The new year is a time for cleaning out the clutter.
It’s when we throw away the pants that no longer fit, the shirts that are out of style, the files we’ll never read.
We resolve to get happier, to get healthier.
We decide to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to shed those holiday pounds.
I suggest there is something else to shed…that will make you lighter, more energized.
I suggest it might be time to shed some people.
I pause here to say that shedding people isn’t an easy thing.
This is especially true around the holiday season, when we spend quality time with our families and ring in the new year with our friends.
This is also a time when we reflect on things that work for us, and hold them tight…and when we reflect on the things that weigh us down, and let them go.
This goes for people, too.
People wind up in our lives for all kinds of reasons.
- We are born in the same families.
- We grow up in the same classrooms.
- We travel in the same circles.
Many of these people last a lifetime, and should.
Many last a lifetime, and shouldn’t.
- We find that our best friend is miserable in her marriage, and seems to take delight when our own relationship goes a bit sour
- We find that our co-worker has become a chronic complainer, that his constant negativity has caused us to hate our job, too
- We find that the book club we loved so much has become a gossiping circle – one where we ourselves indulge in the drama
It’s funny, when it comes to being part of a couple, “shedding people” is a process that’s understood.
We start with a date, we become a couple, perhaps we marry and – in those cases when it’s no longer a fit – we break up.
Yet when it comes to friends and colleagues, there is no official end phase.
There is no break-up process we all understand.
And so we collect people throughout our lives and just assume they should stay there.
Even as our needs change. Even when they are no longer good for us.
And so we find our lives cluttered with people who simply shouldn’t be there anymore.
Let me be clear. These people aren’t bad. They may be quite good in their own way.
They just aren’t good for us.
And so we must shed them.
I don’t say this lightly. Shedding people can be tough. It can hurt feelings.
A year ago I experienced it firsthand, when I let a longtime friend go.
I came to the decision after we had lunch together one day.
As I drove away I found that I was feeling a bit icky.
I realized we’d spent our time focusing on the negative, whining about things that irritated us, criticizing others.
And then it hit me. This wasn’t the first time. This was our pattern.
I decided we needed to break up.
It wasn’t easy. I didn’t follow a break-up script. There was no dramatic fight.
I just quietly, subtly, added space between us. I no longer scheduled lunches. I scaled back on emails. I let his calls go to voicemail.
Eventually he got the hint. I suspect he was hurt.
Had he asked, I would have told him the truth – that I needed to be more positive in life, that he and I weren’t good at being positive together.
But he never asked.
People grow. We all do.
We change, evolve, have different needs.
In the end, what we really need is:
- People who support us in all we do, who we can trust to give it to us straight.
- People who will happily dream with us about the things we will achieve, then help us figure out how to achieve them.
- People who want nothing but the greatest of successes for us, simply because they care for us unconditionally.
This week, as you consider your new year’s resolutions -the things you want to quit, lose or shed – think about the people in your life.
Recognize the ones who are no longer the right fit. Consider a break-up.
Yes, shedding people might be the hardest thing you do this year.
It may just give you just the space you need for the great things yet to come.
Now, go do good…and do it well.