Why You Don’t Have to Choose Between Personal Growth and Old Friendships

Table of Contents

How do you reconcile maintaining old friendships and surrounding yourself with people further along than you? A reader asked me this question last week. I loved it and decided to unpack it in this article.

On one end, we want to surround ourselves with high-achievers to elevate our own life’s trajectory.

Yet, on the other, we crave the nourishment of long-standing friendships, even when they may not align with our new aspirations.

If you’ve ever wondered how to evolve without leaving important friendships behind, read on.


Upgrade Your Social Environment

Plenty of research supports the influence our social environment has on us. The old saying that “you become the average of the five people most spend time with” is mostly true.

I am always looking for ways to upgrade my social environment. Here are the three key ways I do this:

1. Curate an uplifting feed

We spend a big portion of our day consuming information. Probably even more than the time we spend with friends and family.

I have curated an inspiring, thought-provoking and uplifting social media feed. It includes health experts and luminaries in my industry. I unfollow people who complain or do not contribute in a positive way.

The podcasts, books and newsletters I consume are equally curated to aid my evolution.

I do not read or watch the news. They are mostly designed to stimulate our fear and lower instincts. I am not available for that.

A question to consider here is how can you be more intentional with your information diet?

2. Invest in mentorship for personal growth

The easiest way to spend quality time and learn from people who are further along than me in a certain area is to hire them.

At any time, I have several mentors in areas vital to me, like health, business, and personal growth. This includes 1:1 mentorship, masterminds, group programs, seminars, courses and memberships.

About one-third of my business’ revenue goes to my personal coaching. This investment has paid off immeasurably in terms of personal and business growth, quality of life, and happiness.

I do not expect my partner, family or friends to advise or coach me in the most critical areas of my life unless they have mastered that specific area.

It would be unfair to them and ineffective for me. When I desire advice on health, business or personal growth, I hire world-class experts in these areas and get it.

3. Change my physical environment for new perspectives

I like to shake up my physical environment every few years. When I spent six months in Thailand in 2017, I got inspired by all the digital nomads I met there to leave Google and start my own business.

I moved to Costa Rica 10 days ago and am blown away by the people I met here.

While I write these lines, my family have gone to a beach clean up, inspired by our new, environmentally-conscious friends.

The physical environment attracts specific people. My experience was that London attracted cosmopolitan, ambitious, and driven people. The people I met in Costa Rica love health, nature and quality of life.

How can you shake up your physical environment to get new perspectives?


Spring-clean Your Friendships

Relationships that provide a sense of connection, belonging and nourishment are essential for a long and happy life.

As we grow and evolve, some friendships become deeper and better while others are left behind.

How do you know when it is time to let go of friendships and when it is time to hold tighter?

It is not a rational decision; but a decision of the heart.

For me, it is quite simple:

  • Am I looking forward to spending time with this friend?
  • Am I leaving our interactions feeling like I have gained something? This could be a sense of connection, a new perspective or a fun time.

As long as these conditions are fulfilled, the friend stays in my life.

But, if I do not feel good before and after the interaction, I am unlikely to set up another meeting. Life is too precious, and I have so many other things I would prefer to be doing than draining social interactions.

If you apply those two criteria to your friendships, are there any friendships you would need to leave behind?

It’s worth clarifying here that I am not a fair-weather friend. My friends do not need to be happy all the time for me to look forward to chatting or feeling like I gained something from the interaction.

Some of the most fulfilling moments in my friendships were when I supported my friends through tough times or when they supported me.

I do not choose my friends based on their financial success, their looks, or even sharing the same values.

I have friends with whom I have fundamental spiritual or political disagreements.

But here are the characteristics that all my friends have in common:

  • They are smart; we can have an intellectually stimulating discussion.
  • They are not competitive; I do not have to hide my successes from them out of fear they will be jealous.
  • They can provide feedback without being judgmental. They accept who I am even though they may disagree with what I do.
  • They are not needy or take everything personally. I can be myself around them without walking on eggshells. I can take my space without worrying about the relationship.

When you have a group of friends like that, you nurture those relationships because they are your wealth.

If they happen to be long-standing friends who have been with you through the ups and downs, even better.

It is so much fun to be able to talk about the past with someone who has been there with you. As long as they are comfortable with the fact that you have grown and evolved from the person you were.

You do not have to worry about whether your long-standing friends are less successful, wealthy or spiritual than you.

The fact that they decided not to dedicate their time and attention to a certain area you did will not hold you back.

