How to identify toxic relationships

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.

I recently read an interesting article that identifies some toxic and abusive behaviours in relationships and how to better handle them. Here’s the link if you are interested:

Is being happy more important than being healthy?

In A Higher Branch, I show that health should be your number one priority, followed by love, family, work, friendship, learning, wealth and charity: all of which provide us with a complete life and when we live a complete life, we are happy. Recently, I’ve been researching the idea that being happy is more important than being just healthy. I did this research because of something that my 10 year old daughter said to me.


Recently we spent a whole day at Bondi Beach crashing against waves, eating, sunbathing and playing. As we drove home later that day, my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Early dinner, early night.” But Amelia had other ideas. She jumped right out of the car and ran straight to her bike and said, ‘Daddy, Daddy, I want to go for a bike ride!” I must confess with you, I was a little annoyed, and said to her, “Sweetie, aren’t you tired? Honestly, what are you running on?” And she looked at me as though the answer was as clear as day and said, “I’m running on Happiness, Daddy.”

And that got me thinking, we do run on happiness! If we eat unhealthy and fail to exercise it will eventually (sometimes over many years) lead to low energy and illness. But if you are unhappy for even just a week, it will impact your energy and vitality very quickly. So my advice is that if you can’t live a 100% healthy lifestyle, aim to at least live a happy one by surrounding yourself with family, positive friends, laughter and a rewarding job.  My bigger advice is to aim to be healthy and happy!


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.


We live in an uncertain world. Natural disasters fill our news, work security does not exist, governments are still invading countries for political gain instead of focusing on the nourishment and progression of their own people and for many people living and enjoying life is becoming a challenge amidst the negativity, uncertainty and confusion of modern, western life. Which is why living a life by certain principles, beliefs and actions is more important now than ever before. These are eight principles that I live by. Please add to them, elaborate on them and apply them personally.

Principles are the root of our existence

1. The key to constant enthusiasm is the forging of positive alliances with common-goaled people. Human interaction is at the core of our existence. Aim to have as many friends as possible. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you. Share your thoughts and dreams and they will help you achieve your goals.

2. Obsession is a great tool if used for creating your best life. Obsession is not a bad thing if applied to eating good food, exercising daily and learning to be a better friend, better family man/woman and a better colleague. Improving yourself should be an obsession. It is only unhealthy if it is applied in only one area of your life to the neglect of the others.

3. To find excitement in your life you must go looking for it. In business we know to go looking for clients. The same goes for our personal life. Fun and friends will not come to you. You have to go looking for them.

4. The effortless way to change your life is to replace old useless habits with new powerful and productive ones. It takes 21 days to sow a good habit. Start today.

5. Admitting you are wrong about a situation puts you in control of that situation.  It liberates you and takes power away from people who would like to tell you that you are wrong.

6. Spend at least 5 hours a week exercising the body and at least 5 hours per week sharpening the mind. These are your only insurances to prolonged health and happiness. Body = eating fresh food & daily exercise. Mind = reading and learning daily about how to improve all aspects of your life.

7. True leadership is about giving everyone a fair go. Before you write-off a work colleague as having a bad attitude first consider whether your stated expectations have been communicated clearly and effectively. Good leaders acknowledge that not all of us are built for leadership. Some people need to be led and directed and that is an honorable quality. If all of us were leaders then not much would get done.

8. Do not dismiss your heart’s feelings. They are like a friend guiding you to greener pastures. Feelings are prompts for you to take action (e.g. opportunities) or prompts to make change in your life (e.g. problems). Stop and feel your feelings even if it hurts. If your feelings are one of the positive emotions of love, faith, hope, then act on it. If your feelings are one of negative emotions of fear, anger, envy, then recognize it as negative. If it’s fear, then face that fear. Do what you’re scared of! If it’s anger then ask yourself why you are angry. Are you blaming others, yourself or a situation for something that has happened? Recognize it as such.

5 words to live by in 2012:






Success in life is no more complicated than living by those five words. The real questions are:

1. What are you going to spend your time, energy and money FOCUSING on?

2. What decisive ACTION are you going to take?

3. How will you ACCEPT and deal with the bad stuff that happens?

4. What should you be GRATEFUL for daily?

5. What areas of your life do you need to display FEARLESSNESS? What stifling fears do you need to overcome?

Sitting dow and writing the answers to these 5 questions can be the best 60 mins you spend this year.

I live by the thought pattern as depicted in the diagram below. I know the title is a little cliche but there is no other way to describe it. When it comes to living a successful and therefore happy life we must manage our thoughts in a pattern that locks us in. This is how we get our thoughts to lead our emotions in the direction we want. Away from anger and fear, to love courage and fearlessness. In my next journal entry I will share with you how I recently used the Circle of Positive Thinking to manage one of the most difficult periods of my life. The period where I had to travel from Sydney to the Bekaa Valley to help transport my father (who had suffered a stroke) to Beirut.