Outsourcing Our Sanity: The Hidden Role of Social Groups

Here’s an alternative way to see the value in having social groups:

We feel a responsibility to live by our values and behave properly in front of our friends, because they’ll call us out if we start acting selfishly or out of alignment with how they expect us to behave.

By being in contact and in the presence of our friends, we are effectively outsourcing the problem of our sanity. In essence, it isn’t that we are relying purely on ourselves to remain mentally healthy, we are actually unknowingly being reminded how to think, act and speak by those around us.

We can use this force to help us to become the best people we can possibly become, and as a result be a good influence on our own friends in return.

Contrast this with not having a solid social structure in your life. It’s much easier to come off the rails if no-one is there to see it happen. With good habits slowly unravelling and bad habits overgrowing like weeds, we begin to slip in life. Waking up early with a solid work and exercise routine metamorphoses into waking up on the couch at 3 A.M. covered in Cheetos dust with Netflix asking whether we’re still there. And because nobody can see that, there’s nobody to help pull us up, to keep us accountable.

If you’re a person lacking that social structure, make it an aim to start connecting it together again – despite the crippling anxiety it can so often induce. If you’re worried that one of your friends or family lacks a reliable social structure, take the responsibility to check in on them to see how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to. It might just help more than you know.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life Rule 3: Make Friends with People Who Want the Best For You

As a child growing up, I made friends with other kids that I had things in common with – football, skateboarding, snooker, videogames. I also made friends with kids that lived close by, or I went to school with. These would be the friends that knocked on the door asking if I’d like to come out. We’d play games like “Kick the Can”, let one another ride each other’s bikes, or climb and jump off trees.

As I grew older, I came across and met more and more people. There were college friends, and university friends, and table tennis friends, and housemates, and Myspace friends. Once I graduated, there were work friends, New Zealand friends, Australia friends, Canada friends, and UK friends.

But in the end there are really only two types of friends – friends who want the best for you, and friends who don’t want the best for you.

Friends who want the best for you are your biggest cheerleaders. You can feel their love. They do nice things for you, and support you in your goals whatever they may be. The hold your hair when you throw up from drinking too much, and are the first to read your blog posts. They ask how your family are doing, and listen.

Friends who don’t want the best for you are the ones that explain why you won’t achieve your goals. They try to make you look bad in front of a group and disguise it as banter. They get a little bit giddy when you do something wrong or receive bad news.

It’s important once in a while to look at who you’re spending most of your time with. People who empower you to be the best and most fulfilled as you can be? Or those that are secretly hoping you screw up so that they feel a bit better about their own inadequacies?

Imagine if you were only friends with those people who wanted the best for you. There would be no-one holding you back, inhibiting you. In fact, everyone would be encouraging you, rooting for you with authenticity. They win if you win.

Peterson invites us to consider: If you have a friend that you would not recommend to your sister or your parents or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself?

This post is for those in my life that want the best for me. I hope you know that I also want the best for you too.

Make friends with people who want the best for you.