Friday, December 3, 2010

Kicking Old Habits

Throughout the week, I converse with a multitude of individuals—ages 14 to 54—from diverse and dynamic backgrounds. No matter the topic, their insights and discourse often teach me some lesson in life. Of course, the tone of their delivery can vary greatly, which is sometimes more interesting than their original purpose. Many of them bear the traits of positivity that spread like wildfire, igniting sparks in the bellies of those who surround them. I thrive in their presence. Some, however, emit a sense of negativity that often pervades an otherwise favorable environment, a bottom-feeder mentality that reeks and yellows the mood like stale cigarettes. Unfortunately, I cannot avoid the fatalists; instead, I just observe them, take note, move forward.

Recently, a friend wrote a missive about the effects that others have on our lives. His words truly hit me, for I feel as though we often choose to spend valuable time in our lives with negative people, when we do have the choice not to. I confess that I have committed this sin in the guise of being “proper.”

Steve wrote: “It is a peculiarity of human relationships that it is virtually impossible for one individual to have a lasting positive influence upon members of a group of negative thinkers. Usually, it works the other way. You cannot maintain a positive attitude if you spend all your time with negative people. Those who have wrecked their own lives are not the kind of people who will help you achieve success in your own life.”

Far too often, friends reveal that they are unhappy in their marriage, unhappy with their colleagues, unhappy with their family. So what is one to do? Stay in the situation? Maintain the relationship because it is what we’re supposed to do by societal standards? If so, how can we ever find success?

To me, the answer is to simply do what’s best for oneself, not for anyone else. People who call it selfish are selfish themselves, for they cannot appreciate that we need to do in order to positively live our lives. There are people who we must weed out of our lives for their negativity saps the energy that we need to spend on ourselves and our personal growth. To criticize anyone for choosing to do what's best for themselves is more egocentric, so long as such decisions are not affecting the safety and welfare of our very young.

Of course, I cannot extract myself from every Debbie Downer and Badmouthing Bob who cross my path. But I can surround myself with those who “get it” and will help me attain my goals, to find my greater purpose, to become whole.

Dumping emotional and psychological baggage gives us a sense of catharsis. It’s like kicking an old habit. My goal is to continue supporting my friends and family who need to kick their habits, and not be judgmental about the choices they make to help them be better, happier people.

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