Have you ever noticed that after you hang out with a best friend for a while, you start to talk like them and gesture like them? Your attitude may even be like theirs. In the personal development world, you have probably heard that you are like the 5 people you hang around most. They can either pull you up or bring you down. It is rare that if you are surrounded by 5 negative people that you can encourage them all to be more uplifting and as positive as you. More likely they will pull you down because they are the majority. You will be more like the average of the 5. However, negativity and pessimism are very strong that it is walking a fine line when you have just one single person who is habitually a downer. When you throw in external factors like you have a bad day, you are feeling doubtful about your progress, etc., your reaction to this negativity manifest differently compared to days when you things are going great.
Let’s do a science experiment. Take 2 glasses of water--one heated to 100 degrees and the other chilled in the fridge for several hours. I want you to add 2 drops of red food coloring to the hot water and 2 drops of blue food coloring to the cold water. Almost immediately, you will notice how more quickly the red food coloring spreads throughout the hot water. The cold water takes a little more time for the blue food coloring to spread but it eventually does disperse throughout the water.
This does the same for when you are on a personal voyage of self-improvement and business development. Days will change and your environment will one day feel like nice, cool refreshing water when other days it will feel like things are heating up in the worst way. Then you add someone else’s “food coloring” and it alters your perception of the “water”. While you may not be able to avoid all negativity coming into your life, you can create barriers. Here is how:
Take inventory of who you surround yourself with the most. What are they influencing you to do? How are they encouraging you? Is it a two-way street when it comes to give and take? What are they doing to improve your life and happiness and how are you encouraging theirs? Are they teaching you valuable lessons in a positive manner or are you learning these lessons from negative encounters? Like you would do with a pros and cons sheet, do the same for the people that influence your life the most. Do the same for those “B” and “C” people that are in your life less frequently but can possibly have an effect on your life. If they bring you more anguish than joy, then this needs to go on the cons side.
Now you will see who needs to be on your “A” list and who needs to be removed. You may even identify those on your “B” and “C” list that should move on up a list for a trial run. If you find that is the case, ask your B or C listers out for coffee to get to know them better. Start to spend a little more time with them to see if they should be a permanent A-lister.
This is the tough part. For those A-listers that just aren’t making the cut, decide on which boundaries you will need to set with them. Are you going to need to limit your time with your best friend to once a month because they encourage you to go out drinking every night thus leaving you worthless the next day and unable to work on your dreams and goals? Or are you going to completely cut someone out because their self-sabotaging ways has left you mentally drained? Decide how you will set boundaries with these people. How will you talk to them about these new boundaries? How will they react? How will you prepare yourself for their negative reaction? Will you cave or will you know that you deserve better and let them whine it out? How will you prevent yourself from allowing those people that absolutely cannot be in your life back in? How will you be strong?
Spending as much time as you can reflecting before reacting will give you a sense of peace when it is time to make some changes. I also suggest doing some reflecting each evening about your relationships. Or if your memory is on par, once a week. I find that if I wait too long, it lessens the severity of their impact then I let things slide instead of making improvements.
If you find that these A-listers cannot be removed from your life because they are your spouse or children, then you must sit them down and patiently communicate to them how you are feeling. This conversation has to be a two-way street and you must remember that hurt, sadness, and pain is almost always masked with anger. If you feel yourself getting angry, take a moment to breathe, re-center and communicate this pain or sadness, not your anger. If the other person seems to be getting angry, have the compassion to recognize that it is masking some pain and tell them you acknowledge that and you want to help.
It takes internal and external work to have a happier, more balanced life. If you don’t take action now, you will forever be on this roller coaster ride. Life is too short to just be on one volatile ride your entire life.