The Friendship Factor: Get Closer To Those You Care For

If we build more windows and fewer walls, we will have more friends.Friendship is one of the most rewarding aspects of life, but real, deep friendships don’t just naturally come along. When I was growing up, we moved many times, and it was difficult for me to really build deep friendships. Plus, I wasn’t comfortable with “being real” about myself.

I first read The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis when I was in college (yep, way back in the 1980s) and my copy of the book is now dog-eared, highlighted and well-used. It gave me some concrete steps to develop deep friendships, and of course, living in one place for more than 20 years has helped too!

No matter what your life story has been, you probably have experienced at least some difficulty in a relationship. I don’t think any of us are exempt from that. Subtitled “How to Get Closer to the People You Care For,” The Friendship Factor asks you these questions:

  • Do you have at least one person nearby whom you can call on in times of personal distress?
  • Do you have several people whom you can visit with little advance warning without apology?
  • Do you have people who will lend you money if you need it, or those who will care for you in practical ways if the need arises?

McGinnis writes that if your response is largely negative, it may be that “your friendships are being impeded by your social life! Some people immerse themselves in such a whirl of parties and social affairs that there is no opportunity to establish a close relationship.”

Here are four (plus one!) of my favorite tips from McGinnis that I have used and will continue to be purposeful about as I develop friendships with both young and old:

  1. Assign top priority to your relationships. “Why do we seldom relate at such a deep level? Why is there such a shortage of friendship? One simple reason: We do not devote ourselves sufficiently to it. If our relationships are the most valuable commodity we can own in this world, one would expect that everyone everywhere would assign friendship highest priority.”
  2. Cultivate transparency. “People with deep and lasting friendships may be introverts, extroverts, young, old, dull, intelligent, homely, good-looking; but the one characteristic they always have in common is openness. The human personality has a natural built-in inclination to reveal itself. When that inclination is blocked and we close ourselves to others, we get into emotional difficulties.”
  3. Dare to talk about your affection. “For fear of seeming sentimental, many of us hold back expressions of warmth and thereby miss out on rich and profound friendships. We say ‘thanks’ when we mean ‘God bless you’ and ‘so long’ when we mean ‘I’ll miss you a lot.’ Why are we so reluctant to say openly that we care for another? There is the possibility that our overture of warmth will not be reciprocated and we will be rejected…. But those who are loved widely are usually those who throw caution to the winds and declare their love freely.”
  4. Learn the gestures of love. “The best relationships are built upon the accumulated layers of acts of kindness. Small acts of kindness demonstrate that you haven’t taken your loved one for granted.”
  5. Create space in your relationships. McGinnis writes about the tendency to control others, and he says this villain frequently masquerades as love. “The overly protective mother will say, ‘Honey, I’m just doing this for your own good,’ and the man who constantly corrects his friend thinks, ‘It’s all for his benefit.’ But the effect is always to suffocate, and I have never known a person who did not try to flee from manipulators. Those who have successful friendships allow their loved ones room. Rather than possessing their friends, they try to help them expand and grow and become free.”

I’m thankful for learning these steps to deeper friendships, and I hope they help you too!

Purchase a copy of The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis on Amazon. It’s also available for Kindle. 

 

 

24-Hour Challenge Without Media Panics College Students

This challenge will teach you balance and offer you awareness about your media intake. Why don’t you try it?

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Every year in Media and Society class, I assign my students a 24-Hour Challenge of doing without any electronic media, including:

  • texting, email, websites and anything viewed via their smartphones
  • social media (SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube)
  • music via a digital device (some have listened to vinyl)
  • TV shows, Netflix, movies

Students always panic when they hear about this assignment. I explain that if they need to use their smartphones for work, do so, but then put the device right back down. The students are not to use media for entertainment, to relieve boredom, to kill time, etc.

Then, they write a response paper reflecting on the difficulties they experienced, their level of anxiety, how dependent they are on media for information and for their sense of themselves, and yes, hopefully, what they learned about themselves.

Here are four common themes expressed by the 24-Hour Challengers:

 1.  Students don’t realize how many times a day they pick up their phones or how much time they spend on them.

“After being given this challenge, I felt that with a little determination I wouldn’t have a problem going 24 hours without using electronic media. I was wrong. It’s mind opening that it took an assignment like this to see how much (and often) media enters my life.”

“By doing this 24-hour challenge, I saw just how much I depend on these little computers on a day-to-day basis. I cannot wake up in time for class or work unless I set an alarm, I cannot get in contact with any of my friends or my significant other unless I text them, and I cannot even dress appropriately for the weather without checking the weather app.”

2.  Students report feeling anxiety from not being in the loop with their friends. 

“While it was nice to disconnect from the media for a day, it made me feel disconnected as well. I was constantly wondering what my friends were saying on our group chat and if anything exciting had happened on Facebook or Snapchat.”

