Warning: if you’re a big fan of those personal development gurus who tell you to strip all the ‘negative’ people out of your life, I’m about to throw a grenade into all those beliefs.
Those kind of blanket ideals can nudge us into complacency and lead us to develop black and white thinking… and we’ll miss out – and, potentially, hurt people needlessly, as a result.
Hands up if you’ve ever heard that we should kick all the ‘negative’ people out of our lives and replace them with the very epitomes of success and optimism.
Yeah, we all have, right?
At surface level, that ideal is crass at best and harmful at worst.
It’s all too easy to spend time focusing on the kinds of people we want to attract into our lives and forget all about the awesome people we already have around us.
Hell, if we’re not careful, we’ll be so focused on the less than perfect attributes of our friends and family, we can miss the good stuff right beneath our noses.
It’s all too easy to listen to your favourite guru, or read their book, and follow the instructions to the letter when it comes to that old adage about becoming the average of the five people we spend time with.
I think it was Jim Rohn who came up with that idea first and, since then, a gung ho attitude has sprung up through the personal development brat pack, with way too much emphasis on cutting the ‘negative’ people out off our lives and inviting in those rich, successful people, with gleaming smiles and billion-dollar attitudes, so we might just learn from them and soak up some of their vibe.
It’s probably fair to say that Jim’s original message has been taken, by some, and warped and twisted into something quite extraordinary. And not in a good way.
Wow! If we find five of these superstars and hang around with them enough, we’ll become them, right?
When I wrote my book, Unleash Your Awesome (you can get it from Amazon and the America Out Loud Bookstore! 😄), I wanted to do things differently.
There are so many self help books that are just duplicates of one another, all churning out the same tosh.
Nobody realises this, because we buy them for the dopamine kick, but then don’t read them. They just sit there, spine shining from the bookcase, as if to proudly announce to all visitors that we’re totally woke and know our shit.
That’s not self development. It’s SHELF development.
I wanted mine to be different – to smash that overdone mould to smithereens. I wanted Unleash to be as close as I could get to a proper coaching session – or series of sessions – sandwiched between its covers. I wanted to make some of the teachings I carry available for those who couldn’t yet tap into me for 1-1 work, or couldn’t get to one of my events.
So, at the end of every chapter, there’s a challenge to complete… and you can bet this whole idea of stripping out the perceived negatives and replacing them with perceived positives is part of that!
WOAH… WATCH THOSE PERCEPTIONS
Before we start throwing out all those people we’ve decided are just too negative to hold in our space, let’s get real!
Let’s step away from those surface perceptions we’ve been obsessing over and delve a bit deeper.
What if the ‘Negative Nellies’ are people we really love?
What if it’s your mom?
That aunt you spent time with as a kid?
The friend you grew up with who fell on hard times?
Let’s stop with the mass clear out and start thinking about what they actually bring into our lives. Remember, it’s not always obvious; sometimes they bring us positive teachings through negative actions.
How would you feel if you carved those people out and then *really* lost them? What if they moved away? Became ill? What if they died and you’d kicked them to the kerb because of some big, shiny, motivational speaker who promised your life would transform if you got more selfish with your friends set?
So many of us slip into complacency and assume people will always be around – it’s one of the reasons so many regrets float up to the surface at funerals: “Oh, I wish I’d told her this,” or “I never had the chance to tell him how much he meant to me.”
TURN UP YOUR ATTENTION
One of the ways we can start to really appreciate the good things in life – and attract more of them – is to spend time actively noticing the ones already around us… not least the people.
Here’s why I was talking about Unleash Your Awesome earlier… it wasn’t because I wanted you to buy the book (though you’re welcome to, of course, and that would be just swell), but because I’m about to share one of those challenges with you right here, right now.
I want you to grab a pen and paper (or the notes app on your phone – doesn’t really matter) and make a list of everyone you care about and everyone you appreciate in your life.
Remember, it’s entirely possible to care about someone without appreciating them.
Add ‘em ALL to your list.
Make a note of why each person you list is so special to you, why they inspire you, why you appreciate them, and write it in the first person.
Be as simple, or as in-depth, as you like.
It could be something like:
Mum – I love you because you taught me to always have a go and because I can always count on you for a hug when I need one.
Tom – I appreciate you because you always know what to say to make me feel stronger when I’m having a bad day.
Mary – you always inspire me because you have such wonderful stories to share about your adventures, and your enthusiasm makes me want to travel and learn more.
Got it? List as many people as you can think of, and write down only positives – even if those positives are coming out of behaviours you’d *perceived* as negatives.
And guess what you’re going to do next? You’re going to tell them.
Pick up the telephone, email, write, tell them in person, communicate in whatever way you can, just make sure they know how much you appreciate having them in your life and, just as importantly, why.
WHAT IF WE CAN’T FIND THE GOODNESS?
Still have people you’re struggling to see the positives about?
Try looking for the teachings you gain from the behaviours you see as undesirable.
Bob – when I see how much you and your family are struggling to make ends meet, it helps me realise I never want to be like that. You might not know it, but you have encouraged me to make the best of every day, to keep striving and building and aiming to create the best life for myself and my loved ones.
Anna – when you’re rude to people, I realise the effect of that and I learn how not to behave. I see that hurt look in their eye and I know I never want to be the cause of that. I recognise how little you notice, and wonder how you’d feel if your awareness was higher – and that always prompts me to turn my own senses up a notch and be aware of the energy I’m putting out into the world. Thank you.
Of course, you might not want to make those same calls in these cases – we have to ensure we’re being kind when we make contact – but, if you try really hard, I bet you can come up with a way to express your gratitude and appreciation without rubbing their noses in the dirt.
Bob – I just want you to know how much I appreciate you. I know life hasn’t always dealt you an easy hand, but I see how much you love your family and how much you keep going, in spite of the knocks, and I always learn from that. You have shown me the power of perseverance, taught me about determination and to always love my family. Thank you.
Anna – your directness has taught me to keep my eye on the target, to be clear about what I want from life, and to go all out for it. I’ve seen how much you stand in your own power and I’ve learned so much from you. Thank you.
See? There’s always a way to flip your negatives and be grateful.
There’s always so much we can learn from the people around us… we just might need to scratch that faux, shiny, guruised ideal of perfection to find it.
We don’t always need to cut people out – we just need to dig a little deeper, find our humility and be willing to learn, build, and grow accordingly.
Let me know how you get on!
Until next time,