Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Choosing Your "Top Ten"

This week, lessons, messages and reminders about change are absolutely everywhere around me. Or maybe I'm just a bit more sensitive to them than usual. My "departure from corporate America" odometer is about to tick over the one month marker. I am a week out from celebrating another year of life on this big, bad earth. I am garnering new friends and clients and I am serving witness to what seems like a hell of a lot of changes going on in the lives of the people around me. A self-professed "lover of change," I'll admit, even I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. But the truth is, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Change is growth. And if there's one topic that I'm a dog with a bone, it's growth and self-actualization. As far as change goes, there are two kinds: proactive change and reactive, happen-stance, "so that happened," change. The kind of change I'm busy concerning myself with is the proactive kind. The other kind is going to happen regardless, so I don't bother wasting too much time on it. Instead I try to roll with it and make the best of it. Case in point: someone cuts you off in traffic... I need to change my speed and I'll use this time to practice some meditative breathing. The more interesting and challenging kind of change, is the kind where I turn my car in a different direction and chart off on a new course. That self-inflicted change, now that's the juicy stuff.

Yesterday I read the following from a study out of the New England Journal of Medicine, "you are the average of the 10 people you spend your most time with when it comes to your physical health and happiness."

Read that again. I did. Let that sink in. I mean really sink in.

Think about the ten people you surround yourself with most regularly. Are they good eggs? Are they bad influences? Or worse, are they toxic? I am all about taking responsibility for one's life and a part of that means knowing when you need to cut bait. It doesn't mean you need to disown your family, break it off with your main squeeze, quit your job or go off and live like a monk, but if we become the company we keep, then evaluating that crew is a pretty important "to do" on the list.

If you look at your current "Top Ten" and they don't look very tops, then let me encourage you to let your mind wander and imagine how different things could be if you freed up some space for a few winners. Some people who can serve as catalysts, motivators, inspiration, etc. I'm guessing that all of us have a few Debbie Downers in our circle that we feel inclined to keep. The good news is, this isn't a fantasy sports draft where you're locked in with a couple of keepers that then go on to have a season ending injury. Nope. This is your dream world baby and you're the Commissioner. Trade up!

Now, I know what you may be thinking... "but Shelley, this sounds so callous and judgmental... and how would I even start this process?" Don't worry, I'll take the blame for it sounding bitchy and I've even outlined a handy-dandy five-step process to get you going:

  1. Make the list -- write out the 10 people you surround yourself with / interact with most regularly (both willingly and unwillingly - e.g., you are around co-workers because of circumstance, etc.)
  2. Pick your keepers -- categorize, yes, categorize, the people on your list. Give the keepers a cute little "K" next to them and the trades a "T" or if you prefer to call them drops, give them a "D." Don't worry, we're not showing this list to any of them, anyway. 
  3. Start -- that's right, get started. From this point forward make the conscious decision to prioritize more of your time for your keepers and less for your trades. 
  4. Find some "W's" -- go after a few additional winners. We all need a strong bench in case someone gets injured or decides to go to a different city. Don't know where you might find some of these winners? Easy enough: go to where you think they'll be. Want to become a world class bowler? Sweet... I guess. Go to the bowling alley. Get curious and talk to people. Better yet, join a bowling league. Surf some bowling sites (do those, exist?) You get my drift.  
  5. Honor your decision and ditch the guilt -- I once heard the analogy that we should evaluate relationships like a bank account. If you have someone that is always putting in deposits and building you up, this is good. But if you have someone that empties your account and racks up a boat load of overdraft fees, this is obviously no good. It may sound crass to evaluate other human beings in such black and white terms, but at the end of the day it's about you taking ownership and choosing the environment and all the little creatures in it, that you want to not just coexist with, but flourish alongside. If someone isn't adding value to your life (or you to theirs, for that matter) it is likely a dysfunctional relationship that needs the boot. 

Now, enough talking. Go forth and build your dream team. And as one of my all time favorite movie scenes says, "choose wisely..." it's the only way to the holy grail. 

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