My “anxiety came from not being in contact with the people I was going to meet up with that day. The thought of potentially having plans change without my knowledge stressed me out. I didn’t want to be the person that showed up at this place at that time, when we were now supposed to go to that place at that time, or have the plans be canceled altogether.”

“I have always been a caretaker and the one to help people through their problems. Almost immediately after I got my first cellphone, I took on the role of always being available for anyone to talk to. I felt uncomfortable telling the few people I talk to consistently that I would be unavailable.”

3.  Students don’t know what to do with boredom.

“The car rides were what made me the most anxious. Usually I will have something playing on the radio but I was forced to sit in silence and listen only to my thoughts, which in a way was therapeutic. It allowed for me to think about my own health and well being instead of becoming distracted by the new hits. I also noticed I was more alert while driving since my mind was solely focused on the road.”

“After about 15 minutes of this, I began to get bored. I started to feel a little sorry for myself, and it was then that I decided to add on to the challenge. I challenged myself to go through the rest of the day without complaining, no matter how much I wanted to.”

“I also made it a mission that whenever I would wait for something or pass time, I would not look at my phone and instead I would just be present in the world and make the most of it.”

4.  Students realize that disconnecting from media makes their lives less convenient. 

“I was doing pretty well up until lunchtime when I went to make one of those Stouffer’s Italian Bread Pizzas when I realized that the box with the directions had been thrown away some time ago. Not knowing how long to cook it and what to set the oven temperature to, I ended up looking it up on the good ol’ Google Chrome. The 24-hour challenge had turned into the four-hour challenge. Not bad, right?”

“I had to use my laptop for a quick minute to write down one recipe I had on my laptop because I needed to see what I needed to get from the market.”

And now some final comments the students expressed about the challenge itself:

“As a whole, this assignment was challenging, yet fun. I am now going to try and take a step back and unplug from the social media world more. I have to surprisingly admit, I did feel refreshed after turning off the craziness of the media world for 24-hours.”

“I would not choose to do this challenge again unless I was in great need of a media cleanse. I missed being able to listen to music and chat with my friends and do simple things such as check my email.”

“During a normal day, I am very connected to social media…. Without the media I would not be able to keep up with the world around me, and I would be very lost and confused. In the future, I intend to find the line between too much media and too little media to help me in my everyday life.”

So I’ve done this challenge occasionally, and I admit it can be difficult. But overall, it’s very helpful. It’s nice to unplug, to not know the latest hysteria trending on Twitter, to hear the sounds of nature around me, to be quiet, to be present.

It’s also nice to plug back in, but this challenge will teach you balance and offer you awareness about your media intake. Why don’t you try it?

Student Dean Offers Four Tips On How To Be A Successful College Student

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Candace Cain, assistant vice president of students at Faulkner University.

Going to college is expensive. Think about it. Four years of college can equal the purchase of a 30-year mortgage. And these are 18-year-olds getting the mortgage!

Today’s college students cannot afford to crash and burn during their first semester in college. They might be unprepared or figuring out who they are, but many times, they struggle as they adapt to college life and college work.

Candace Cain has served as a college dean of students for more than 20 years, and I’ve always admired her ability to dole out discipline mixed with love and wisdom. She  has spent hours upon hours with students during stressful and traumatic times in their lives. She offers tough love along with smart advice, all in an effort to help students sharpen their outlook on their lives.

When students are called to her office, she says she wants them to “understand more than why they have been summoned to my arena. I want them to think about the influence and power they truly hold.”

I’ve heard Candace verbally talk about what she recommends to students, but I thought more people needed to hear her wisdom. So here are her four tips about how to be a successful college student:

  1. Understand that you are in charge.  You are the decision maker in your own life. Not your parents. Not your circumstances. Not your limitations. You, freshman college student, are in charge of your future.
  2. Start practicing your future today. You want to be a great basketball player? What do you do? You start practicing TODAY. You want to be a top actress? What do you do? You start acting TODAY. The same is true for your education or for any skill or expertise you hope to gain. Practice starts now.
  3. Define your goal and chart your trajectory. Many students enter college just because that is what they think they are supposed to do. Their friends are going to college. Their parents want them to go to college. But they just drift through with no set plan.So why are you here at this university? As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll get there.” Figure out the direction you want to go. If you haven’t narrowed your goal to a specific major or program, then at least commit to the goal of doing well in the courses you take. Make the most of the huge investment you are making in college.
  4. Know what will trip you up. Think about your goal, whether it’s a specific program or just performing at your best level. Think honestly about what might trip you up. You know your struggles. Pinpoint the behaviors that have the potential of kicking you off your path. Is it your lack of time management skills? Have you selected a lazy or immature group of friends who influence you poorly? Are you waiting for motivation to magically show up? Once you can identify your potential detours, then put some counter measures in place.

