Friends are the real game changers of life

Friends are the most important decision we make. Not Career. Not Education.

Friends - Dr. Sharan Patil Anubhava Mantapa

I was talking to my daughter (22) the other day as I was chauffeuring her around the city. We were chatting over a cup of coffee and she said, “I am suddenly discovering myself now. Whatever decisions I took until now were so influenced by what everyone said at home. Only now am I beginning to know who I am, what I really like and dislike. I am beginning to form my own opinions on education, career and friends”.

I tried to counter it by saying “don’t be too opinionated. You need to always keep yourself open for other’s perspective”.

She said “I do listen to others, but finally I take my own decision. I am discovering that aspect only now after I met a lot of friends and started having conversations and sharing my thoughts with the like-minded.”

To me, this conversation was an eye opener of sorts. She is 22 now and it’s an interesting phase of life. This is really when you start cracking the code of life. And, what I heard from my daughter was that the real change starts happening as we interact more with our friends.

It is true that the friends we have and make around the age of 18 to 23 are life changing. There is a lot of mental turmoil that we go through at this age to know who we are, what we really like and what we make out of our lives. These 4 to 5 years are really the formative years. The big world of exposure happens during this age and etch a permanent inscription in your life which will be with you forever.

While family provides the basic values and teachers give the education – it is the friends who provide the impetus to find oneself and explore the potential. You form your ideology and thought process based on the long conversations you have with your friends. Nobody influences you more than your friends at this age. It is with your friends that you have the greatest emotional bond – you laugh with them, you celebrate, you fight, you argue, you cry, you win. Friends, they change the game mentally, they change the configuration of our mind.

During my time, I used to sit with my friends and talk about everything and anything under the sun. Relevant or irrelevant doesn’t matter. Some of it sounds too useless now, but I learnt a way of listening, debating, agreeing, disagreeing, defending my point. All that churning happened at that point in time. If you are a leader now, the base would’ve been created during that age. If you are an introvert now, you were mostly an introvert then. By and large the ideas you develop during that age stay with you. So I really think they are impregnable impressions that you develop and live with for the rest of the life.

We as adults feel that children are whiling away their time discussing for 2 to 3 hours over the coffee. Some of us even feel “what a waste of time”. Actually, that’s where their lives are beginning to change. That’s where they are breaking their shackles and identifying who they really are.

How do we choose friends?

You can’t have a prescription on how to make friends and which kind of friends you want to make. I think luck plays a huge factor on who your roommate is, which institution you go to and what atmosphere is created.

The country you were born is not your choice, your parents were not your choice, your siblings are not your choice, in India quite often your spouse is not your choice – but the only thing really of your choice is your friends. And to a large extent, friends also happen circumstantially, but in that you can make a choice. You can choose positive friends who are the thinking types, analytical, compassionate and caring.

What is the role of family / parents in making good friends?

Here is a small story of Kumar.

Kumar is a 20-year-old doing his B’Com degree. He shifted to a new place and made new friends. One of his classmates chose to quit education and do a door-to-door sales job. Kumar was tempted by the easy money and wanted to quit his degree too. However, another classmate, a highly educated and intelligent person, focused on education and encouraged Kumar to finish the studies before jumping out half way through. Kumar eventually chose to befriend the second classmate and decided to pursue education.

So, what role did parents play in this case?

Kumar, could have befriended anyone. What helped him choose one over the other was influenced by his upbringing. Kumar’s parents were very educated and always believed that one can make their career choices once you have the basic education. So that’s what influenced Kumar’s choice. That’s where the family and parents play an important role. Parents, by being an example, are preparing the child to choose right things in life. Family cannot control the exposure, but can help the child to make the right decision in choosing friends.

We speak to our parents and imbibe their way of life. This happens without our realization. It’s not genetic, but it invariably happens because you live under the same roof. If you are living with your parents – invariably the culture, the language, the temperament and the ideas get imbibed. Children watch and learn these without a need of a formal teaching.

The parent -> teacher -> friend relationship in our life

To me, this summarizes the flow:

  1. Family provides the basic platform of culture and values. In this, parents behave (and not preach) the way they want their children to grow. Children imbibe most by observing than reading and listening.
  2. Teachers lay the next foundation of education and show the way
  3. The guidance from parents and teachers gives a greater platform for the child to make right choices and right friends.
  4. Good and positive friends give the impetus to explore self and realize potential

Friends are the most important decision we make in our lives. Not career, not education.

When you get some free time today, take a moment and think about your friends with whom you had such wonderful conversations and shared some of the most memorable times of your life that made you what you are today.