As Human Beings we are social animals. We do better together. Now you might say that you are an introvert and you re-energize better when you are on your own. I’m very much like this but that doesn’t mean I don’t need my village around me. Our relationships are key to the growth, love, support and fulfillment we need.
Sometimes, we invest our energy in the relationships that have the least impact on our well-being, spending far too much time on the ones that should be on the periphery of our social circles, like that feud with a coworker that consumes the conversations with your partner or best friend. Taking the time to recognize which relationships fit into which sphere of our lives allows us to take stock of any adjustments we might need make to ensure we are investing our time and energy in the right relationships.
As mentioned previously, I’ve been following the guide from the book Minimalism by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields-Millburn. They help you to categorize your relationships based on “proximity” to your heart. Primary, secondary & peripheral.
The primary group would be the people you have closest to you. Eliot used to talk about these as a circle of trust. He always said there should only be one or two people in there however I like to think of it as a small group of people that you would share your dreams, or deepest, darkest with and know you wouldn’t be judged. It could be your partner, parents, siblings or your closest friends. The Minimalist guys refer to these as “the main characters in the movie of your life”.
The secondary group are what I like to think of as your village. They know who you are and a fair amount about you. Closer co-workers, extended family members and other close friends. These are the people that you may not be as intimate with, but care about and trust.
The last group is the periphery, neighbors, people your see at the gym, extended family you might see once a year, those kinds of people. I know in years gone by this group has taken a lot of my energy, a bit like all those coming of age movies where there is the young teenager that wants to be popular and ditches their somewhat geeky lifelong best friend for the “cool kids” when they start to get noticed. Think “Mean Girls”. Dont get me wrong, you want to maintain these relationships but to a much lesser extent than the other ones.
Once you’ve identified which circles your relationships are in, you should then decide whether they are having a positive, neutral or negative impact on you. By taking the time to assess our relationships, it can help to identify whether we are putting our time and effort into the ones that really mean the most. If you have a relationship that is on the periphery that is having a negative impact on you, it might be time to let it go. If you have one in your primary group that is having a negative impact, you should probably take some time to figure out why and what you can do to change it or even take the decision to push it out to the secondary or periphery. Conversely, if there is a relationship that that is having a positive effect, you may want to consider if you want to develop it further.
I know this sounds all very analytical and practically it might be a little harder to do but even having an awareness can mean we are a little more conscious about it. It means that our energy will be invested in the relationships that will have a bigger impact on us, remembering in the long run that we want strong, positive relationships with those closest to us and to spend more time on those than the barista that makes our coffee. (Although, you definitely want to make them feel like they mean the world to you ?)
So take some time, take out a pad and pen, list the people in your circles and then figure where you are and then where you need to focus your emotional energy. You might be surprised how some little tweaks and a bit of conscious effort can change your perspective, make you feel a little less emotionally drained and perhaps ready to let go of some of the relationships that aren’t providing value.