The following is adapted from Dream Architecture.
As financial planners and wealth management advisors, one of the things we love to do most is help design the types of retirement people can’t wait to wake up to. When we talk to our clients about what they want in their retirement, they often tell us that spending time with their families and providing for future generations is important to them.
Sometimes, though, we talk to people who had a family experience growing up that was far from positive. Negative circumstances trap many people in a negative, demoralizing environment. A child who grows up around toxic people is likely to follow that pattern and become a toxic adult—and unless they take steps to change it, that toxicity will follow them into retirement.
If you have never experienced support, you can start by being your biggest fan. You can change your story and your family’s story. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. By implementing these four strategies, you can ensure the legacy of negativity stops with you, and change the narrative of your future.
Creating positivity in our lives—especially if the people around us aren’t very supportive—takes time. The good news is that even small changes can have a big effect.
In his 2019 book, Tiny Habits, B. J. Fogg explains that when we put pressure on ourselves to accomplish too much, we become overwhelmed and procrastinate. A much more effective strategy, he says, is to build tiny habits that reinforce behavior change.
You can make small changes each morning that will start your day off with a positive vibe. Instead of tackling your email in-box right away or doom-scrolling the news, which can be stressful, read a positive quote.
Think about or write down three people and things you are grateful for. Tell yourself an affirmation—for example, “It’s going to be a great day.” Even small actions like these can set the stage for the rest of your day.
Once you’ve adopted a few small habits, consider expanding your positive morning routine. Set aside half an hour to read books and blog posts, listen to podcasts, and watch videos (such as TEDTalks) that are informative and positive.
Then, when you engage in conversations with people, your mind will be full of interesting ideas, and you will exude optimism. As Gandhi said, “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”
If you fill your mind with positive, uplifting thoughts and information, you will be likely to attract more positivity—and more positive people—into your life.
Many people are not intentional about the people they spend time with. People come into their lives as childhood friends, neighbors, coworkers, or in-laws, and they just accept that those are the people in their circles of influence. But you can be more intentional about choosing the people you surround yourself with.
Identify people you admire and respect—people you want to emulate—and reach out to them. Depending on the situation, you might reach out in person or on an online forum like LinkedIn.
Simply tell them that you admire them, and explain what you’re trying to accomplish. Most people will be flattered and will agree to give you some helpful ideas or insights, maybe in one or more brief phone conversations.
Once you’ve connected with someone and set up a phone call with them, have several specific questions ready. Busy people will probably find it frustrating if the conversation gets off to a slow start. At some point, be sure to thank them for their time and insights. Remember, the idea is to cultivate more positive relationships, and expressing your gratitude for the other person’s time is an important part of that.
We have run across individuals who don’t even realize the people around them are stifling their potential joy and prosperity. This comes up for many of our clients when we are helping them plan for their retirement. As many of them find—and you might, too—it is incredibly important to identify what means you will need to support the life that will be most fulfilling to you.
However, issues can arise when the future retiree is more concerned with supporting a family member at the sacrifice of their own success or fulfillment. For this reason, we tell our clients (and we’re telling you) that it is critical to get crystal clear about what you want out of life. Once you do that, it’s easy to determine if each action you consider is in line with the values you said are important to you.
If you keep your eyes on your values, it will be easy to see when someone else’s pleas for help are likely to disrupt your path forward. You have only one life to live. Loving and respecting your family does not include letting them influence you in a negative way and derailing all that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
While each of these steps are helpful in attracting positivity and success into your life, sometimes, you have to go one step further. If you have realized that someone close to you has been influencing you negatively, or not supporting your goals and dreams, it might be time to distance yourself from them.
You could be “busy” every time the person wants to get together. Or you could be more honest and have a difficult conversation with that person. If you decide to take this route, be prepared for them to become defensive.
If you have this conversation, we recommend you begin by framing the situation in a way that does not assign blame to the other person. You could say something like, “When you ([describe what the person says or does), ], it makes me feel ([describe how it makes you feel).” ].” After you have finished describing how you feel, thank the person for listening, and give them a chance to respond.
You cannot control how somebody receives what you say, but you can control your delivery and the way you handle their response. Ultimately, whatever method you use to distance yourself from toxic people, give yourself a pat on the back for taking a huge step toward creating a life filled with positivity, success, and happiness.
For more advice on how to create a successful, joyful, positive life, you can find Dream Architecture on Amazon.
Brittany Anderson is the President of a top wealth planning firm, an influential speaker, and an author. She has spoken on stages across the US, helping people to pursue futures they didn't know were possible. Her insights have been featured in national media outlets such as HuffPost and Women Inc.
Bryan Sweet has been repeatedly recognized by multiple industry publications as one of the top financial advisors in the US, including the Forbes Best-In-State Wealth Advisors, the Inc. Top 5000 list of fastest-growing companies, the Financial Times 400, Research magazine’s Advisor Hall of Fame, and more.
Together, they help their clients realize their greatest dreams for life and retirement at www.sweetfinancial.com.