Tag Archives: relationships

Surround Yourself With The Right People

by Kelvin Belfon

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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

The people in our lives matter. They either help us reach our destiny or hinder our growth.

I was reminded of this truth in a recent conversation with my wife Camilla. She’s currently working on a PhD degree in Religious Studies. With an 8-year old, 5-year old, 2-year olds twins, me and a house to care for, how she accomplishes all she does is a mystery to me.

Camilla’s academic workload includes attending classes, writing multiple papers, and sometimes grading and delivering lectures as a teacher assistant. What she’s got going on is more than two full-time jobs. She oftentimes turns nights into days; and even that is sometimes not enough.

I have no doubts in my wife’s abilities. She’s smart and industrious. But as she’s stated along the way, the big key to progressing through this PhD is that she surrounds herself with a supportive network.

An even bigger key for her is that she is mindful of “trimming the fat.” What I mean is that she often de-clutters relationships that are bad news for her so as to maintain a minimalist community based on mutual respect and faithfulness. Camilla has assembled a diverse team of professors, colleagues and friends to serve as confidants as she pursues her academic goals.

The doctoral attrition rate is 50% (or even higher in some cases) according to the Ph.D. Completion Project. Besides lack of financial aid, students sighted the most critical factors to success in a PhD program is the lack of an encouraging “program environment.” In other words, feelings of being isolated and abandoned are overriding causes for at least 50% of PhD candidates dropping out.

What this suggests to me is that education, skills, economic force and family history are all good essential determinators in a person’s ability to flourish. But even more essential is getting the right people orbiting your sphere. So, if you want to be successful, you must take this age-old advice seriously– choose your friends wisely.

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The people on your power team will serve distinct roles. Some will inspire, motivate and highlight your best. Some make great conversation partners for mutual exchanges of strategies, insights and challenges.

Others will not be so easily impressed with where you are. They’ll push you and provide constructive criticism that won’t always feel comfortable. You’ll have to develop a thick skin and not take yourself so seriously around these folks. You’ll have to resist taking offense and judging them when they’re being honest. There’s a difference between a committed mentor and a toxic relationship.

The right people in your life may only surface during a season of crisis. They may be available infrequently, as a quick lifeline. But because of who they are, you may err if you approach them as your best bud. Keeping a respectful distance and not taking up too much of their time communicates maturity and understanding to these kinds of partners.

They might be older, younger, or reside in another zip code. They may not even be a specialist in your field of interest. What makes them golden is that they have a vital perspective because of their emotional distance from your pursuits.

Analyze your social environment. The people in your world are important. Ask the tough questions, “Is this individual interested in my well-being?” “Does she love me genuinely, without strings attached?” “Is he a liability because of the chaos that seems to be a pattern in his life?”

Troubled and drama prone people are everywhere. They encourage underachievement complacency, imbalance, and unhealthy habits. Some can add unnecessary burden to your already busy life, which can end up hijacking your goals and jeopardizes your personal wholeness.

We need people in our lives. They help us achieve more.

But remember…

Surround yourself with smart and encouraging people. Spend time with people who believe in your dreams. Find people who celebrate your accomplishments but are also honest to lovingly push you to your greatest potential.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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7 Healthy Habits to Cultivate…Slowly

by Kelvin Belfon

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The older I get, the faster time seems to just fly away. It was only 10 weeks ago when I began to make plans for the upcoming year. I could not wait! Now it’s the middle of February with only 10 months in the year left. Ouch!

The same is true of my New Years resolutions. These commitments seem to just fly away. Each year I make my typical list…again: Spend more time with the family, pray more, gain weight (yeah, I know, but it’s true), become debt free, and so on.

Then the struggle to stay consistent usually begins around this time of year – February. The enthusiasm starts to slow down and eventually the well-intended promises never make it to the finish line.

The reality is that only 8% of people are successful at achieving their resolutions. Despite this fact, I keep making them, each year. Any accomplishment is better than a life without aspirations, I reasoned.

But over the last 2 years, I’ve made small changes. Instead of resolutions, I’ve decided to focus on cultivating healthy habits to change my lifestyle. The following are 7 habits I’ve been working on slowly.

7 Healthy Habits

Becoming an early riser. I’ve always been a nighthawk, consistently staying up past midnight. And that worked for most of my life. But now, the combination of longer workdays and caring for my little ones have left me exhausted at nights. The switch to rising early was a tough shift. I love sleeping in. But morning is the time when I can be most productive.

