Do You Need to Detox Your Circle?
by Ernest Sears, Jr.
Perhaps you are in transition. You may have completed an online class, taken several college courses toward a degree, finished college, begun work on a master’s degree, worked in a job or a career for a number years, recently made the decision to leave your current workplace, or even decided you might get back into the fray. Nevertheless, you are experiencing a deep dissatisfaction with your life so far. You are searching deep within for meaning and purpose. You ask yourself, Why am I spending my precious years engaged in this job, career, company, relationship?
I have been where you are.
I know the sinking feeling of not being where my soul, spirit, psyche, or Higher Self desires to be. I have sat in front of a PC as a cubicle dweller, desk jockey, manager, director, and vice president, and in each of these positions I have felt deeply unfulfilled. If this is you, why do you feel like this? I’ll tell you why. It’s because you are living per someone else’s expectations, contributing to someone else’s vision, building someone else’s empire – without any indication that any of these pursuits align with your own destiny and purpose.
This is a painful place to be, when your very essence is languishing like a fish out of water, beached on the shores of someone else’s dream.
The toxins in our life that threaten to cripple us take many forms. The well-meaning friend who asks, “Can you afford the risk?” The relative who laments, “I never had the chance, so why should you?” The overt hater who shouts, “You’re not good enough.” And that nagging voice in your head that combines these, and worse.
Most toxins don’t kill all at once; they work over time to weaken the host. The host grows lethargic, then paralyzed, then finally dies of suffocation.
Isn’t this how toxic people and ideas work in our lives, as well? They wear us down and weaken us until we can no longer move or breathe, no longer have the will to live our best lives, and eventually we give up, suffocated. We all know such toxic people, don’t we? And as much as we may hate to admit it, sometimes we are the toxic ones. If you have a sense that a situation is toxic, take a look around the room. If you can’t identify the source, chances are good it’s you.
Most of these toxic elements contaminate our lives without our conscious awareness. To cleanse them from our lives – to detox – requires a level of vigilance and effort many of us have not yet achieved.
Sometimes the toxic substances are in the baggage we carry with us. As we move toward purpose – our vision of what life should be, our destiny – we are constantly challenged to let go of that baggage, to replace the outdated and outmoded programs running our lives. To move forward, we must lighten our load and make room for expansion toward higher levels of wisdom, deeper insights, and the ability to see the horizon more clearly. Often the most difficult thing to do is to let go of those people and entities who have had an important hand in getting us where we are today: relatives, mentors, bosses, friends, organizations, and companies. They have served genuine and important spiritual, emotional, and material ends in the past, but they no longer serve us. We have moved beyond them.
You may have heard an old maxim by an unknown author: “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.” It is our job to figure this out for each person, team, or organization in our lives. We often get stuck because we can’t let go of what’s holding us back. We make decisions based on the old programs still running in the background. We don’t want to upset our fathers by not following in their footsteps, our mothers by not going to medical school or marrying our high school sweetheart, our old mentors by moving into a different career, or … you fill in the blank.
No matter what decision we make, we are probably going to disappoint someone. So, whether in our business or personal circles, we must detox ourselves of these poisonous impulses because we cannot grow into our authentic selves until we do. This is not to suggest that we should be cruel and “ghost” people who are no longer useful to us – that’s just manipulative and mercenary. I do, however, suggest that we may need to re-frame a relationship in a compassionate way, particularly if that relationship no longer speaks to or supports our authentic selves. With sincere gratitude and thanksgiving, we must assign them the appropriate degree of honor and reverence, and then leave them behind in order to fully experience our next level of growth, wisdom, and expansion.
Toxic elements can also be paradigms, ideas, or principles that no longer serve us. Indeed, these ways of thinking may never have served us, but we absorbed them out of convenience, association, or proximity; they’re what we grew up with. How many of us have heard these admonitions in one form or another since childhood?
Don’t make waves.
Don’t rock the boat.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Don’t get too big for your britches.
That’s above your pay grade.
Don’t you know how to follow the chain of command?
Speak only when you’re spoken to.
Don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed.
Stick with what you have.
Don’t take risks.
Don’t go out on a limb.
