Do you have big plans and big goals for your life? Do you want to live the good life, the dream life and are prepared to fight for it? Excellent. If you really want to reach the stars, there is one very important fact you must know.
The culture of the environment you function in eats your visions, goals and strategy for breakfast. How you act and consequently also the potential you can achieve in life is always the result of your personality and your environment. So you must constantly improve yourself, but you must also make sure you choose the right environment for you to thrive.
Your success = the best version of you + the right environment (markets, relationships)
To prosper in life, you need to be a part of something that feels like home and natural to you, and enables you to flourish, develop and grow. You need an environment with ideal conditions for you go after the big goals you have in life.
You need an environment that supports you in achieving your goals, an environment where you fit in perfectly and that shoots you right among the stars.
There are many parts of your environment that have an influence on you, like your country, political stability, demographic trends, dominating religion, access to healthcare etc. (here are all of them listed) but there are two environmental factors with the strongest influence:
- the markets you choose and
- the relationships you form.
Markets always win. Markets can make you or break you. And people you let close in your life can make you or break you. Who knows what happens after death, but people can make your life heaven or hell on Earth for sure.
Relationships are heaven or hell on Earth. Good relationships can make your life really worth living, and crappy people in your life can make you suffer, really suffer and drown in misery. Thus you must forge your relationships very carefully; and make sure you only have healthy relationships in your life.
Good relationships can make your life really worth living, and crappy people in your life can make you suffer and drown in misery.
In this article you will learn:
- Why relationships are heaven or hell on Earth
- Different types of relationships and why they matter
- What you should expect from different relationships
- How to choose who to spend time with
- How to find people who will support you in life
What are healthy relationships
Let’s start with defining what a healthy relationship is. First of all, mistakes happen in every relationship, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship.
Nevertheless, a relationship can be deep and strong, or shallow and superficial. And even more importantly, a relationship can be a healthy or a toxic one.
Here are the signs of a healthy relationship:
- Both people have the center on themselves and only then is a relationship formed
- You share similar values and interests and you create, have fun and experience things together
- There is a high level of tolerance, transparency, trust and respect
- You listen to one another and show sensitivity to feelings and needs
- There are always more dimensions present in a relationship
- You encourage each other to constantly improve and achieve personal goals
- The investment into the relationship is close to 1:1 from both sides
- You communicate with active constructive responses 80 % of the time and you communicate a lot about the important things
- You hold each other up when tough times come
- In intimate relationships, there must be love and sexual attraction
Don’t just read the statements and agree with them. Ask yourself the right questions for every relationship you have in your life.
What kind of activities are you doing together? Are you treated as an equal and with dignity? Are you asked for your opinion about important life decisions that influence both parties? Are you being constantly criticized? Is there a high level of trust?
As mentioned, there are always errors in relationships. No relationship is perfect. But there is a limit when too many repeating errors make a relationship toxic.
If there are patterns like severe criticism, contempt, rudeness, meanness, jealousy, insulting, degrading, blaming, guilt-tripping, criticizing, physically acting out, the person constantly repeating themselves, a relationship is definitely toxic.
Now, a toxic or abusive relationship has many negative consequences. It can literately suck the soul out of you. It can make you a zombie. Misery loves company!
First of all, it takes a lot of energy, then it hinders your self-confidence, in abusive relationships there is always an absence of strong foundations of love and support to go after your goals, you become depressed, bitter, you start doubting yourself and sooner or later you start drowning in the victim mindset.
On the other hand, healthy relationships provide you with strong foundations and roots to go after your goals. With a healthy relationship, you know you have a place to go when things go wrong, you are always encouraged and supported.
With many healthy relationships, you feel strong, grateful and alive. It’s definitely the best thing you can have in life.
Different types of relationships
Now that we know what a healthy relationship is, let’s look at the most important relationships you will forge in your life. Love and work, that’s all there is. Consequently, we have personal and professional relationships.
There are, of course, also different levels of intimacy in every relationship, from professional, to being only acquaintances, to being friends, friends with benefits all the way to real intimate relationships. You can experience different types and levels of a relationship with the same person.
But you probably already know that from your own experience. All in all, what’s more important is that there are six relationships that shape your life the most:
- Family (primary/secondary)
- Coworkers / Co-founders
- Mentor / Mastermind group
The more ambitious you are, the more you need the right environment that supports your ambitions – professional and personal one; besides market trends supporting you (financial, job markets etc.), you especially need a lot of healthy relationships.