Embracing minimalism. In the last 13 years, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of material possessions. The majority has been gifted from my wedding; but later I acquired more on my own every time we relocated. It seems like there has always been a need to customize the new space with new things.

My decision to embrace a minimalist lifestyle has helped create more space, reduced time spent cleaning and caring for things, made our home eco-friendly, and minimized potential debt. But creating room for family and other valuable relationships has been the biggest benefit. In this area, I continue to grow.

Improving my health. I’ve become careless with my diet since moving to America. It’s been more processed foods instead of the normal raw fruits and vegetables. Junk food was cheaper and more convenient. In addition, my exercising routine was non-existent. Returning to a healthy habit of caring for my body was and continues to be a challenge. But I’m taking baby steps like walking more, jogging, and eating raw foods.

Fostering a lifelong learning passion. I had a library with over 5,000 books! But since graduate school, I began to read less, sometimes spending more precious time in front of that rectangular box – the television – than I ought to. Personal development doesn’t just happen by osmosis. So I’ve regained my commitment to reading regularly, exposing myself to new thoughts and ideas.

Establishing relationship boundaries. In the past, I lacked boundaries in my relationships. Because I love to please, I used to have a hard time saying no and letting people know how I really felt. As a result, this was perceived as weakness. I allowed people to control and manipulate my life. It was toxic.

Ending certain relationships, although necessary, was pretty painful. Even so, establishing boundaries by saying no was extremely liberating. I even saw other benefits, such as the improvement of my physical health.

Confronting fears. I’ve never really mastered the English language. So I’ve really feared the idea of starting a blog and going public with my writing. The same was true about other major decisions like relocating, starting a new job slightly outside of the career I’d been used to, and, of course, ending toxic relationships. Fear is paralyzing! But I’m stepping out little by little to confront the unknown.

Practicing Contentment. I must admit, I keep wanting just a little more each week, each month and each year. My wants are typical like a house, car, clothing, electronics, etc. The problem is that no one’s ever truly satisfied once we start going past the basics. We want the best, biggest and the latest.

The habit of contentment is learning that more doesn’t equate happiness. It’s accepting yourself, avoiding meaningless comparisons with others, and living a life of gratitude that brings fulfillment. Sounds good, but I struggle to practice everyday.

Cultivate with the right motivation

The above habits are not exhaustive.

They are strategies you take along your journey, not the final destination. Becoming an early riser is not the goal. On the contrary, the goal is to give the most productive hours of the day to achieving those things in life that are musts.

Moreover, becoming health conscious is more than loosing weight. The greater motivation is to avoid preventable diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. This enables us to be around a little longer for our loved ones.

…Slowly 

When making resolutions, I used to give myself timetables. But the reality is, to make a habit become a lifestyle requires lots of time. I may need even a few years to get there.

We need time to cultivate new habits, and even more, to unlearn old ones. So lets give ourselves permission to go slow, fail, and restart again…all without condemnation, until we achieve what we desire to be.

What healthy habits are you cultivating in your life?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to going uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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How to end a toxic relationship

by Kelvin Belfon

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All failed relationships hurt, but letting go of a toxic relationship is actually a gain, not a loss.  ~ Marc and Angel Chernoff

A few weeks ago one of my readers commented on a post I’d written, “I’m pretty good with de-cluttering the physical stuff from my home. What weighs me down are my relationships. How can I deal with them?” And another reader confessed, “Ending toxic relationships is the hardest thing to do.”

We all can identify with these observations.

Saying no to toxic relationships can be challenging for several reasons. First, when a person is raised in an abusive environment, he/she easily accept such harmful behavior as normal. And if you don’t know a problem exist, you are least likely to desire change.

Second, a needy or low self-esteem can create an unhealthy dependency on others. And this dependency has the potential of eroding our better judgment in dealing with abusive people.

Third, toxic people can come off nice, warm and charming. Or, at least, they appear to be so in the beginning. They are people we’ve come to trust such as parents, siblings, friends, dating partners, mentors, spiritual authorities, co-workers and such. So the thought of separation seems impossible. Moreover, most of us tend to be pretty hopeful that people will change despite their controlling inclinations.

My Journey

One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do is to dissolve longstanding relationships that had become counterproductive. Over the years, I knew things had gone wrong and others saw it too. But I couldn’t let go. The truth is, I didn’t want to because I craved acceptance. I also feared exclusion and conflict.