Having a nourishing, long-standing friendship can do more for your growth than many newer, shinier and more superficial ones with more successful people.

A less successful friend will not hold you back. A non-supportive one will.

One of my biggest motivations for being financially successful is to be able to treat my people, my friends and family.

The people who supported me when I was broke and heartbroken get to enjoy the perks of me being happy and abundant.


When are your friends holding you back?

Your friends are holding you back when

  • They are judgmental or try to control what you do.
  • They are a bad influence when it comes to your habits.
  • They constantly drain your energy.
  • They are competitive or get upset with your success. In this case, you might subconsciously try to stay small not to upset them.
  • You go to them for advice in an area they have not mastered. I will not go for financial advice to people who are not better off than me financially. Business advice to someone who has not built a successful business. Or for relationship advice to someone who does not have a happy relationship.

What if the people you dread meeting or that drain you rather than uplift you are your family?

I would take my time with family members as an opportunity to heal triggers and old wounds and become unshakeable in my mindset. I would also limit the time I spend with any draining family members to a minimum.


Conclusion

Balancing personal growth with maintaining meaningful friendships does not have to be conflicting. You can do both.

On the one hand, we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with, warranting a carefully curated social environment.

Investing in mentorships, being mindful of our information diet, and even changing physical environments can accelerate personal growth and success.

On the other hand, the value of deep, genuine friendships cannot be overstated. These relationships provide irreplaceable emotional richness.

The key lies in discernment—knowing when a friendship is mutually enriching and when it’s time to limit exposure to relationships that hold us back.

While our social circles may evolve, the truest friendships often withstand the tests of time and change, growing along with us.


Download my free guide with the 10 Powerful Mindset Shifts To Achieve Your Vision.

Discover:
What are the 10 telltale signs that you are living your vision?
What are the 3 things you might think you need for success but you really don’t.
The 10 mindset shifts all my clients who enjoy success in all areas of their lives have made.

Link here.

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Picture of Caterina Kostoula

Caterina Kostoula

Caterina Kostoula is an executive coach and founder of The Leaderpath.

Her mission is to coach pioneering leaders for impact and fulfilment.

She has worked as a Global Business Leader at Google where she was
also a 5-star rated internal coach. She has coached leaders and teams from Google, Amazon, Stripe and Workable, as well as a number of startups.

Caterina teaches the popular Life Vision Programme at INSEAD Business School.

Her work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company and Thrive Global. Her best-selling book, “Hold Successful Meetings”, was published by Penguin in 2021. Her TEDx talk is called “Do your goals prevent your success?”

Education

– MSc in Executive Coaching from Ashridge Business School (EMCC-accredited)

– INSEAD MBA

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Why You Don’t Have to Choose Between Personal Growth and Old Friendships

How do you reconcile maintaining old friendships and surrounding yourself with people further along than you? A reader asked me this question last week. I loved it and decided to unpack it in this article.

On one end, we want to surround ourselves with high-achievers to elevate our own life’s trajectory.

Yet, on the other, we crave the nourishment of long-standing friendships, even when they may not align with our new aspirations.

If you’ve ever wondered how to evolve without leaving important friendships behind, read on.


Upgrade Your Social Environment

Plenty of research supports the influence our social environment has on us. The old saying that “you become the average of the five people most spend time with” is mostly true.

I am always looking for ways to upgrade my social environment. Here are the three key ways I do this:

1. Curate an uplifting feed

We spend a big portion of our day consuming information. Probably even more than the time we spend with friends and family.

I have curated an inspiring, thought-provoking and uplifting social media feed. It includes health experts and luminaries in my industry. I unfollow people who complain or do not contribute in a positive way.

The podcasts, books and newsletters I consume are equally curated to aid my evolution.

I do not read or watch the news. They are mostly designed to stimulate our fear and lower instincts. I am not available for that.

A question to consider here is how can you be more intentional with your information diet?

2. Invest in mentorship for personal growth

The easiest way to spend quality time and learn from people who are further along than me in a certain area is to hire them.

At any time, I have several mentors in areas vital to me, like health, business, and personal growth. This includes 1:1 mentorship, masterminds, group programs, seminars, courses and memberships.

About one-third of my business’ revenue goes to my personal coaching. This investment has paid off immeasurably in terms of personal and business growth, quality of life, and happiness.

I do not expect my partner, family or friends to advise or coach me in the most critical areas of my life unless they have mastered that specific area.

It would be unfair to them and ineffective for me. When I desire advice on health, business or personal growth, I hire world-class experts in these areas and get it.

