now for a one-on-one interview? Hopefully they’d be impressed by your personality, courtesy and ability to present yourself.
But what if you had to go into the interview accompanied by two or three of your closest friends? And what if your friends’ behavior and statements in the interview were given just as much weight as your own in deciding whether to hire you or admit you to a school?
Are you beginning to see how your relationship choices impact your future? Whether you realize it or not, the company you keep influences your reputation and the way you’re viewed by others. That includes people who might have a say in giving you that scholarship, internship or foot in the door to your dream career.
And that’s just the professional side of how relationships influence your well-being. On a more individual level, your relationships will also influence your personal character and thinking. Do you have any negative friends? Or do you have friends who always seem to be getting into trouble at home or at school? If so, it’s inevitable those traits and behaviors will start to seep into your own mentality and harm your chances of success.
With that in mind, I want to talk with you about making and keeping positive relationships. Today, let’s focus on choosing well when it comes to two important types of relationships: friends and mentors.
I’ve already mentioned some examples of mistakes I made with some of my friendship choices. But what makes a good, wise and positive friendship? These are the keys:
- They like you for who you are. Unlike the fake friends who got me into trouble, a real friend understands you on a more than superficial level. They’re drawn to you because of something they see in your character, or by something positive both of you have in common like a sense of humor or kindness.
- They want what’s best for you. Ever known someone who’s clearly using people for their own advantage and mistreats their friends in the long run? Those friendships never last. The fake friends of the world are only looking out for themselves, and may even try to get certain things from you without truly valuing you as a person. On the other hand, a true friend sincerely cares about seeing you grow and succeed. So find friends who both speak about and show you how much they care. No healthy friendship can possibly survive if one of those friends has selfish motives.
- They have an overall positive life view. I’ve reached a point in my life where I will quickly move on from any relationship if I see an overall dark or negative view of life in the other person. I’m not saying I reach that point quickly, because eliminating someone from your life is never an easy choice. But eventually, it’s one you must make if a friend is constantly bringing you (and themselves) down. A good friend will certainly help you walk through hard times, but they’ll also help you see there’s always hope for a better future!
There’s also another kind of relationship that deserves some thought—the mentoring relationship. I’m talking about coaches, pastors and other adults who have more knowledge and experience than you do and have a desire to share their wisdom and help you succeed. Even more than your friends and peers, mentors are the kinds of friends who will push you toward your goals and dreams. Mentors can help make you a better person in the long run.
Everyone I know who’s achieved something great in any area of life has told me how crucial mentors were to their success. No millionaire ever earned their wealth without one or more people walking beside them and providing them with words of affirmation and inspiration. No star athlete ever won a championship without the discipline and motivation they received from a coach.
In my own life, I’ve been fortunate to get invaluable guidance and advice from outstanding mentors. My father was the one who first showed me the value of having both short- and long-term plans for my money. Pastors taught me from a young age to exercise faith in serving God and other people. And a number of successful business people have played a big role in helping me pursue my career goals.
In their own way, each of these mentors has profoundly shaped the man I am today. And I’m grateful I had the opportunity to be in relationships with each of them.
Here’s the way I often say it when speaking in high schools, college campuses and youth conferences across the country: The caliber of your future will be determined by the choices you’re making today. And that’s especially true of relationships—the people you’re choosing to spend time with today will shape who you are tomorrow.
About the Author: Anthony ONEAL is one of Your Monthly Mentors. Since 2003, Anthony has helped thousands of students make good decisions with their money, relationships and education to live a well-balanced life. Now Anthony has joined Ramsey Solutions to spread this encouraging message to students nationwide as a Ramsey Personality. His youth conferences, concerts and events have drawn enormous crowds, and he’s spoken for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Bishop T.D. Jakes’ MegaFest Youth Ministry, television personality, Judge Glenda Hatchett and Rory Jones. Anthony has also appeared on Fox and Friends, CNN and TBN. Read more and check out Anthony’s other articles…
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