Then one day a friend said, “What you are experiencing is not normal.” I felt offended at first; but it was truth that I just couldn’t contradict. So I started reading and researching these kinds of negative relationships. It was as though blinders had been taken off my eyes. I felt liberated.

It was hard to put into words what I was experiencing. But several months after I had ended the relationship, another friend helped me verbalize what I had been feeling all along. Sometimes we do need that outside person to help identify these complicated association.

Ending the relationship was a long painful process. But it was one of the most important steps I have taken in regaining control of my own life. Freedom is a beautiful thing!

The following are some of the steps I’ve learned in ending toxic relationships.

How to End a Toxic Relationship

Be honest with yourself. Acknowledge that you are in an unhealthy relationship. Admit that you can’t change the toxic person.

Become aware. Learn the signs of toxic relationships. Read, observe and ask lots of questions.

Avoid damning yourself. It is important to examine yourself, to acknowledge your shortcomings. But it is not helpful to be excessively self-deprecating at this point. Toxic people specialize in making their victims feel horrible about themselves. Don’t cave into their attempts to make you feel as if you are any less than you are.

Establish healthy boundaries. Boundaries exist for our protection. Take baby steps in clearly articulating your feelings. For example, “When you _____, you make me feel _________. I would like you to stop it.”

Keep the conversation short. Plan what you’ll say. Toxic people are manipulative and persistent. A simple, “This relationship is not working out” might be all you need to say to avoid opening up Pandora’s Box.

Learn to say “No” Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away.

Seek help. Invite family members, trusted friends or a professional to give their honest assessment of this relationship. Never be afraid to ask for help. Others can see things overlooked by our emotions.

Consider physical separation. If necessary, a temporary separation can provide a time of reflection and healing. In other cases, permanent physical separation might be the only viable alternative.

Decide how you want the relationship to end. You can confront the person directly and gradually reduce the communication until the relationship dies on it’s own. You may also choose to go cold turkey and terminate the relationship abruptly with no further contact.

In some cases, writing a letter and sending it may be the way to go. If the letter you choose to write gets really deep into reciting histories of abusive events within the relationship, you may want to reconsider whether you need to mail it after all. Recounting the past to an abusive person often does little to help if that person is in denial.

Seek inward wholeness and healing. Why are we attracted to toxic individuals? One professional counsellor has said that it is because unhealthy people attract other unhealthy people. I have found that the best antidote for dealing with the habit of attracting unhealthy soul ties is to become active in building up one’s own self-esteem. The more wholeness we possess, the less dependent we are on controlling people.

Ending a toxic relationship is tough. The process is like going through the death cycle — denial, anger, grief and recovery. This is why repairing a broken relationship early on is always a good alternative when possible. But if reconciliation is not possible, it is in your best interest to end this relationship decisively. Draw a clear line and don’t’ turn back in weakness or fear.

Remember, you deserve to be treated with dignity. You are a person of worth. No other person should be allowed to control your life.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to going uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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Signs of Toxic Relationships

by Kelvin Belfon

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Taking inventory of one’s possessions and minimizing excess is no small task. Yet, when it comes to managing relationships, this area of life can be a bit more unwieldy. People can require a pretty significant amount of emotional and time commitment. And while people relationships can be complicated, they are also potentially our most valuable possession. So let’s admit from the start–letting people go is never an easy task.

Still we need to be intentional with the people we allow in our personal circle. Our relationships can either make us or break us. And our quality of life is dependent on it. Positive relationships add value; but toxic relationships can be harmful to our health.

We’ve all come across these sorts of people within our family, among friends or in the workplace. Toxic relationships don’t only involve physical abuse, either. Some of the most life debilitating forms come in very discreet packaging, through both verbal and nonverbal interactions.

These interactions are nevertheless toxic because they bring on feelings of guilt, unhappiness, condemnation, and unworthiness. They can leave us emotionally drained. Toxic people cause unnecessary stress, anxiety, depression and serious medical problems such as high blood pressure and even heart issues.

In my experience with toxic people, they’ve left me feeling trapped and controlled on account of me suppressing my true feelings over time. I’ve even blamed myself in the past for issues that arise as a result of their boundary crossing.  Like most of us, I knew something was wrong in the relationship; but I didn’t know how to read the signs of toxic relationships. I ignored my own intuition and allowed the dysfunction to continue for too long.