Cain also emphasizes that is OK to ask for help. Ask those who have tread the path before you — who have learned to be focused, authentic and determined.

She said, “We need you to reach your future because you are our future too. We are here to help you get there!”

Candace Cain is assistant vice president of student services and dean of students at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama. She served for 20 years as dean of students at Rochester College in Rochester Hills, Michigan. 

Set Yourself Free: 4 Practices From A Recovering Worryholic

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Worry. Anxiety. Sleepless Nights.

Sound familiar?

I’m a Type A Perfectionist, and I’ve spent too many nights, waking up:

  • hoping my plans for the next day go OK
  • wondering if I offended someone with what I said
  • worrying about the safety of my loved ones
  • pondering over exact details of this and that
  • And on and on and on.

And what did all the worrying accomplish? Zilch. Nothing. Nada. Just many tired days filled with yawns, Diet Coke, restless legs and cat naps.

From the time I was a teen, I can remember counting sheep and memorizing scripture to try to soothe those worrisome thoughts. Now that I’m in my 50s, I’ve gone through a period of transformation. I’m working to be the person God made me to be. I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m trying to live a life of joy, peace and mercy.

Here are four life practices for “setting myself free”:

1. Focus on work and activities that bring me joy.

My identity was always placed on my work. What was I accomplishing? How was I advancing? But much of that work placed me in stressful positions that didn’t bring me joy.

What brought me joy was working with students. Teaching. Motivating. Encouraging. One of my favorite days of the year is graduation, and I always reflect on what my students have accomplished and how they have matured since they walked into class as freshmen. That brings me happiness. So I gave up several directorial roles (and the additional salary) and went back full-time to the classroom. I’m poorer financially, but much richer personally.

2. Stop trying to please other people.

In addition to my perfectionist tendencies, I’ve also been a people pleaser — trying to please anyone and everyone around me. That’s hard work — and it’s impossible.

Now I focus on pleasing those I’m closest to. Sure I would like everyone to like me. But as much as I’ve tried, that’s impossible. Other people have their own issues, their own backgrounds, their own insecurities — and not everyone is going to like me. So my goal each day is to live with integrity and to support those near me. That’s doable!

3. Enjoy a prayer walk several days per week.

Oh my goodness. This practice has truly changed my outlook. I walk. I think. I pray. I meditate.

I’ve made this practice a priority. In cold weather. In hot weather. When I tell myself, I don’t have time, I make time. Being still and meditating is difficult for a Type A person like me, but a walking meditation works.

I try to “see the sky,” which helps me put life into perspective. That nagging worry becomes the cardinal flying in the sky. I don’t focus on the cardinal flitting in and out, up and down. I focus on the permanence and beauty of the sky.

As I walk, I pray for those who are suffering and grieving. I pray for my daughter to make wise decisions in her life. I pray for family and friends. I pray for myself to stop and “be” and not just “do.”

4. Control my thoughts and rest in God.

I’ve learned that anxiety is a lifestyle. It’s a habit, an addiction, even a sin? Over time, I’ve learned to rely on the following techniques to change my thinking.

I memorize scriptures, such as:

 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5-8 
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6: 25-34
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer…” Philippians 4: 6-7
“Do not let your hearts be troubled….” John 14: 1-4

I reflect on quotes like these:

“If you pray why worry. If you worry, why pray?”
“Worrying is praying about what you don’t want to happen.”
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

Truly all that has helped, but nothing has helped me more than resting. Resting in the promise of God. I surrender. I unclench my hands and open my palms to the sky. I rest in Him. So now when worrisome thoughts enter my head, I address them with, “No. Not today. Not now. I rely on my God.”

 

4 Signs Of A True Friend

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I’ve always been intrigued by friendships. Curious thoughts such as:

  • Why do we form bonds with certain individuals, but we don’t really “click” with others?
  • How and why do women form friendships differently than men?
  • How can I be the best friend I can be?

In college, I read Alan Loy McGinnis’ book, “The Friendship Factor,” and it really impacted my life. I think I’ll write a blog on that at a later date!

