Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture: Spend Time with People You Truly Enjoy

friends in the fall

“Even if you are on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” ~Will Rogers

 How is this happening again?

Lying in bed watching The Mentalist at 8 P.M. on a Saturday night, my mind begins to wander.

A year ago I was so happy. I spent almost every night hanging out with amazing friends and now I’m here, alone watching TV.

As my heart sank into my stomach, I shook my head, suppressed my feelings, and pushed play to start the next episode.

A few years earlier I moved to Santa Fe, NM, a state I had never even visited before. Excited to start a new journey, I set out to meet new people and create a life full of amazing friends.

Although that’s exactly what happened, the first few months were extremely difficult. I spent a lot of time trying to make new friends while having zero success. After a couple months, this went from frustrating to depressing.

Luckily, I was able to solve the problem and learned how to make new friends from scratch. It was amazing. I was having some of the best times of my life.

Every week I had friends inviting me to birthday parties, barbecues, camping trips, river rafting excursions, and typical nights out on the town. And when I invited people to places, like my New Year’s Eve party, people showed up.

It was a high I’ll never forget.

After an exhilarating two years in Santa Fe, I moved back to Huntington Beach, CA, the city I was born and raised in.

I was excited for yet another new page in my life. Huntington is a beautiful city with great weather (and waves!). My family, best friend, and other great friends live here.

Kim, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife), and I decided to have a long-distance relationship and I chose to save some money by living with my parents.

The next year was a disaster.

It might not have looked terrible from the outside, but I was eating myself alive on the inside.

Even though I had friends in the area, I was only hanging out with them about once every two months. And about just as often, Kim and I would travel to see each other.

But that was it. The only other people I hung out with were family members. And as much as I love them, this was not healthy for me.

I may have seemed happy, but I was faking it. I was hurting. Instead of fixing it, I kept going with the status-quo.

This feeling was very similar to the one I had when I moved to Santa Fe. A feeling of sadness, hurt, and longing that comes from a lack of spending time with people who make you feel alive.

But this time was different. I knew I could make friends if I wanted to and I already had friends living here. I just didn’t make the relationships a priority like I should have.

My laziness was striking me down and I got stuck in a comfort zone of my own making.

It was easy to say yes and go out with friends when I was living by myself in Santa Fe. But living with my parents made it a little less appealing, which was enough to prevent me from doing it. I’d think to myself:

I’ve already showered and I’m in my comfy clothes. I can hang out here with my parents, have a couple drinks, and watch this movie, or I can get ready again and meet up with my friends. Ah, I think I’ll just stay here tonight.

That’s literally how many of my nights played out. And it was similar for the day time too. I’d decline an invite to go surfing because I already showered or because I was about to go to breakfast with my parents, something I easily could have skipped.

When we finally moved Kim out here to Huntington, I thought my problem would be fixed. Instead, it was more of the same. Mexican food with my parents, cooking chicken piccata with Kim, staying home watching Prison Break, and trail running by myself in the wetlands.

As much as I love hanging out with Kim and my family, I need that outside energy with friends who share some of my deepest interests and passions. So finally, after way too long, I made this realization:

I need to spend more time with people who make me feel truly alive.

My parents and Kim do fill a big part of that need. But I need other friends to fill the rest.

I started making changes to my life that helped me meet new people and spend more time with existing and past friends.

I joined a music production class. Kim and I played on a beach volleyball team with her coworkers and a separate flag football team with strangers. I also joined a soccer team.

I started hanging out with my friends more. I’d text my buddy during the week and say, “Hey, wanna grab sushi Friday night?” I’d send another text to my surfing friends and say, “Surf’s supposed to be good Saturday. Who’s down?”

On top of that, I’ve been reaching out to people I lost touch with. I recently hit up a friend who I hadn’t talked to in years and said, “Long time no see. Miss you dude. Hope all is awesome. You still running?”

That text conversation ended with my wife and I scheduling a San Diego day trip and a twelve-mile running adventure for my buddy and me.

I’ve even been getting together with friends I haven’t hung out with since high school!

Ever since I put more focus and effort into spending time with my good friends, while still maintaining healthy relationships within my family, my life has improved drastically. I’m happier and more enjoyable to be around. Even better, I’m back to being my old, goofy self again.

