One of my favorite quotes of all time is "Don't make people a priority who only make you an option". I often repeat this quote to myself and have it posted in several areas of my house, as well as my daily planner. It's something I try to remember on a daily basis.
We talk a lot about the toxins in our environment, our personal care products and our food. But there is another place where we can get exposed to emotional and mental toxins, and that is in our day to day relationships with family, friends, co-workers, or romantic partners.
I am always baffled by the amount of people I meet who are religious about what they eat and put on their body, yet consistently choose to remain in unfulfilling or toxic relationships. It's interesting that a person can be so committed to treating their body well, yet completely ignore the interior part of their person, which is arguably the most important!
It's a walking contradiction because our body and mind are so intricately tied to each other. You can be the happiest person in the world, but if your health is suffering greatly, your emotional state will suffer. Likewise, you can be physically healthy, but if you have draining or distressing relationships. your body will get sick. Stress and unhappiness can cause a lot of havoc on an otherwise perfectly healthy body.
Relationships are complicated. Each human being on this planet is so uniquely different from the next. We are complicated, vast and intricate beings who are all attempting to connect with each other. Add to that a wide variety of beliefs, and you have an interesting mish-mosh of interpersonal relationships. The differences and unique individual makeup of our emotions can make for a veritable minefield. In this article, I'd like you to focus on learning to prioritize the people in your life. It's the first step to take in re-examining the relationships in our lives and determining how toxic they are to us.
If you’re reading this, I am going to assume that you’re interested in this subject because you’re interested in leading a balanced, happy and fulfilling life. You might be looking for a way to begin the process of re-examining your relationships. This can feel scary, but it's more important than knowing the level of toxins in your favorite commercial shampoo. True, deep transformation will only occur until you are brave enough to take a deep, hard look at the people in your life and decide if they are contributing to your well being and personal evolution. It can be hard at first, but in the end you are rewarded with a deeper level of satisfaction in your life and relationships.
How do we know who to make a priority in our lives? This is where that quote comes in handy.
Think about how you act when someone is your priority. What do you normally do? You ask to see them. You move your schedule around a bit. You meet them halfway. If the last two times you made plans they came to your house, you suggest that the next get-together be at their house, to make it easier for them.. If you haven’t seen them in a while due to busy schedules, you send them a quick message just to see how they’re doing. These are things we do when we genuinely care for a person other than ourselves. It is genuine care for that person’s wellbeing that drives you to make choices that will leave both of you satisfied with the interaction. It's not just about what you want from that person. It's about connecting and having an energy exchange that both of you will enjoy.
However, there are many ways a person can "make you an option. We all have those friends who always have to have everything on their terms. Do you have a friend who will only spend time with you unless you meet them at the place that is the most convenient to them? Do you have a friend who frequently spills the details of their life but never asks you about yours? Do they frequently turn down invitations or flat out ignore them? Do they cancel on you at the last minute, show up late or simply not show up at all? Do they seem to always have time to spend with other people, but rarely with you? These are all things that you should look at in a relationship, whether romantic, professional, friendly or familial.
Think about the amount of time and energy you are spending trying to maintain a relationship with this person. I will bet that if you look at it honestly, you will see that you are putting in 90% of the effort, and they are only putting in 10%. Is that the type of relationship you want to have in your life? How is that type of a relationship beneficial to your happiness and fulfillment? How do you feel deep down about your position in the relationship? You should feel good. You shouldn't feel confused or like you don't know where you stand. You shouldn't feel drained or frustrated. These are not good signs. The honest answers you give yourself will help you determine if this is a relationship that is worth making a priority in your life.
The best way to determine if someone in your life is a “10 percent-er” is easy—Actions speak louder than words. If a person says they want to see me but they never actually initiate plans, they don’t check in with me to see how I’m doing, they cancel plans last minute, always show up late, etc…then I tell myself that this is something to observe. If I notice that it happens repeatedly over a period of time, I will ask myself if this is really a relationship into which I want to put so much time and energy. It's not about being angry or "punishing" someone for not spending time with you. This should never be the place from which you make that decision. It’s simply acknowledging that the “10 percent-er” in your life currently is not able to give equally to the relationship. It’s a matter of energy efficiency.
Using the concept of energy efficiency I then decide to to cut my own level of energetic involvement with my “10 percent-er” friend and bring it down to par with their level of involvement. So if this person consistently only puts in 10% of their time attempting to connect with me, then that is the amount of time I choose to put into connecting with them. This allows me to maximize the other 90% of my time and spend it with people who actually have time to see me.
As a side note, temporarily cutting your level of involvement with a “10 percent-er” doesn’t always mean completely ending the relationship. Sometimes this does happen, due to the fact that this process can expose people in your life who are there for the wrong reasons (in which case, isn’t that a blessing in disguise?) Just leave the ball in the “10 percent-er’s” court, giving them the chance to reach out to you when they do have time to share an equal amount of energy in the relationship.
If your priority is to live a well rounded, fulfilled and joyful life, applying the energy efficiency concept to your relationships is crucial. In the case of a relationship in which you are putting in most of the effort, you'll find it's not conducive to a sense of fulfillment to put energy into relationships in which you are doing most of the work. It's not fulfilling to feel as though communication with a person is one sided or like you never know where you stand. Life is so short, do you really want to spend it chasing after other people when there are people out there you don't have to chase?
When you decide to make a priority those who make you a priority, your relationships will be much more satisfying. You’ll notice that you are now surrounded by people who are supportive of your passions and dreams in life, and who want to grow with you. There's nothing more satisfying than an equal caring exchange between two people. That's what life is all about.
So, take a look at your relationships and ask yourself honestly, what a person's actions are saying. Actions speak louder than words, and if a person is not making you a priority, it might just be time to make that person an option, and make those who make you a priority, your priority as well.
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