3. Change my physical environment for new perspectives

I like to shake up my physical environment every few years. When I spent six months in Thailand in 2017, I got inspired by all the digital nomads I met there to leave Google and start my own business.

I moved to Costa Rica 10 days ago and am blown away by the people I met here.

While I write these lines, my family have gone to a beach clean up, inspired by our new, environmentally-conscious friends.

The physical environment attracts specific people. My experience was that London attracted cosmopolitan, ambitious, and driven people. The people I met in Costa Rica love health, nature and quality of life.

How can you shake up your physical environment to get new perspectives?


Spring-clean Your Friendships

Relationships that provide a sense of connection, belonging and nourishment are essential for a long and happy life.

As we grow and evolve, some friendships become deeper and better while others are left behind.

How do you know when it is time to let go of friendships and when it is time to hold tighter?

It is not a rational decision; but a decision of the heart.

For me, it is quite simple:

  • Am I looking forward to spending time with this friend?
  • Am I leaving our interactions feeling like I have gained something? This could be a sense of connection, a new perspective or a fun time.

As long as these conditions are fulfilled, the friend stays in my life.

But, if I do not feel good before and after the interaction, I am unlikely to set up another meeting. Life is too precious, and I have so many other things I would prefer to be doing than draining social interactions.

If you apply those two criteria to your friendships, are there any friendships you would need to leave behind?

It’s worth clarifying here that I am not a fair-weather friend. My friends do not need to be happy all the time for me to look forward to chatting or feeling like I gained something from the interaction.

Some of the most fulfilling moments in my friendships were when I supported my friends through tough times or when they supported me.

I do not choose my friends based on their financial success, their looks, or even sharing the same values.

I have friends with whom I have fundamental spiritual or political disagreements.

But here are the characteristics that all my friends have in common:

  • They are smart; we can have an intellectually stimulating discussion.
  • They are not competitive; I do not have to hide my successes from them out of fear they will be jealous.
  • They can provide feedback without being judgmental. They accept who I am even though they may disagree with what I do.
  • They are not needy or take everything personally. I can be myself around them without walking on eggshells. I can take my space without worrying about the relationship.

When you have a group of friends like that, you nurture those relationships because they are your wealth.

If they happen to be long-standing friends who have been with you through the ups and downs, even better.

It is so much fun to be able to talk about the past with someone who has been there with you. As long as they are comfortable with the fact that you have grown and evolved from the person you were.

You do not have to worry about whether your long-standing friends are less successful, wealthy or spiritual than you.

The fact that they decided not to dedicate their time and attention to a certain area you did will not hold you back.

Having a nourishing, long-standing friendship can do more for your growth than many newer, shinier and more superficial ones with more successful people.

A less successful friend will not hold you back. A non-supportive one will.

One of my biggest motivations for being financially successful is to be able to treat my people, my friends and family.

The people who supported me when I was broke and heartbroken get to enjoy the perks of me being happy and abundant.


When are your friends holding you back?

Your friends are holding you back when

  • They are judgmental or try to control what you do.
  • They are a bad influence when it comes to your habits.
  • They constantly drain your energy.
  • They are competitive or get upset with your success. In this case, you might subconsciously try to stay small not to upset them.
  • You go to them for advice in an area they have not mastered. I will not go for financial advice to people who are not better off than me financially. Business advice to someone who has not built a successful business. Or for relationship advice to someone who does not have a happy relationship.

What if the people you dread meeting or that drain you rather than uplift you are your family?

I would take my time with family members as an opportunity to heal triggers and old wounds and become unshakeable in my mindset. I would also limit the time I spend with any draining family members to a minimum.


Conclusion

Balancing personal growth with maintaining meaningful friendships does not have to be conflicting. You can do both.

On the one hand, we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with, warranting a carefully curated social environment.

Investing in mentorships, being mindful of our information diet, and even changing physical environments can accelerate personal growth and success.

On the other hand, the value of deep, genuine friendships cannot be overstated. These relationships provide irreplaceable emotional richness.

The key lies in discernment—knowing when a friendship is mutually enriching and when it’s time to limit exposure to relationships that hold us back.

While our social circles may evolve, the truest friendships often withstand the tests of time and change, growing along with us.


Download my free guide with the 10 Powerful Mindset Shifts To Achieve Your Vision.

Discover:
What are the 10 telltale signs that you are living your vision?
What are the 3 things you might think you need for success but you really don’t.
The 10 mindset shifts all my clients who enjoy success in all areas of their lives have made.

Link here.