Creating a Season of Growth & Connection

It is the summer of 2024 and we have some milestones to celebrate. My youngest graduates middle school, 2nd born graduates high school and my eldest is turning 21.  In what ways can we make the Summer of 2024 the best ever?  I have a few ideas in mind and will start the series off with the importance of strengthening connections with family and friends during summer gathering.

Building Meaningful Relationships

Dale Carnegie Summer Principle #1: Become genuinely interested in other people

It’s summer, and grad parties are on the calendar, pools are open, and vacation trips are booked. This is a great opportunity to build meaningful relationships. As we get into the rhythm of summer, it may be tempting to focus on ourselves, but we should really focus on others.

The relationships we build over the summer are vital, especially for students graduating from high school. This may be the final summer before they head off to college out of state. For those graduating college, it’s an important summer as it may be the last one with friends and family before starting a job that’s a three-hour flight from home. Perhaps it’s the last summer we’ll enjoy with friends who will be moving away due to a workplace transfer. Let’s not forget that we also have relationships with friends and family who are still around and need nurturing.

Being intentional requires us to proactively identify which relationships need nurturing and which new ones we should start to create stronger bonds. These bonds ensure we have friends to lean on and can help expand our sphere of influence. They allow us to be introduced to friends of friends at new places of work or college. As summer reaches its crescendo, with amazing music and awesome food, we want to be sure that we live every moment with purpose. Here are some ways to create opportunities to build stronger relationships:

Plan Meaningful Activities:

I love spontaneity; it’s a lot of fun and adds excitement when we do things on a whim. But we also need to plan our summer and look at important dates or weekends that allow for extended breaks. For example, the 4th of July falls on a Thursday this year, so you might want to take that Friday off to enjoy a really long weekend. Having this kind of foresight lets us encourage friend gatherings and be intentional with planning meaningful connections.

So, as summer swings into full gear, think about activities you can plan to spend quality time and build deeper relationships with close friends, acquaintances, or even that person you like but don’t know well yet.

A good friend of mine, Latreash, is great at planning meaningful activities. She plans thoroughly, which allows her to see a lot of the states and visit different countries. To be this pro-active, planning is essential because some activities can’t happen on a whim. The takeaway from Latreash for me, is that if we plan and are intentional, we achieve our goals. If we have travel goals and haven’t set the dates and made the plans, we’re never going to achieve them. So let’s use this summer to be intentional with the activities we want to do.

It doesn’t have to be a long weekend. It could be a BBQ, a social get-together, a picnic, meeting up with friends at a nearby lake, a hike on a local trail, or getting 4 or 5 of you together for a lazy mountain bike ride. Any activity that gets us together in groups helps us invest time and build bonds in the relationships we want to foster.

If you’re the indoor type and enjoy gaming, good!! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying gaming; you’re connecting with friends virtually, too! If you’re playing a virtual game, you’re spending quality time with friends, whether you’re in the same living room or bantering over who is the best player on PlayStation or Xbox. If this is your thing, great—enjoy it with friends, whether in person or virtually. My challenge for you is to mix it up over the summer. Mark is my animated, colorful friend that loves paintballing. When the weather is bad, he’s indoors playing Call of Duty. In the summer, with great weather, he challenges his friends to a Call of Duty paintball match. Same friends, just outdoors.

Try to get outdoors in some way, shape, or form. Changing up the scenery and environment helps us experience new things and develop a growth mindset and create. If gaming with friends is your thing and you like to be indoors, escape rooms are fun, too. Enjoy the outdoors when you can, so when those rainy days come, you can enjoy indoor gaming with friends. Bad weather requires a roof over our heads, but when possible, enjoy the outdoors with those same friends.

Become Genuinely Interested in Other People

Now that we’ve planned the meaningful activity, be sure to plan with others in mind by considering activities they enjoy and offering a variety of options. Think about activities everyone can enjoy. If you’re organizing water sports, consider skiing, wakeboarding, or tubing, or a combination. For instance, someone like me might not wakeboard and could find it frustrating. But I can easily hop on the back of a tube and enjoy tubing with someone next to me, allowing me to have fun and be part of the activities.

Once everyone has had a good time together, those more experienced can show off their wakeboarding skills and possibly teach the rest of us. Watching and learning from their talents can build deeper, meaningful relationships as we show interest in each other. It also creates opportunities for conversation later in the evening or at a future event.

As we spend more time together, you never know, I might muster the courage to try wakeboarding. If you have the patience to help me get up, it could lead to a deeper relationship because bonds form when we learn new skills, face challenges, or simply enjoy quality time together.

Be a Good Listener

We may read these four simple words and think it’s easy to do, but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Being a good listener means taking an active role when listening to others. This requires us to be fully focused with no distractions as we engage in meaningful conversations, often ones we’ve initiated ourselves.

Think about outdoor activities, for example. Maybe while skiing, something funny happened, and your friend is sharing that story. Whatever the story is, enjoy listening to it, relive the experience with them, and resist the temptation to tell your version or “one-up” their story with your own.

Two things happen here: you’re learning to let someone else have the spotlight, and you’re learning how to be empathetic. Both are great leadership traits to develop.

We become a catalyst for friendship when we intentionally engage in deeper conversations, practice active listening, and plan meaningful activities that bring people closer together. Make this summer your masterpiece!

*photo by: pexels-zhangkaiyv-189848

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