“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
For some of us, this may be a horrifying thought. For others, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but maybe not very exciting or empowering either.
When you look around at the people you spend the most time with, both personally and professionally, how do they make you feel or think? Are they supportive, or do they always have a negative or deflating comment for just about everything you share with them? Do they seek out the worst in every situation and complain endlessly, only to suck the joy right out of you? Or maybe they’re the ones that say nothing at all and move on to the next topic, essentially letting you know there is no value in your words. And then there are those that are glued to their smartphones not even listening, only to ask you a question about something you already shared with them two minutes prior. It’s demeaning and disrespectful.
Sadly, we’ve all been there, we’ve all had experiences with people like this, and for many of us, they’re still around. Those people can limit our success and dictate our failure.
If you’re looking to make a radical change in your personal or professional life, consider who you surround yourself with on a daily basis. How can we change the story?
1. Honestly Assess
Some may think it’s selfish, harsh, or even cut-throat, but truthfully, regularly examining who we spend our time with and honestly answering the question of what value they bring to our mental and spiritual health, is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
The damage that can be done by one single person can leave an indelible mark. Emotional pain and strain, loss of energy, productivity, and joy, the decline of our health and well being, deep strikes to our confidence and self-esteem. Why risk this great loss for someone who may never change? It takes its toll and recovery is too costly.
Over the years I have often had to review the company I keep, really thinking about how I feel when I’m with them, when I’m not, and their general impact on my life. Do they expand my world or do they constrain it? Do they inspire me and build me up, or do they hold me back and tear me down? Do they support my dreams and goals, or do they undermine my enthusiasm and spirit?
“Surround yourself only with the people who are going to lift you higher.” — Oprah Winfrey
I put all of that up against my goals, my definition of success, the life I want to lead, as well as my personal beliefs and standards. If there are significant enough discrepancies, I know it’s necessary to make a change. It could be that it’s simply a matter of outgrowing someone, and in many cases, both of you are aware you’re moving in different directions. This happens so often but can still feel uncomfortable and difficult as we make a choice.
If you find that it’s a family member who is the most toxic, you have to decide what sort of relationship is going to work for you, or maybe how often you interact with this person. If it’s a professional relationship where there is little flexibility, it may be necessary to work with a manager to figure out a better solution or make a tougher decision about the role you have or the company you work for.
Bottom line, you have to be honest with yourself about what is working and what is not.
2. Remove the Toxins
Actually altering a relationship or completely removing someone from your life is, of course, the most difficult step. I’ll admit, I’ve had to do it many times and I’m still not very good at it—at all. More often than not it’s ended poorly, with deep seeded anger and hurt feelings. I continually strive to do better. I am learning and growing.
Looking at the how, I believe that each person and each situation is unique. I don’t think there is one way that is easiest, or most effective, or even the most constructive. Each person filters information differently and will react differently. But it has to be done.
Taking each individual into consideration, and knowing what it is about that person that isn’t helping you in your life, I suggest being open and honest while still being mindful that this is a human being. There will be hurt feelings, bruised egos, and maybe even worse. Hearing directly from you why things aren’t working may resonate with them at some point and they can hopefully make changes for themselves, but you can’t hang on to that and need to take care of yourself first. Only we can change ourselves. Stand firm, but think about how you would feel hearing this information from someone else and hopefully that will help you in taking greater care in your words.
3. Seek New Life
Once you’ve completed the difficult task of removing those that no longer fit the life you want to create, you are now open to seek the new. You also have a better sense of what you want and what you don’t want, what you will and will not tolerate, and how you want to be treated. Apply that filter as you meet and engage with new people. If there is a red flag with someone’s behavior or style, cut your losses earlier and keep trying.
It can be an exciting time. Push yourself to engage in new surroundings. This is a wonderful way to expand your circle and interact with people completely different than what you’re used to. Be open to those that think differently, live somewhere else, have different hobbies, work in a different field or profession, come from other cultures, and are more successful than you. These people can push you to do and be so much more.
4. Nurture and Invest
As you bring new people into your life, don’t forget to take great care of these relationships. You get what you put in; don’t take them for granted.
We also need to be careful not to overwhelm people right away. Sometimes we can be so excited to have someone who seems positive, self-aware, and supportive, that we may end up draining them with all our needs. Invest the time and energy to nurture these relationships. Enjoy the great gifts they bring to enriching your life. Be sure to generously give in the ways they need as well.
5. Repeat as Necessary
I think we all need to go through this process regularly. Even if we don’t have the extreme toxic type of relationships anymore, it’s a good idea to explore where we need to grow. Are there new needs we have, the fresh inspiration we seek, or innovative or creative thinking we desire?
Look at those you spend your time with and expand your world.
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