What do all these phrases have in common? They are limiting; they’re all about playing it safe. Sure, there’s a grain of common sense in all of them, and I would never advise to put yourself in true danger, but sometimes to be your authentic self, you must take risks. After all, the journalist Frank Scully coined the phrase with the opposite sentiment: “Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”
To live as our authentic selves, we must take risks; we must jettison stale ideals, philosophies, concepts, paradigms, principles, and ways of thinking that no longer serve us. New ideas and paradigms are required to move to the new level of insight and wisdom required to be authentic. Adjusting to a new paradigm, though, can be challenging, uncomfortable, and painful, just like a new workout at the gym can leave us a bit sore. Sometimes the most difficult new paradigm to adopt is that we have a right to change the paradigm. That might be the scariest paradigm shift of all. We can’t shift paradigms – or clear space for new growth – unless and until we eliminate the toxic elements from our lives.
To detox means to rid our lives of the people, situations, models, and paradigms that weaken us with the slow drip of poison, the addictive old programs and patterns that prevent us from reaching our goals. We all have goals for the lives we want to live, visions for our destiny, but something always seems to get in the way.
How do you know if you need to detox? Well, if you think you might need to detox, you probably do. But I have identified other ways to figure it out. I call them the 13 Toxic Red Flags. If you see any of the following toxic red flags in yourself or your circle, you likely need to detox. These toxic elements can dramatically influence – and ultimately hijack – your mission to live a life of purpose.
The 13 Toxic Red Flags
2. The Blame Game
4. Unresolved Baggage
6. False Idols
7. Time Killers
9. Snap Judgment
In my new book, Detox Your Circle, Activate Your Destiny, I provide a brief description of each Toxic Red Flag, along with examples of how to diagnose and address each one. The 13 Red Flags represent the free radicals in your body or personal circle that must be addressed or removed to preserve your health, longevity, and effectiveness. I have personally applied these concepts with business partners, acquaintances, friendships, inner circles, and family members.
After spending 22 years in corporate America, building high-performing teams and mentoring leaders who moved on to bigger and better things, I came to realize that it’s not enough to work on yourself alone. Almost everything in business, as in life, is done as part of a team, or a circle. You can be the most enlightened being on the planet, but if even a single member of your team or circle is toxic – or you are – then the rest of the team is weaker for it. You may have heard that the five people with whom you spend the most time are the ones who shape your life, whether at work or in your personal circle. The concepts I discuss in this book are tools you can use to shape your personal circle in a way that all but guarantees you will reach your most important goals.
I learned most of what I know in the context of corporate work teams, but these concepts and management tools can be leveraged in our personal lives to build and cultivate our inner circles, as well. Doing so allows us to surround ourselves with the influence and inspiration to reach the new heights that enable us to live lives of purpose and activate our destiny.
As you embark on this journey, I offer the following suggestions:
- Define reasonable boundaries and rules of engagement.
- Be the team leader of your priorities; that is, don’t let others dictate or control which goals you want to achieve and/or how you go about it.
- Coach with care and communicate with love. To combine kindness with firmness, smile.
Finally, review each toxic element with two goals in mind. First, find the Red Flags in yourself. This will enable you to make the necessary changes and stop being a toxic element in the lives of others (and in your own life). Second, don’t think of people as toxic – think only of their behaviors as toxic. The truth is that we all have behaviors that need to be addressed and eliminated. Focus on the behavior, not the person. If the person’s behavior doesn’t change, you might have to make the difficult decision to distance yourself or limit time with them. You may not be able to permanently distance yourself from certain people in your life – primarily family, at least if they’re not criminally abusive – but you can certainly limit your exposure.
After a couple of years of applying these techniques to my own circles, including circles of friends and business colleagues, I was excited by how much more effective a leader I became, as well as a change agent in my personal life. My unique insight is how to apply what I’ve learned about team dynamics to self-development. Focusing on the work of your own unfolding is the most bountiful, yet gravest of all responsibilities.
At the onset, I had planned to write this book to show readers how to maintain positive, productive, and life-changing relationships. Detoxing your circle requires constant vigilance. Activating your destiny requires the use of an active approach with your circles of influence and eliminating obstacles that jeopardize your vision. As I finished the book, I realized I was no longer writing about maintaining relationships with others, but about transforming the way we relate to ourselves.
The key to Detox Your Circle is to transcend oneself.
During a management career spanning 22 years, Ernest Sears, Jr. worked in C-level roles, garnering numerous awards for coaching expertise and creating winning culture. With a BA in Linguistics from Yale and an MBA from W.P. Carey School of Business, he focused primarily on building cohesive, self-sufficient, high-performing teams in corporate environments. Reaching his own turning point and crisis of meaning triggered the writing of his first book, DETOX YOUR CIRCLE. Ernest is the father of two adult daughters and for the past 25 years has been the life partner of Kiana Maria Storey-Sears. Learn more: DetoxYourCircle.com.