Learning the Signs of Toxic Relationships

Learning from the lived trials and pain caused by these types of people, I’ve become much better over the years at identifying the signs that tell when a relationship has reached its expiration. Here are a few:

You are not allowed to grow. Toxic people love to bring up your past and enjoy talking about your mistakes and failures. They are often judgmental and will make feeble attempts at fixing you. You can’t do anything right around them. And even when you take steps to improve yourself, toxic individuals get uncomfortable with the new you. They may even laugh at the thought of your positive intentions.

Your physical appearance is belittled. These unhealthy individuals will make you self-conscious about your looks. Physical features such as your weight, height, skin color, or even certain cultural distinctions are a constant subject of conversation. Toxic people will even banter about your physical disabilities, such as in the way you walk or speak. After being around them, you may leave feeling small, deflated, lonely or unsatisfied with yourself.

You’ll hear more trigger words. I’m sure you’ve heard them, “If you love me, then you’ll…” “Forgive me, I’ll do better next time…” “I didn’t mean those words…” Toxic people are liars and deceptive. They may even use tears for an emotional pity party. But there is no change. The truth is, there will never be. They break promises to continue their manipulative abusive behavior.

You are abused by their position. We are taught as children to honor and respect authority; and we should. But toxic people don’t play fair. They use their roles and titles to control and often get away with it. Because of their status, they are able to cowardly hide their shortcomings and make themselves unaccountable. And they play that game very well. They also tend to demand recognition and dependency on them.

Serving their agenda is priority. Toxic people are narcissistic and tend to use others for their aggrandizement. They use people’s emotions, time, skills and financial resources for their gain. Their agenda must be your goal. There is no mutual positive exchange in this relationship. Only the toxic partner benefits while your feelings and opinions are ignored.

You lack energy instead of feeling motivated. Toxic people are needy, weak individuals. They drain your energy with their constant complaints, frustrations, ongoing drama, and need for attention. So you retreat, become non-communicative and even hesitate to spend time with this person. The relationship grows to be superficial and you only meet out of obligation.

You feel isolated from other relationships. This is the “divide and conquer” strategy where toxic people try to alienate you from others important people in your life. Over time, you become suspicious of them. Later you find yourself fighting or disagreeing with these friends or loved ones for no apparent reason. This is because your manipulator has craftily succeeded in sowing his/her seed of distrust in you already.

You defend your abuser. This follows the previous point. The toxic individual demands loyalty and you willingly play that role. Yet they may betray your trust to others without any feeling of remorse. And because you are so emotionally attached to this person, you justify their unhealthy behaviors. When outsiders point out any abuse or inconsistency in this relationship, the toxic individual expects that you, the victim, will fully defend their cause. This is one of the most sinister strategies, sometimes called Stockholm Syndrome.

Toxic relationships are NOT normal or healthy. They demand too much energy and deplete from your sense of well-being. Life is too short to allow others to control you. Learn to read the signs or take a profile test to determine the health of your relationships. If you are in a toxic relationship, seek help and get out now.

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What Matters Most

by Kelvin Belfon

What Matters Most

Many people dream about vacationing or honeymooning in some beautiful tropical paradise. Yet because Camilla and I are islanders, 14 years ago we picked Colorado as our honeymoon destination. It was an opportunity to experience a new culture and to see the Rocky Mountains for the first time. The whole idea was romantic and exciting!

Last year, life for us shifted and we had the opportunity to relocate anywhere we wanted. We picked Denver. It was like a dream come true. But even in the most idyllic place, life can still become complicated. I was unemployed and my savings were dwindling. I had an abundance of free time but free time in this case was stressful.

Even after I found a “buffer” job, I worried about the bills and the things we might needed in the future. I was hard on myself and began to wallow in thoughts of failure. But my family gave me much needed perspective. Each evening when I came home, they would greet me with the biggest smiles. My children would run to meet me at the door chanting, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!”

It felt good to be admired despite what I thought of myself during that difficult period of transition. The constant affirmation led me to start asking, “What matters most in life?” I thought I knew, having drafted quick lists in my past. But regardless of what I thought I wanted, I often failed to give them the highest value in my life.

I’m getting closer to answering the what matters most in life question.

To start, an outlook of gratitude and healthy relationships are most important to me. These are easy to express, but probably not so easy to master. They require living with minimal clutter and distraction. They require consistency. And because I love myself and the people closest to me, the effort is worth it.

So, what are the things that matter most to you?

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