A person in a healthy environment and with healthy relationships flourishes, a person in a bad environment withers like an unwatered flower.
When it comes to personal relationships, you must always be aware of your personal power. You can choose most of these relationships in your life. You choose who you’ll spend time with and who doesn’t deserve a spot in your life. Only if you are proactive enough. Actually, you must be superproactive.
But at the end of the day, relationships are your choice. It’s not love’s fault or the HR department’s to reply to your job application or whoever. You should never blame anyone else for having crappy people in your life (authority figures in your youth are an exception, but more about that later).
You want to be in a position to know exactly what kind of relationships you want in life and then going after them. Making a persona of ideal relationships might help you with that. Now let’s do a deep dive into the six most important relationships in your life.
In your personal life, there are three pillars of love and nurture that you need: love from your spouse, your family (primary, secondary) and your friends (community). To be happy, especially in the mature ages of life, you need all three pillars, building them as strong as possible, at least in some form.
You may be single at the moment (and fool around), but you will end up in a serious relationship sooner or later. If not, you’re probably quite emotionally damaged and need to develop a deeper capacity for love and commitment.
It’s hard to get real value out of intimate relationships if you are unable to commit. But that’s a topic for another blog post.
Now, the intimate partner you choose (they’re not brought to you by love or a greater force, you choose them) for the long-term relationship, will have one of the biggest influences on your life. Right after your parents. And I mean a really big influence on your life.
Your spouse can make you or break you. There is no third option. If you constantly fight, if you feel insecure and share no similar hobbies or values, your relationship will drain the energy out of you day by day before you eat breakfast.
Being in an abusive, boring or toxic intimate relationship is one of the most frequent ways to become a zombie (next to having an abusive boss).
So choose your spouse very carefully. Make sure you have similar values, but that there is also an opportunity to grow together. Make sure you have common hobbies and activities you both like, but also different perspectives that enrich you both.
Remember that couples who do things together, stay together. Make sure there is a physical fit, intellectual fit, emotional fit and spiritual fit. It must feel right. Make sure you encourage each other and provide emotional security when things go tough. And know that you have to constantly put effort into a relationship to develop a deeper and deeper bond.
We are all people; we all make mistakes in relationships. That’s normal. It’s not about the mistakes, it’s about a relationship being toxic or not; and whether you’re becoming a better version of yourself because of the intimate relationship you have.
It’s not easy to end a long-term relationship, but it’s often necessary for further personal development and happiness in life.
First of all, make sure your intimate relationship isn’t toxic and that you’re growing together all the time. If you have a hard time deciding whether you should stay together or not, there is a great book called Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, written by Mira Kirshenbaum.
You may not choose who you fall in love with, but you can definitely choose with whom you will stay.
There are 36 questions in the book that should help you decide if you should end a relationship or not. Here are the top questions from the mentioned book that I find important and may help you decide on the quality of your relationship:
- Do you currently share goals and dreams for your life together?
- Have you made a commitment to pursue a course of action or lifestyle that definitely excludes your partner?
- Do you and your partner have even one positively pleasurable activity or interest (besides children) that you currently share and look forward to sharing in the future?
- Does your relationship support your having fun together?
- Would you say that to you, your partner is basically nice, reasonable intelligent, not too neurotic, okay to look at, and most of the time smells alright?
- Do both you and your partner want to touch each other and look forward to touching each other and make efforts to touch each other?
- Do you feel a unique sexual attraction to your partner?
- Does your partner bombard you with difficulties when you try to get even the littlest thing you want; and is it your experience that almost any need you have gets obliterated?
- Do you have a basic, recurring, never-completely-going-away feeling of humiliation or invisibility in your relationship?
- Have you got to the point, when your partner says something, that you usually feel it’s more likely that he’s lying than that he’s telling the truth?
- Do you genuinely like your partner, and does your partner seem to like you?
- Is there something your partner does that makes your relationship too bad to stay in and that they acknowledge but they’re unwilling to do anything about?
- In spite of all the ways you’re different, would you say that deep down your partner is someone just like you in a way you feel good about?
- Do you feel that your partner, overall and more often than not, shows concrete support for and genuine interest in the things you’re trying to do that are important to you?
- Would you lose anything important in your life if your partner were no longer your partner?
- Is there a demonstrated capacity and mechanism for forgiveness in your relationship?
- Has your partner violated what for you is a bottom line?
- If God or some omniscient being said it was okay to leave, would you feel tremendously relieved and have a strong sense that finally you could end your relationship?
