Have you ever been excited about an idea, only to have a chronically skeptical friend puncture your enthusiasm? Have you ever started gathering a head of steam towards acting on a goal, only to have someone’s pessimistic perspective slow you down?
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I’m consistently amazed by the impact of the people we surround ourselves with. That impact can propel us towards heights we scarcely dare believe possible, or it can drag us down like crabs in a bucket. Most people don’t give much thought to the environment created by the people the choose to spend time with, which is unfortunate, because it can make or break your success.
Take stock of the people in your life right now. Who is feeding your belief in your potential? Who helps you believe in your own greatness and the possibilities spread out before you? How about the flip side? Who takes a potshot at your dreams any time you let them out in the open? Who can’t help but say, “That won’t work because... .” They may not be malicious in their intent. They may even think they’re trying to help. But the net effect is negative, regardless of their intent.
There is always going to be a mix of positive and negative among the people in your life. The trick is to make the ratio as heavily weighted towards the positive as possible. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Spend more time with the positive ones: This one is simple. If you have people in your life who are positive and uplifting, choose to spend more time with them.
- Request a change: If you want the people in your life to reduce their negative reaction, it’s only fair that you let them know. Tell them how it feels and the impact it has, and request that they refrain from it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of awareness.
- Eject the chronically negative ones: Not everyone will be willing to accommodate your desire for a more positive environment. When that’s the case, make a choice to stop investing the precious few ticks of the clock you have on this planet with people who bring you down. Spend that time with people who help you feel good.
- Seek out uplifting people: The ideas above focus on the people already in your life. To round it out, look for ways to connect with people whose presence will lift you up. Seek out positive people.
It works both ways: If you want the people around you to feed your belief in yourself, it’s worth noting that it works both ways. Spend some time examining what effect you are having on others as well. Are you supporting their potential, or are you raining on their parades? Try making it a habit to look for ways you support other people’s belief in themselves and their dreams.
When it comes to the impact of supporting others, I always think of my friend Erden Eruc, who is currently circumnavigating the world by human power (ocean rowing boat, kayak, bike, and foot) and making a summit attempt on the highest peak of each continent he reaches.
As you can imagine, when Erden first started talking about an early version of the current circumnavigation dream, he met a lot of naysayers. People came up with a million reasons why it wasn’t practical or possible (most of which were simply projections of their own fears).
On the flip side of that, Erden frequently tells the story of the first time he met our mutual friend, extreme adventurer Goran Kropp (who sadly died in a rock climbing accident in 2002). Goran had the ability to make everyone he met feel good about themselves. It was quite magical to watch. When they first met and Erden told him about his dream, Goran’s immediate response wasn’t, “Oh, that’s going to be hard.” It was an enthused, “Great! How are you going to do it? When are you going? Do you have any sponsors yet?” He took it for granted that Erden was able to do it, and reacted accordingly. It was a small interaction, but it was like a bellows blowing oxygen into the fire of belief.
Your belief in yourself and in your dreams plays an enormous role in your potential. Isn’t it worth making a concerted effort to ensure that the people around you support that belief (or at the very least, don’t deplete it)?
After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.