Life is about the relationships we keep: the relationship we have with ourselves, our partner, our family, our colleagues at work, our friends and even strangers. These relationships can either be positive and fruitful or negative and toxic.
You’ve probably heard the adages: “Surround yourself with people who lift you higher,” (Oprah) and, “The people you surround yourself with influence your behaviours, so choose friends who have healthy habits,” (Dan Buettner).
Identifying and eliminating toxic relationships from your life is important because just like particular food can ruin your diet and health, a particular person can also ruin your health and your happiness. So what are the tell tale signs of a toxic relationship?
People who are jealous of you
People who are competitive with you
People who betray your confidence/trust
People who focus on your faults
People who always complain
People who repetitively break their promises
People who are self-absorbed or self-entitled
People who contact you only when they need something.
These types of people will drain your energy and if you can’t avoid them altogether, make sure you only give them your minimal energy and time. Remember, relationships take up a lot of our emotional energy and wellbeing, so when you surround ourselves with toxic people, you are less likely to reach your potential. On the other hand, if you surround yourself with like-minded, positive, caring, honest and interesting people, being happy becomes effortless.
A lot of relationships break down because we start to see things that irritate us about the person, when in reality those things were always there. But why have they now started irritating you? It’s not because they’re now irritating you, it’s because you’re now focusing on them. If you have a negative mindset you start focusing on what you don’t have instead of what you do have. So if your partner is a procrastinator, not very good at cooking or whatever it is, you start to dwell on those things. But no one’s perfect, you’re not perfect, right? So focus instead on their positives: my partner’s really fit, my partner’s great at their job, my partner’s very generous, very kind, my partner’s very loving, he or she is a great reader, or my partner is a great painter.
The same applies for your colleagues and staff at work. When they do something well, praise them. Focus on their abilities rather than their weaknesses and give them work that best suits their talents. For example if someone is a great communicator and enjoys developing client relationships, make sure they are on the phones instead of doing administrative work! This means that they will be happier in their role and not only feel better, but become more productive, enthusiastic and engaging. Their work performance will improve and they will become a better team member, employee and face of the company.
Here are eight agreements you should make with yourself to help you build discipline and willpower in 2012. I do this exercise every year. Whenever I get complacent or fall into a rut I go back to these agreements and remind myself not to break them.
Health – Cherish your body. Nothing else matters more. Focus on the energy you have. Eat well, exercise and relax daily. Fill your daily life with purposeful activities that give your body a reason to manifest energy.
Love – Love yourself by looking after your health and guarding your mind against negative images, negative thinking and negative associations. Look your best by wearing clothes that make you feel attractive. Have the courage to show and give love to your life partner, whether or not they give it back. Tell your partner daily what you love about them – words are powerful. Work just as much on your love life as you do on your work.
Family – Support your family at all times. Give them the confidence to pursue their goals and dreams. Help them overcome obstacles. Focus on their strengths and their good qualities. Remind them daily of that. Tell them you love them no matter what happens – whether they succeed or fail at anything. Spend time developing a relationship with all family members.
Work – Choose to love your work. Always do your best. Focus on the difference that your product or service is making to society. Have empathy for your customers. Value the privilege of serving them from the heart. Be grateful that you live in a society where there is the opportunity to work. At all times be honest in the execution of your work. Master your job by constantly learning and evolving. Always ask yourself, ‘can I do this job better?’ Be impeccable in your conduct at work. Be fearless in your execution.
Friendship – Let your words, laughter and charm bring a smile to others. Help your friends see the lighter side of life and not take themselves too seriously. Act with integrity and hold true to your standards and beliefs. Never compromise them to be popular. Never pre-judge others. Be open to new friendships. Always greet people with a smile and a friendly hello. How others respond is their own reality and has nothing to do with you.
Learning – Commit to 45 minutes of learning daily about every aspect of your life and not just your work and wealth. Limit watching TV and other popular media. Watch uplifting talks by great thinkers on TED.com. Read books from pioneering minds. Attend courses and seminars organised by people who care and have something unique to share. Listen twice as much you talk. Discover your talents by having self-awareness for your thoughts and feelings. Live a conscious life where you decide what you want to listen to, read and watch.
Wealth – Invest in yourself first before you invest your money. If you have a business invest in your own field of dreams first before investing with others on the stock market. Live a frugal lifestyle and reduce your dependence on money. Spend less, save more. Say no to consumerism and your addiction to buying more and more things that end up collecting dust in the attic. But don’t skimp on things that improve your life.
Charity – Learn about the plight of others in need. Don’t shut yourself out to other people’s suffering. Help others by giving your time and/or money. Charity does not have to be grand. A simple kind word of support is sometimes all that someone needs. Help a team member at work. Share an idea that can help a friend live a better life.
In the last few months of coaching I have noticed a trend. One that is encouraging. I have noticed that many of us think that there are a myriad of obstacles that is holding us back from pursuing the life we really want; when in truth it is often only one thing. That’s right, you heard me correctly. Only one! And I don’t mean only holding you back in your career or business. It could be holding you back in all eight areas of your life.
So all you have to do is go searching for that one thing that’s holding you back. Sometimes the search is within you and sometimes it is external. It could be a food you need to eliminate that unburdens your body and unleashes your energy. Or it could be a fear that’s holding you back from taking action with courage. Or it could be as simple as making that phone call or enrolling in a course.
Here are a few real examples:
One client changed his exercise routine from weight training to jogging and cycling. It suited his body more. He was more relaxed, more energetic and more confident. It showed in his performance at work. He was more upbeat and enthusiastic. He was focused. At home he was happier. It changed all areas of his life.
Another client merely changed the time of day she worked out. It made all the difference.
Another eliminated coffee and alcohol.
Another started working from home one day a week.
Another started waking at 6am instead of 7.
Another went back to Uni to study.
Another changed jobs.
In all these cases the transformation was huge and immediate. When you have the courage to take action on that ONE thing, it’s like breaking the shackles and unleashing your passion onto the world. It is truly amazing to witness this.