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Breaking Away From the Group: Ask Noah

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Q: At 30, I'm still very friendly with a group of my best high school and college buddies. I've literally collected these guys over time and we've remained a tight group. I'm sort of like their leader. We're all 30 and still all unabashedly single. I like these guys tremendously, but lately I've been feeling very tired of the whole gig. I'm recognizing just how small I've been playing things, personally and professionally. I just feel really stuck in this mire, but don't want let anyone down.

A: Human beings are social beings, and we need to form meaningful relationships in order to feel significant. In a perfect world, a long-established group of friends would satisfy the social needs of its individual members.

Like lions, human beings are literally "pack animals" and our packs keep us from being isolated, helping define ourselves and our places in society.

Among a "pack," there usually exists a hierarchy/system of power. Your male pack, created in adolescence, was comprised of 15- to 20-year-old boys, each playing out a very specific role. Sounds to me you're getting very tired of playing out the same role a good 15 years later.

I don't sense that you are bored. I think you are angry. You are sick of this particular boyhood "group thought," and would really like to start being more of an individual man.

This does not mean that you should suddenly disassociate with what is essentially your extended family. You just need to begin examining these relationships and ways they may be limiting your own evolution.

This is about you. Long-standing, time-consuming friendships like yours color all aspects of identity.

Now ask yourself these three questions: What is missing in your life? What do you want? What changes need to be made to your social life, in order to achieve this?

Maybe adding new friends from different backgrounds, either financially or culturally, would benefit you. Associating with individuals who do not mirror ourselves allow us to change perspectives on the way we see the world.

Look at your professional goals. Think about whether the job you're currently employed in supports your own evolution as a person, and how it helps/hurts long-term plans. Sometimes we follow the career path of family and friends out of laziness or fear. Figure out if membership in this social group is having a negative effect on professional choices.

Are there talents or interests that you have not tapped into? We often fail to really latch onto inherent gifts. We are scared of our own strengths and excelling at them, or we feel that investing in our own interests is self-indulgent. I understand that it may be fun hanging out at the bar with old college friends; but it would be a shame if this limited the amount of time spent discovering and nourishing other activities you enjoying doing. Do not to be limited by the repetitive activities of a familiar group.

Do you want to get married or be in a committed relationship? Friendships are incredibly important. However, there are only 24 hours in a day. If you're spending the majority of free time "hanging" with old high school/college buddies, this can limit the availability and energy needed to find someone you really love. Commitment to another is not merely an accessory to be added to your previous social calendar. It can and should be a profound addition. You need to be available.

To be an essential member of a personally fulfilling group can be very empowering. However, it can also keep you stuck. It's tricky to break away from a set way of living life and a culture that nourishes and protects you. Regardless, in order to experience real growth, we need to challenge the sometimes staid comfort of staying put.

Strong group relationships have lasting value. Have confidence that they can be sustained, even as you re-evaluate life goals.

Thank you for the question, and remember veering off the familiar path, although scary, can be ultimately very rewarding.

Please send all questions and comments to "ASK NOAH" at nskass@gmail.com.

Have a profitable and peaceful week,

Noah

This article was originally published on TheStreet.

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