But since I just returned from a Girls’ Weekend in Malibu, California, with my two besties, I’ve been reflecting on what makes us connect with each other. We talked about this together, so here’s our “4 signs of a true friend”:

  1. A true friend will always seek to do what is in your best interest.
    She wants what is best for YOU — not necessarily what is best for her. Both my friends moved miles away from me in the past few years, but I knew that was best for them and their life circumstances. I rooted for them — even if I knew it would be hard for me.
  2. A true friend accepts you for who you are and doesn’t try to change you. She will know you and love you anyway. So you repeat yourself all the time? Your friend will love you anyway. You worry too much and can’t let it go? She will love you anyway. You root for the heated rival of her favorite sports team? She will love you anyway!
  3. A true friend is real about herself. She doesn’t wear a mask around you or try to be that “perfect” person. In fact, “perfect” people are boring. It’s so much more fun to be around someone who owns up to her mistakes, faults and worries. Being real — we can all relate to that!
  4. A true friend puts God first — before you and before herself. If her focus is on God — on something bigger than this life — then she will be true to you. She will walk beside you even when times are tough. She will have perspective when you hurt her and don’t live up to her expectations. She will persevere with you. She won’t judge you. She will love you!

I’m thankful for my two best friends. Very thankful. I hope to be a “true friend” to them each and every day. And I pray that you find your “true friend” too.

 

4 Favorite Moments from First Game in the Garth Pleasant Arena

img_5854.jpgRochester College celebrated its first home game in more than 50 years Saturday as the Warriors defeated Great Lakes Christian College 124-45 in front of a sold-out crowd in the new Garth Pleasant Arena.

As a professor at RC for 19 years, this event meant so much  — and I’m not highly involved in the basketball program. I can just imagine the delight of the players, coaches and former players. In fact, one of the players who just graduated last year admitted his heart hurt a little bit because he wasn’t able to represent RC in the new arena.

Here are four favorites:

  1. Arriving an hour before the start and seeing fans lined up around the parking lot waiting to get in. Walking by the line was a time to see alumni, students and parents repping the crimson and white with smiles on their faces on a sunny 60-degree day in February. Yes, you read that correctly. It was 60 degrees and sunny. In Michigan. In February. The Garth Pleasant Arena is not just a building. It is a place for the RC community to gather, to bond, to cheer, to show Warrior spirit.
  2. Walking in and seeing:
    1. Todd Warrior Den full of RC gear and concessions
    2. Shinsky Hall of Fame with a photo of Coach Shinsky
    3. Sparkling court sporting the RC logo
    4. Players wearing throwback Vegas gold uniforms
    5. Nicholas O’Neill doing it right to get the crowd fired up for the game
    6. RC student section cheering their hearts out.
    7. Former players lining up to welcome the Warriors as they took the court.
    8. And that’s all before the game started!
  3. Watching my slightly introverted husband, Dave Hutson, head of RC’s sports management program and former associate AD, initiate conversations with former students, players and colleagues, such as Jon and Mia Horst, Christian and Hillary (Soule) Adolfsson, Mike Tobin, Francis Ramirez, Chris Carreker, Andrew Gump, Justin Sherlock, Ron Keen, Nate Touri, and many more. He was the social one at this event!
  4. Seeing my students Angelo Griffis, Jaylen Larry and Vik Merkevicius control the game with their steals, blocks, dunks and goals. Each senior was also honored at halftime—along with their parents. Also loved seeing them go over to the student section after the game to thank them for their support.

And that’s what RC is all about. The community of students, alumni, teachers and parents celebrating, supporting and encouraging each other. Until Saturday, that spirit was somewhat hidden from public view.

Now we have a fancy new arena where the RC community spirit can shine!

 

 

4 Beliefs I Wish My College Students Knew About Themselves

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Recently, I’ve had conversations with several students who are nearing graduation. They all are feeling uncertain about “life after college” and struggling with self-doubt and fear. I’ve given pep talks to each of them, and here’s what I want them — and others like them— to know. 

  1. You are unique. According to the 2015 U.S. Census, only one in three adults held a bachelor’s degree or higher. By already being an almost college graduate, you are special. Don’t minimize what you bring to the table. Employers want you and your new ideas and perspectives. Remember that.
  2. You are creative. In my field of study, mass communication, creativity counts. And by your writing, photography, design, you have proven that you are creative. Don’t fall into the fallacy of comparing yourself to others. One of my favorite quotes is: “Comparison is the thief of happiness.” Believe in your own work. Have the attitude that you will continue to stretch your own creativity too.
  3. You are persistent. To earn a college degree, you have to have your smarts about you, but you also have to persevere. You have proven that you can withstand trial, disappointment, stress and, of course, those sleepless nights. Employers are looking for people just like you!
  4. You are mindful. Take one day at a time. If there’s one lesson I could go back and tell my 22-year-old self when I graduated from college, it would be to trust the journey. Don’t only think about the destination. Be mindful about who you are trying to be each and every day. If yesterday was a bad day or a ho-hum day, chalk it up to life and keep learning. One day at a time. One step at a time.

So that’s 4 Thoughts About Living a Fuller Life. Remember who you were when you entered your first college class, and compare that to who you are today. You’ve grown. You’ve matured. You’ve risen. Keep doing that!