What steps can you take to make sure you don’t fall into the same trap I did?

If you’re not careful, the same thing can happen to you. In the moment, it’s easy to stay home and watch Netflix because that’s easier and more comfortable. However, in the long-term that can be detrimental.

Here are three steps you can take to get you on the right track:

First, determine whether you have the right people in your life to keep you happy. Do you feel like you can be yourself around them? Do you feel free and alive when you hang out with them?

Second, figure out if they are willing and able to spend enough time with you. Invite them to hang out and see if you can fill the free time you set aside for hanging out with friends.

If you haven’t spoken to the person for a while, try pinging them first. Shoot them a text, a Facebook message, or even just comment on one of their posts. The main things you want to get across are that you miss them, you hope all is well, you’re curious how they’re doing, and you were thinking about them and wanted to say, “Hi.”

If you’ve been in touch with them lately, just shoot them a message and say, “Hey, let’s get together soon. I was thinking of hiking El Morro this weekend. Interested?”

It’s good to invite them to do something specific that you know they would enjoy. If you just ask to hang out, it might be hard for them to imagine what you would do together, which can make them less likely to accept. And if they do want to hang out but can’t or don’t want to do the original activity you proposed, they’ll likely respond with a different idea, still giving you a chance to hang out.

Third, if your friends don’t have the time or you’d rather hang out with different people, it’s time to consider meeting new people. Join a photography class, sign up for a kickball team, find a book club, or attend a young professional’s social mixer.

Go out into the world and meet new people. If you can find people while doing activities you already enjoy, even better.

Once you understand how important your friendships are, you’ve cleared the first hurdle.

From there, it’s on you to stay proactive to create and nourish the relationships that are so vital to your well-being.

It might take a little more effort to pick up the phone, text your friend and schedule a hangout, or get outside and join that soccer team, but when you look back on your life you’ll be thankful you did.

About Rob Riker

Rob Riker helps people create amazing relationships and build a social circle of truly great friends–the type that always have your back, even if you just moved to a new city. Want to see how? Get his free 8-lesson email course Making New Friends The Easy Way and learn how you can make new friends this month.

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  • Penny Castle

    I suppose it’s “horses for courses” – I spent a huge amount of time in my younger days maintaining relationships because I thought I was supposed to. The hours after ever interaction were spent directing the interaction being sure I had somehow humiliated myself. In the last few years its become easier to admit that I am introverted. I prefer to spend time with a small social group (mostly immediate family). A saturday night at home with family watching Netflix it heaven for me 🙂

  • ShaunTheCHB

    The trickiest part is actually making friends. Keeping them is another issue entirely. As one gets older, making friends is very difficult to do, because many assume you already have friends and find it strange when you don’t.

  • I so relate to this post! Having moved many times and currently staying ‘at home’ and saving money, I often feel like I’m isolated. Of course, it has happened other times in my life in other places, mostly because I worked a day job plus am an author on the side, so time was limited. I’m lucky to have some amazing friends, unfortunately they are spread throughout the country and making friends where I am hasn’t been easy.

  • I know, right? Plus as you get older, the things you had in common when you were younger, sometimes change (marriage vs. single, kids vs. childless, religious vs. not…) but then again, I guess as we grow, perhaps the people in our lives just naturally change. I do know what you mean though 🙂

  • disqus_bnVhCG4ypm

    I have to say that it is so hard for me to find time to catch up with friends now that I have a baby. I just cannot find the time or energy. I work full time so any time I am away from my son or husband makes me feel guilty.

  • Robert Riker

    Hi Penny. Thanks for your comment! I agree, you shouldn’t maintain relationships because you think you’re “supposed” to. You should maintain the ones that truly make your life better. In my experience, some people haven’t found those good relationships and think that all others will be like the friends they’ve already had, so they don’t try to find new ones, even when that one new friend could be the best thing that ever happens to them. Of course, especially for introverts, being social all the time isn’t fun and can be draining. Time alone is precious and important. Even I spend a ton of time by myself, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

  • Robert Riker

    I agree, it does get harder as you get older and it can be very difficult, although it can be much easier than a lot of people realize. If you go to places where people are actively looking to meet new people and possibly make friends, like adult league sports, book clubs, social mixers, classes related to your hobbies and interests, and other interest and hobby type groups, often you’ll find people who are open to new relationships. It’s also important that they know that you’re looking to meet new people. At first when trying this, I wouldn’t mention it and I would meet people but it wouldn’t go any further. Once I started saying that I’m looking to meet like-minded people, I had a lot of people open up immediately and give me their contact and that they’d be happy to hang out sometime.

