We Americans are passionate consumers and acquirers of stuff!
The Los Angeles Times once reported that our homes contain an average of 300,000 items! At the same time, we are fascinated with getting rid of our stuff. The book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, written by Japanese home organization expert Marie Kondo, is a global bestseller. Apparently, 4 million of us want help eliminating the objects in our lives that do not, as the book says, “spark joy.” This speaks volumes about our consumer culture, but it also reveals an underlying obsession with cyclical change: We purge the old to bring in the new.
Guess what? You can’t make room for new things unless you clean out the old ones. The same concept applies to your business relationships. I’m a big fan of letting go of some business relationships every year – the bottom number or percentage and the frequency are up to you. That’s because although many of these relationships were highly relevant and made sense at a different point in your journey and growth, they no longer provide value or may even be costing you other opportunities. In the corporate world, I advise global clients to triage their customers so that the most attention can be paid to and the highest investment made in the most loyal and highest potential customers.
I would never coach you to abandon all of your business relationships! And I don’t advise you to abandon all habits. But some relationships are holding you back, and some people are taking advantage. Which relationships should you continue to develop, and which should you gently let go of? I’d suggest some of your relationships need to move on (be fired) if they continue to demonstrate the following bad behaviors:
1.Are constant complainers, never happy, often problem-prone about the most inconsequential matters!
2.You’re not learning, growing, or feel like you’re at your best around them; they’re simply not contributing to elevating your personal and professional brand!
3.They’re fundamentally an opportunity cost – every minute you spend with them is one you’re not spending with other valuable relationships.
4.They’re engaged in unethical or questionable activities, ventures, partnerships, or industries!
5.They no longer match your mission statement, values, and the direction you want to take your life.
Of course, I don’t recommend that you jilt longstanding relationships simply because they aren’t your cup of tea anymore. Many of my most successful relationships have outpaced their peers in income and social status. The happiest among them know how to maintain old relationships without awkwardness. They gain more respect, not less, by keeping their old connections.
When I talk about relationships to eliminate, I’m talking about relationships that are consistently, poisonously negative, and are extremely unlikely to change. This category includes people who regularly belittle others, people consumed by addiction, or people who make dangerous ethical lapses that could compromise our livelihoods. It also represents relationships with groups that are bringing us down. I’m a big fan of dropping memberships in organizations that are downers, meant only for commiseration and cementing a sense of victimhood. I also suggest avoiding negative or depressing publications. If quitting them cold turkey is hard to do, realize that you can achieve just about the same effect by drastically restricting your time with them in frequency, duration, and intensity.
In professional settings, it’s not terribly hard to cut ties with people or groups who are bringing us down. Eliminating a long-term, personal relationship is much harder, of course. Sometimes it isn’t even possible.
We sometimes must accept coworkers who complain or lash out. Perhaps the person comes with the job. Many people love their work so much that they’ll accept a boss who does this. (Yet if you don’t love your work, that’s a futile tactic.) It’s almost impossible to ignore a hovering mother or domineering father (or vice versa).
Unless you decide you’re going to cut them off forever, you have to find a way to accept the feuds at family gatherings—or the other trouble they tend to cause. In many relationships, you can anticipate these dynamics, prepare for them, and be at peace in your tolerance of them. If you don’t accept the things you can’t change, you’ll forever be stressed and unhealthy.
Eliminating relationships from our lives isn’t—and shouldn’t be—a cut-and-dry task. A gradual process in most cases is better than an abrupt stop. Here are a handful of questions you may want to consider in your delibrations:
1.What life do I envision for myself a year from now? Is this relationship an enabler or an inhibitor of that vision?
2. If I had the chance, with whom would I like to meet and develop a stronger or more meaningful relationship? Is this relationship hindering progress in that direction?
3.With regards to this relationship, what am I accepting as a necessary evil or as an obligation I impose on myself?’
4.And, finally, when it comes to making decisions about keeping or eliminating this relationship, am I using my own metrics for progress and success or someone else’s?
Remember your clothes closet; you can’t fit new outfits in if you don’t donate the ones you haven’t worn since 1972 to Goodwill! Just say’n… David Nour