It’s December, and as the holiday season swings into full gear, chances are you’re getting ready for a party or two. Now, I love parties. I enjoy getting to spend time with the people closest to me, and to connect with new friends. But some parties are more fun for us than others. We look forward to them for weeks, and we’re energized after they end.
Then there are the other parties. The ones we don’t look forward to as much. Some of them, we even dread. And when they’re over, we feel drained. Those parties can end up feeling more like an obligation than a joy.
What is the difference between the two types of parties? In my experience, the first group is filled with people we really enjoy spending time with. The second, not as much.
Now, sometimes a holiday party list can be symbolic of all of our relationships. Which relationships fill us with energy? Which ones drain us? Which interactions do we look forward to? Which do we dread?
This week’s post is about reflecting on our closest relationships. Perhaps no other type of reflection will benefit you more for 2017. As author and speaker Jim Rohn once said, a person is the average of the five people he or she spends the most time with.
My friend, I agree with Jim Rohn, that whoever gets your time shapes your life.
So, here are three essential questions to ask about your closest relationships. Their answers help you determine the way each person lives life. If the people closest to you don’t live in a way that aligns with your own life in these three areas, you need to take a closer look at how much time and energy you give to those relationships.
The Thinking Question: What kind of thinking do they exhibit?
There’s a great verse in the Bible that says, “As a person thinks, so they are.” A person’s thinking is the first question I consider when reflecting on our relationship. You see, there are three types of thinkers: abundance thinkers, realistic thinkers, and negative thinkers. The first two types see life through a lens of possibility. Abundance thinkers always expect and pursue the best possibility. Realistic thinkers have the ability to see all possibilities, weigh them equally, and pursue the best one for the situation.
The third type, the negative thinker, sees only the worst possible outcome of any situation. They’re like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh: even if the sun is shining, they’re worried about the effects of too much solar radiation. They have a hard time pursuing positive possibilities because they just don’t see them.
Thought processes matter a great deal, so as you look at the people closest to you, ask yourself: Are they positive, realistic, or negative? If you’re not sure, consider the results of their thinking. Do they regularly pursue possibilities, or are they somehow stuck worrying about negative outcomes? We tend to mimic the thinking of the people we spend the most time with, so it’s important to be around positive and realistic thinkers.
The Value Question: Do they add value or subtract value?
Adding value is one of my most important goals in life. I see it as my calling. But I also recognize my need to spend time with people who add value to me. Those people are others-focused; they look for ways and opportunities to add value to others.
People who only subtract value are like a cell phone with a bad battery: they constantly need someone else to charge them up. They extract energy, hope, joy, dreams and other good things from the people around them, because they don’t cultivate those qualities within themselves. Spending time with them feels like a constant drain on your energy.
So ask yourself about the people closest to you: Do they tend to add value to me at least as much as I add value to them? Or do they mostly take from me? You can’t sustain a life of growth if you’re constantly giving your life to someone else. So while you can’t completely avoid people who drain you, you need at least as much time spent with those who recharge you.
The Action Question: Do they do what they say?
The final question I want you to consider is all about action. I like football, and one of my favorite things to watch during a close game is the sidelines. I know it sounds silly, but you learn a lot about a team when you watch the players who aren’t in the game.
If a team is close-knit and pulling toward the same goals, you’ll see the players on the sideline bouncing, chattering, equipment at the ready just in case they’re needed in the game. If a team is falling apart, the sideline players will be slumped on the bench, lost in thought, completely disinterested in the action on the field.
My friend, you want to spend the most time with people who do things with their lives. People who are more than talk, who are always ready to jump into the game and pursue a win. So the question you need to ask is: Do the people I’m closest to take action on what they talk about? Idea people are good, but ideas without action are useless. People who follow through show you who they really are – through the things they are committed to, passionate about, and willing to work towards.
It may be too late to bail out of some of those Christmas parties, but each one is only one night out of your life. For the next 365 days, I want to challenge you to spend the most time and energy on relationships that energize and add to your life. Don’t be afraid to pull back from unhealthy relationships, or to eliminate them altogether. To reach your potential, you need more people in your life who are pulling for you, than on you.
(Now, I understand that some relationships in our lives are more permanent than others. You can’t – and shouldn’t – eliminate every draining relationship. But you can put healthy limits on them in terms of your time, energy, or conversation. I believe it’s possible to love and serve everyone, while reserving your inner circle for those who help you be your best.)
Next week, I’ll share some things to consider as you reflect on your responsibilities. But for now, I’d love to hear other questions you might suggest to someone who needs to reflect on their relationships.