If you’re a fan of Tim Ferris, then you’ve definitely come across the 80/20 rule. He didn’t originate it of course, but he applied it to something I hadn’t realized before: that 20% of the people in your life, cause 80% of your unhappiness and stress. Once I realized this, I took immediate steps to remove them from my life. Below are some of the types of people I discovered, very slowly, were in fact toxic. Much of these traits were only obvious to me in hindsight, and I’m positive that as I meet more people, more red flags will go unnoticed for far too long. But the time spent with those people, good and bad, is gone; it’s a sunk cost. Having spent a lot of time with them does not justify spending more time with them. So if any of the below descriptions remind you of someone in your life (no mater how close you may be with them), explore them thoroughly. Then, when the time comes, be decisive. Make a commitment to being a better person today.
The False Dreamer
False Dreamers are a lot like alcohol. Each time to you get together, they build your confidence, make a lot of promises for tomorrow, and justify the inaction of yesterday as not the right time. You feel great when you’re together, and as a result, you get together almost daily. But somehow, none of those promises come true. None of the feats attempted. None of the plans planned, much less executed. There’s always an excuse for doing it later. They’ll always convince you that you simply can’t start until months into the future, just long enough for you to forget. Once you’ve forgotten, or just before, you’ll be set down another path of false hope, and the cycle continues. Until you wake up one day an alcoholic; drinking the same thing every day, riding the high that ‘someday’ you will be better.
Removing a False Dreamer
The easiest way of course is to be upfront and honest. Break off ties with them when you realize what they are doing. If you need a bit of a push, let them do it for you. Decide what your goal is, let them boost your confidence and raise a toast, but don’t drink to it. Instead, right then and there, start writing down what you will do today and tomorrow. Maybe pull out your phone and sign up for a gym membership, or apply to that culinary program on the spot. They’ll applaud you, all the way until it’s time to go. The first time you try to go to the gym or study instead of going out to dinner/getting drinks/party/just hangout there will be resistance, expect it. They’ll tell you that you can do it tomorrow, or next week. This is the hardest part. This is when you decide to be better. And the next time will be harder, and harder. Until finally, you have to be straight forward and honest with them. You’re going to be better, and stop talking about being better.
The Alternative to the False Dreamer
There are real dreamers out there. When you find one, you’ll notice the difference. You’ll gather and talk about being better, but instead of raising a toast they pull out a journal to write down steps to take. The next few days they aren’t available, because they are taking the most immediate steps possible. They may not succeed. In fact, there are many failures along the way. But their biggest differentiator is that they try. They continue to strive.
The Villainizer will build you up by tearing down everyone else. Rather than work on improving your flaws or shortcoming, they are masters at shifting the blame to anyone else involved, no matter how far removed from the situation they may be. It is the professors whose at fault for your failed exam, the doctor for your bad eating habits, and your boss for your car trouble. You’ll leave their company feeling much better about yourself, without having to waste time putting effort into actually becoming better. Rather than work to the top, they dig out the ground all around their feet, in order to create the illusion of being on top. Once you step back, you’ll realize that they’ve only succeeded in isolating the two of you from reality, carving out your very own island.
Removing the Villainizer
Removing a Villainizer will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done in your life. At one time, you basked in the euphoria that was shifting blame, but during that time they were collecting all of your fears, self-doubt, and the parts of you and your life that made you self-conscious. Each one will come back to you in a flurry of rage and tears. There’s no way around it, you’ll have to face all of them, and in doing so, you will already be a better person. These are things you should have dealt with at the time, but they were swept under the rug. My advice is that you be direct. Make known of your intention to leave the island that you helped create, and never look back. Don’t read the text messages, don’t listen to the voicemails, and don’t read the Facebook chats. Practice ignoring them first, then slowly block the channels abused most. Understand that you are now the villain in their eyes, as well as anyone else that may actually be good for you. Be open with those people around you about whats going on, and let them know that they may be confronted by them in the aftermath. Your spouse, your friends, or anyone else may be pulled in. This will be hard. But it will be worth it.
The Alternative to a Villainizer
The alternative is someone who helps you face your shortcomings head on, in the moment and honestly. They would rather risk your relationship, than see you blinded by shifted blame and false encouragement. Rather than feel great after being together, you may feel frustrated. Growing pangs can be frustrating. Of course, if you’re always being criticized, that’s a problem as well. What you’re looking for is someone who encourages you to try, and then helps you to try better when you fail.
The Habitual Victim
The Habitual Victim will build you up, by tearing themselves down. You’ll leave much of your gatherings with a subtle sense of guilt and pity. They will always go with you part of the way, wanting you both to be better, only to fall behind, having tripped and sprained their ankle. Then they guilt and beg you to come back and help them. They hold you back, under the guise of pushing you forward. They’ll initiate something with you, and always seemingly fail just before they actually start. You’ll continue forward but your guilt slows you to a crawl. You don’t want to leave them behind, so you comfort them. You slow down. And eventually, you stop moving forward all together.
Removing the Habitual Victim
Removing an Habitual Victim is much easier than removing a Villainizer. What you’ll deal with most is guilt. Don’t let this guilt become anger, subsequently cause you to lash out. Afterwards, you’ll find yourself justifying further that the HV truly is a victim, and your guilt will be increased even further. The steps are simple, be direct. But again, if you need to ease into it, give them the chance once more to come with you, but when they fall prey to some self-imposed failure, keep going. Don’t stop because they didn’t get accepted to the program also; don’t stop because they got injured and couldn’t train for the race with you; don’t stop because their distant relatives-friend-spouse passed away, and they need you to cancel your first solo trip abroad to be comfort them. You have your own fears to overcome, and theirs shouldn’t increase the height to your own hurdles. Keep moving forward. Keep being better.
The Alternative to the Habitual Victim
The person you want to find instead is someone with their own goals, their own motivation, and their own fears. People who go with you part of the way, before taking their own path for a while. Someone who encourages you with tales of their own success and failures (which should always include work arounds to eventual success). This person won’t hold your hand, and won’t expect you to hold theirs. They will make you better by showing you that they themselves can be better (not be confused with being better than you). The only guilt you’ll encounter with these types of people stem from the feeling that you may not be trying hard enough. It should be small, and just enough to push you just a little more in the right direction, and not a demoralizer. The right person won’t make you feel like a failure, but won’t stand idle and wait for you to get up either.
Please keep in mind that, as with all lists of this nature, these are generalizations. People are very complicated, but are brains want to tack on stereotypes to make them simpler. You may have people in your life that are a mix of the generalizations above. The whole point of this article is to help you pinpoint the people in your life that are keeping you from becoming better than you are now. Keeping them around is much easier, and obviously much more comfortable. If one or more of these people turn out to be a family member, stepping away from them is going to be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. There will be tears, heartache, and a lot of other emotions. And years from now, you will consider coming back, to try and mend those burnt bridges. But when you arrive, and look across to the other side, you’ll see very quickly why you left. I’ve stood there before, and every so often I visit that spot to remind myself of how far I’ve come, and far I can go. How far I will go.