These are definitely tough and to-the-point questions that should help you to make the right decision. If you decide to break a long term-relationship or if you are single and want to really find the partner of your life, start building up your sexual market value (after taking time for recovery).
Go to the gym, eat healthy, develop social skills, read a lot and become an interesting person, improve your bed skills, learn how to approach, and so on. Don’t expect “love at first sight” to do it instead of you.
This is a very easy one, if you were raised in a healthy family environment, and a very tricky one if you were raised in a toxic family and you don’t have a deep connection and shared values with your family members.
In any case, family is important and no matter how difficult the situation is, you have to maximize the love you can get from your family ties.
Family is important for many reasons. The early relationships with your mother, father and other authority figures in your youth become blueprints for all your relationships later in life.
Family also gives you the framework for your values; how well you were nurtured influences whether you developed hope, strong will, purpose and industry in life or you’ll be hindered by negative emotions as an emotional midget. Your upbringing also greatly influences your happiness levels.
You can never truly understand yourself without understanding your family roots.
Family should be the one that’s there for you in tragic situations, family should be the one helping you the most financially (inheritance) and it should be the greatest support you have in life.
Healthy relationships with the family
Healthy family presents foundations and roots in your life, so that you can fly high. Family is legacy handed over to you, and you are the one handing legacy down to your offspring, enriched or impoverished.
Now, errors are made in every family, there are always disagreements and differences in values. But there is a limit, where errors are normal and when the environment becomes toxic.
If you have a healthy family, it’s your duty make this pillar of love even stronger, by nurturing good relations with family members and enriching the legacy you will pass on. You have to be grateful, because being born in a healthy family is the greatest security and given advantage in life.
One of the hardest questions in life is what you should do if your family was (or is) toxic. Many of the following blog posts will be dedicated to this topic, but in summary it makes sense to put at least some effort into making things better.
Nevertheless, you have to accept that many things are out of your control and may hurt while giving you no positive outcome. It all depends on whether family members are prepared to see the damage they’ve done at least to some extent or not.
If you had a painful childhood, you first have to work hard on becoming more self-centered, assertive, letting go of the responsibility for painful events from your youth, and you have to work hard on your own life vision and goals and take full responsibility for your life. You must work hard on your autonomy and make sure you aren’t an extension of your parents.
Then, if you want to make your family relationships a little less toxic, setting some strict boundaries and a gentle confrontation are usually necessary. The purpose of the confrontation is not to punish family members and dump negative feelings on them, but to tell them the truth, face them and set relationship rules that are acceptable to you.
Many parents don’t even realize what they’ve done, because they were raised in a pretty similar way. Being honest with them may be a fresh start of the relationship. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. If it doesn’t, you don’t have to forgive. You have to work hard on making sure that your past stops controlling you and that you can focus on the positive things from your upbringing. In many cases, it even makes sense to go to therapy.
I suggest you read the book Toxic parents for more insights what you can do.
And usually there are at least some family members you have good relations with. Maybe you can enrich your relationship with them. If not, you can focus your positive efforts into making a much greater legacy for your secondary family, your kids and your grandkids.
If you manage to change negative behaviors that were transferred from generation to generation in your family, you’ll do a very important and noble job, and you will definitely positively influence the future.
I encourage you to find a way to build strong family foundations. Family is different than friends. It’s a circle where people really deeply care for one another, especially in tough situations, no matter the differences and misunderstandings.
And if you had a toxic family, work hard on improving yourself, read a lot about how to deal with your past and how you can maybe make things better. At the end of the day, you aren’t doing it for them, you’re doing it for yourself.
The third pillar of love in your personal life are your friends. When we’re talking about friends, we must have quality and quantity in mind. Quality always comes first when we talk about relationships.
If you want to be happy in life, you need a few close friends you share interests with, the ones you can really trust and help each other go through life.
Isolation leads to depression and bitterness, so enough socialization with people you care about must be an important priority in your life.
Now, a very important fact is that your friends are a source of great joy in life, but they can also be the source of social pressure. You tend to spend time with people who have similar values and interests as you. When you grow and change, your friends may get scared of losing you and thus put pressure on you.
I’ve seen it many times. For example, you start to eat a healthy diet and they mock you because you don’t want to eat pizza with them. The same can happen if you decide to become a vegetarian or stop drinking alcohol. They may not believe in you if you want to start your own business, because they even don’t know how, being only employees all their life.
So make sure you surround yourself with friends who support you, encourage you, with whom you do productive activities and not just kill time and have fun together.