  • Robert Riker

    Totally. Finding people with the same marital/kid status makes it easy to connect because of the obvious commonality. But people can connect on all sorts of other commonalities and shared interests as well. And very true – as we grow people do change. It’s normal to realize you don’t have as much in common with someone as you used to, and to grow apart. It’s important to make sure you’re putting your time into the relationships you truly care about and are excited to grow.

  • Robert Riker

    I know that feeling well and wish you the best. My advice here would be to figure out when you have free time that you want to spend building relationships, find things you love to do that involve other people (groups, sports teams, clubs, social mixers, classes, conferences, etc. – whatever sounds most appealing to you) and try to find some that fit into the time slot that works for you. People in these places are much more interested in meeting new people than other places like bars, coffee shops, malls, parks, and whatnot. You can also meet people through anyone you know and through work, but generally people have already tried those options. Are you keeping in touch with your amazing friends around the country? They can provide some of the love you’re looking for, although you’ll want friends in your area too.

  • Robert Riker

    Yeah I get that. Although my first baby is yet to come (Feb 2018), from what I can tell you put your social life on hold a bit at the beginning. As the baby gets older you’ll hopefully get a little more freedom. For example, maybe your husband watches the baby and gives a few hours to go do your thing, and you return the favor. I know couples that do this and it seems to work fine. Of course you can’t forget to keep doing things with your husband as well! But some time to yourself is warranted as long as you also give him the attention he deserves. At the beginning when baby is young though, I’ve mostly noticed that the couples go into hibernation.

  • disqus_bnVhCG4ypm

    Congrats to you! How exciting!

    Yes, it is true I do need time for myself and to be with my husband alone as well. I’m having a hard time balancing the work/home life balance! Your article inspired me to reconnect with a few friends through text! So it’s a start! : ) My husband gets out more than I do because I also suffer from mom guilt but I do need time to myself or I’ll burn myself out!

  • Anya Anne Light

    Thanks for your post. It’s a great reminder to be courageous in life and not take the easy or more comfortable way out. Awesome!

    And congrats on your first baby, Rob!!

  • Robert Riker


  • Robert Riker


    So glad you were inspired to reconnect, I love that! Yeah, it’s easy to feel guilty about taking time for yourself. It’s good to have an honest conversation with your husband about how you’re feeling and what you think might help, then see if he’d be OK with getting you at least a little more free time. As long as you’re doing your part for him and the family, it’s a fair thing to ask for.

  • Tara Salehi

    Thank you so much for this post, it really hit the nail on the head for me. Recently I have found that even though I was spending time with my friends regularly, I still felt lonely and unfulfilled. I realized that I wasn’t spending time with people who I truly enjoyed being with, but rather people who were convenient for me to see. Finding people that you truly have something in common with and a deep connection that goes beyond surface similarities. Playing volleyball and joining a rock climbing have helped immensely with meeting new people who share my interests, and by spending time with people I found I had a true connection with, it helped me meet people who share my same values and sentiments. I’ve found since then I feel much more emotionally fulfilled and supported. You’re right -maintaining and rebuilding friendships takes both time and effort, but it creates fulfilling relationships and allows for healthy, fun, and diverse experiences. Thank you for your concrete tips on how to rebuild or create friendships, it truly echoes the lessons I have learned in my own life.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    Hey there Michelle; good to see a familiar face in our site, after a long time! 🙂 Anyways, Hang in there & find your own way(s) to get out of the feeling of being isolated….

  • Thanks – I think sometimes we create our own sense of isolation. The good news is I plan to move in upcoming months, so I will have a new perspective once I do. 🙂

  • Thank you. Yes, I stay in close touch with my friends throughout the country, so that’s awesome. It’s nice to have friends in various places. I have no issue talking to a perfect stranger but I guess maybe I’m more engaging because I notice other people can be standoffish….or maybe they just think I’m crazy ha