One of my dear friends called me for advice on how to handle her mother who was dying of cancer. My advice was simple: Let her die.
That sounds hurtful, negative, and heartless, but I wasn’t being any of those things. My response was the best advice I could provide to help my friend maintain her own mental health. I suggested she hire a hospice worker to be with her mother, try to provide for some of her other needs, but to not have any more contact with her.
Aristotle suggested that the goal of life is to maximize your happiness by living virtuously, fulfilling your own potential as a human – and engaging with friends, family and others in mutually beneficial activities. Unfortunately, that last activity is the tricky part…
The people you associate with have a dramatic and vital role in how you think, the beliefs you develop, and the ultimate choices you make in your life. Jim Rohn famously suggested your income would be the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Let me take that further and suggest that this principle holds true in all areas of your life. Your level of wellness, the quality of your relationships, your marriage and even your happiness will be the average of your "sacred circle” – the five people or couples you spend the most time with.
Do you share a cubicle for eight hours a day with a negative asshole? One of your five spots is already spoken for. Are you in an abusive or controlling marriage or relationship? Two of your five are taken. Now you’re in a difficult position and down to only two options.
The first option is trying to find three friends who are so angelic, saintly, and positive that they can override all of the negativity you’re being exposed to in your other two core relationships. Or option two, which is to remove some or all of the exposure you’re receiving from the two who are toxic. Which takes us back to my friend and her dying mother…
The friend in question had been the victim of incest by her stepfather. When she repeatedly went to her mother about it, her mother first denied it, and after the evidence became no longer deniable, she then suggested her daughter was responsible for bringing it on herself. Then for the next 40+ years, this mother has been playing emotional rackets and mentally abusing her daughter. Literally I could write chapters on the other negative and dysfunctional abuse this dying woman has heaped on her family but prefer not to revisit all that. The point is, this woman is so toxic and harmful to the people around her, some of them (like my friend), need to completely remove her from their lives.
This is not about forgiveness. As you’ll see in the next chapter, an important component of your prosperity requires you to forgive those who have harmed you. I had helped my friend work through that, and she has already forgiven her mom. But I believe that being around her mother is simply too detrimental to my friend’s mental health to do so.
Life is way too short to allow soul-crushers into yours.
I believe the path to enlightenment is a continuous progression of “upgrading” the people in your life. This is also a necessary element of creating a radical rebirth for yourself. You achieve this by judiciously protecting your mindset, including limiting your expose to negative and/or toxic people.
It’s important to understand the distinction between negative and toxic. Some people are simply negative. They’re infected with limiting beliefs, so their default setting on most things is skepticism or doubt. These are the people who tell you to “be realistic” or “don’t get your hopes up.” It’s important that you’re aware where the people like this are coming from. They may love you and want the best for you, but still subconsciously are influencing you in negative ways. If you’re mindful of this, it’s not that difficult to counterprogram the negativity. But you may find the best approach is to reduce the amount of time you spend with them.
Often this happens naturally, as people move away from each other and interests change. Other times, you have to proactively and mindfully make this happen. This isn’t about being arrogant or thinking you are better than other people. (Although in many cases, you might be.) You have to recognize that different people are on different journeys.
Your best bud, who was the drummer of your rock band in high school, may not be going the same direction as you, when you guys are 35. People who are your drinking buddies when you’re 20, may not be an empowering influence on you when you are in your 40s. Different people grow to different levels of awareness, and reach them at varying speeds.
One of the most disappointing things about choosing a path of personal growth and development is that not everyone in your life will also choose this path. You will start to notice that some of the people surrounding you are not keeping up.
Recognizing this, you realize that there are some people you need to start lowering your exposure to. Maybe instead of meeting for dinner once a week, you change to every other week, or once a month. There may be groups, or social events, or specific environments that you decide to reduce your participation with.
At the same time, you consciously work to find and attract people who are operating at a higher consciousness, that you can bring more into your life. When you become serious about self-development and personal growth – you actually make this a conscious, mindful process.
You don’t create criteria of a certain net financial worth, but you do look for people who are manifesting prosperity, harmony, and abundance in their lives. You look to bring them into your life and think about how you can add value to theirs.
At other times, there are people in your life who are toxic. Toxic people could have serious mental issues, they’re determined to be a victim so they “fight dirty,” or they are actually evil and want to abuse, control, or sabotage your happiness and success.
One of the most chilling realizations you can come to, is when you have someone in your life that is so toxic and/or abusive, you need to completely remove them from your world. But remove them you must. Because your mental health, happiness, or even your life may depend on it.
In the case of abuse, you are facing danger to your life. Abusers left unchecked often get progressively more dangerous and violent. And they are experts at manipulating their victims and leading them to believe it is their own fault.
No one has the right to emotionally, physically, or sexually abuse you. No one.
Maybe your religion teaches you that you must stay in a threatening relationship no matter what is happening to you. That’s simply cult-level, brainwashing bullshit. Maybe you believe because someone is your blood relative or spouse you must accept whatever they throw at you. That’s more craziness. (And they will attempt to use your guilt against you to hold you down further.) There really are situations where it is appropriate, even necessary, for you to completely remove someone (even a family member), from your life forever.
You are born with the inherent birthright of living a life of prosperity. Don’t let anyone steal that from you.
If you feel physically threatened, you need to seek out the authorities and mental health professionals. Hopefully you’re not facing physical harm or abuse. But there may be people in your life who don’t pose a physical threat, but they are extremely dangerous to your mental health, harmony, and prosperity. They are soul-crushers.
Soul-crushers have let their dreams die, leaving them with nothing but jealousy, bitterness, and cynicism. They simply won’t stop until they crush your soul. Some of these soul crushers do this because they are your “friends” and they think they’re saving you from yourself. You need friends like this, like Boeing needs a screen door in a 777. Some of these people try to crush your soul because they are not your friend. They will ridicule your aspirations, and even try to sabotage your results, because if you become successful, happy, and prosperous – you take away all of their excuses.
You’ve got to detach from these people as rapidly as possible. You can try and drift away in a gradual, unnoticed way. Or sometimes you might need to tell them, “I love you and want the best for you, but I cannot allow myself to be around you any longer. Your negative, cynical view of the world colors everything you do, and I don’t want to be infected by that mindset.” Then move on and replace them with people who bring more positivity to your life.
You do not need more input from people who want to tear you down, tell you why what you’re doing is a bad idea, or why it won’t work. You’ve got plenty already! These people may mean well, they may not. But either way they are harmful to your self-esteem. So be mindful who you interact with and make an effort to spend more time with people who build you up. (Note: That includes stopping by this blog regularly. Since I don’t have a regular schedule for posting, I suggest you enter your email in the box on the right side of this post that says, “Stay Connected.” Then you’ll get an alert when there is a new post.)
With all this in mind, take an inventory of the people you are spending a lot of time with, online and off. How would you rate their default setting towards money, success, health, and happiness? Are there people you need to release – to create the new you?
Most people want to be surrounded by others who give them permission to stay the way they are. That was the old you. For the new you, strive to be surrounded by people who challenge you to become a higher and better version of yourself.