Fun is an important part of every relationship, but you should also have the privilege of growing when spending time with your friends. And if they are blocking you when you’re making changes in life, make sure you calm down their fears and negative feelings. If they still block you after that, it’s maybe time to find new friends.
Besides quality, quantity also somehow matters. I especially mean always meeting new people, spending time with completely different groups and types of individuals, so your relationships can really be varied and rich.
Remember you can learn from anyone, and more different types of people in your life only mean that they’ll enrich your personality. To achieve that, the number one relationship value you must have is tolerance.
We've covered love, so let’s now move to work. You spend almost 1/3 of your time at the job. There is a zero chance of you being successful and happy in life if you work a job you hate with people you despise.
In business relationships, you have even more room to choose than in personal ones, the only thing you really need is a high enough level of competences.
The three pillars of healthy business relationships that lead to success are an outstanding relationship with your boss, great relationship with your coworkers, and finding yourself a mentor or a mastermind group that helps you achieve your career goals faster.
You should consider which business environments would allow you to deliver the most value, develop your competences to the full in the long run, achieve the position and the renown you want and, of course, achieve your financial goals.
If your business environment doesn’t enable you that, you’ll have to either change it or lower your ambitions. And you don't want to do the latter in the most cases.
Your boss can either skyrocket your career or make your life miserable. Thus there is an important rule that you should never work for a boss you don’t respect. With an abundance mindset, you must be aware that there are many jobs and many good bosses. You don’t want to work for an asshole or a bozo.
Never work for a boss you don’t respect.
If you’re constantly scared of your boss, if you’re being abused, stressed out and treated unfairly, you will never be happy in life; even more, your life will be a living hell.
If something like that is happening to you, analyze very clearly if you don’t choose to be abused because it’s something familiar to you (one of your parents was abusive towards you).
If the answer is yes, start working on yourself, develop your competences, set some boundaries and start looking for a new job if necessary.
Never assume and hope that things will get better by themselves. If you were in an abusive relationship with your parents, you will almost always attract bosses and partners who will somehow be abusive to you, until you set some boundaries and put the center on yourself.
On the other hand, a great boss can give you so much. They make sure your potential is being developed, they mentor you and coach you, they make sure you get promoted frequently for your hard work, you get paid fairly, they help you to develop your social network, and so on.
A great boss can really help you to thrive and develop your career potential to the maximum. So make sure you find someone you’ll be proud to work for and with.
The boss should sometimes be tough on you to get the best out of you, but make sure it’s tough love, not abuse. As mentioned many times before, deep down you know very well if a relationship is abusive or not and why you cling to it.
If you are self-employed or a business owner, your customers are your boss; and sometimes other stakeholders. Again, relationships are extremely important, only in a little bit different way – you have to make sure you provide enough value to the markets, you work for customers you really understand and respect, and that you constantly improve and develop together with markets. Everyone has their own boss.
Coworkers or cofounders
Much like your friends are important in your personal life, so are your coworkers in your professional life. Again, there is a simple rule. Work in a dream team.
Work with people you respect, admire, can learn from, and about whom you can really say “we are a f*cking dream team, we can achieve anything.” A dream team will elevate you to the stars, a bad team will make you into a zombie.
There are probably fewer than 20 % good teams, and fewer than 4 % of dream teams. It’s hard to find or build the dream team. But if you aren’t in one, bitching, whining or complaining won’t help. There are only two options you have. Either find the dream team and join it, or help build one where you currently are and work.
It’s often a tough decision whether you should help build a dream team or join a new one. It depends on your visions, mission, life goals and how much you are willing to invest into a company you work for.
Changing team culture is a tough and demanding process, it usually lasts years, but it’s also a rewarding one, and it definitely enables you to develop superior people skills. I think in most cases, it makes sense to give it a shot, but if there is no progress after a while, it’s probably better to move on.
Become an A-player
Anyway, the first rule of being a member of a dream team is that you are an A-player. Only A-players (or people who work like hell to become A-players) work with other A-players. If you aren’t one yet, start working on it.
Become a role model for others, mentor others and start fueling your team with positive emotions and constructive thoughts together with your boss. If you want to work in a dream team, your competence level must be high and you must know how to be a good team player and, if necessary, show that to others.
Psychological safety is the key factor in healthy relationships
Now, this is the most important part of what makes a team a dream team (even in personal life) – Google did big research on the best performing teams, and their data indicated that psychological safety was critical to making a team work, more than anything else.
In the best teams, members listen to one another and show sensitivity to feelings and needs.
There were two indicators of that. Firstly, members of the team spoke in roughly the same proportion, in other words there was equality in the distribution of conversational turn-taking.
Secondly, all the good teams have high social sensitivity, meaning team members were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues. Now ask yourself if you are that kind of a team member and if you work in such a team.
I worked in an outstanding team and in a bad team. I know that working in a bad team made me depressed, people were doing everything but work, they were gossiping, blocking each other, feeling nothing but anger, envy, disrespect and other negative feelings. After eight to ten hours of that kind of bullshit, you can’t come home with positive energies.
You’re always also a product of your environment, so make sure you choose people you work with very carefully. And make sure you’re a productive and constructive team player. It’s easy to criticize others, but we are usually very forgiving towards ourselves.
Start changing your work environment by changing yourself.
Mentor and mastermind group
The last really important type of a business relationship is having a mentor; or even more of them, a whole mastermind group. Having a mentor often makes all the difference between making it in life or not.
The best athletes and businessmen in the world have mentors. Why wouldn’t you?
Good mentors can help you develop different competences quickly, like business skills, life skills, understanding market insights, they can help you with their social networks, wisdom, by believing in you, showing you the way and bringing out the best in you.
You should know that doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will, and that mentors are by far the best doubt killers. You can find a mentor at your job, hire professional coaches, write directly to people you admire and ask if they are prepared to mentor you, or you can even hire specialists who help you advance in certain areas of life (therapists, personal trainers, etc.).
If there is one way to accelerate you career success, it’s by finding a mentor. So make sure you do that. Some people even take a step further and build themselves a group of people who challenge them, push them and support them in every way.
The concept is called a mastermind group. If you’re really ambitious, build yourself a group like that, and I guarantee you that your career will start to flourish at a much faster pace.
Start building healthy relationships today
Now it’s time to do your homework. It’s time that you change your life strategy from relationships “just happening” to you tactically forging relationships that will help you flourish and prosper in life. And ending those that only make your life miserable.
Make personas of your ideal relationship
The first step is to clarify what kind of relationships you really want in life. So make a persona of your ideal spouse, a few different friends, your boss, your mentor and coworkers.
While doing this fun exercise, also make a persona of your ideal self. For your primary family relationships, brainstorm 5 – 10 things you can realistically do to make them better, instead of outlining a persona.
Assess your current relationships
Now you know what kind of relationships you want in your life. In the next step, it’s time to make an assessment of how close your current relationships really are to what you want in life. Take a big piece of paper and:
- Horizontally, write numbers from 1 to 10.
- Vertically, list 5 – 10 important relationships in your life.
- Rate every relationship from 1 to 10.
- If you rated some relationships between 4 and 7, it means that you can’t decide if they work or not, and that tells you nothing.
- Rate them again, now only with 1, 2, 3 and 8, 9, 10 marks. This will show you whether a relationship really works or not.
- All the relationships marked with 1 – 3 clearly don’t work.
Decide what to do with current relationships
For the relationships that work (got 8,9, or 10), great. Enrich them even more, nurture them and be grateful for them. On the other hand, when it comes to the relationships that don’t work, there are only three options why.
- A relationship isn’t your fit. Irreconcilable differences or whatever.
- It may be that it’s time to let go, it’s time for the relationship to end.
- Your partner, you or both aren’t investing enough into a relationship and you should start doing that.
Based on the analysis, you’ll have to decide which relationships do work and which ones don’t. There’s nothing wrong about ending a relationship in a decent and human way.
Only a few relationships are lifelong relationships. All things come to an end, and there is always the point where you have to move on. So don’t be burdened with guilt and shame when it’s time to move on.
Now you should know which relationships in your life work, which don’t, which to terminate and which to try to improve. Start working actively on that. And simultaneously start forging new relationships.
Start forging new relationships
Prepare a list of your potential mentors. Prepare a list of companies you want to work for. Join different clubs, hobby gatherings, meetups, and so on. Look at your personas and go where people you want in your life are going.
Brush up on your social skills, meet new people, open yourself up to opportunities. You can find people and form relationships that will make your life heaven on Earth. Constantly add new people in your life and always stay open to healthy relationships that can bring so much into your life.
And never forget that at the end of the day, you deserve to have only healthy relationships in your life. Even one toxic relationship is definitely too much. But if you have it in your life, it’s probably your choice. If that’s the case, try to figure out why.