Breaking bad habits: Why you need to cut off toxic people in your life ASAP

You are who you surround yourself with.

There is something wrong with this maxim. If you heard it before, perhaps, like me, you started assessing your current connections and how to change the way you make friends in the future. Yet ever since being cut off the umbilical cord, we have been surrounded by people – without choice. Hence, a whole chapter of your life is about you being shaped by those people who have, instead, chosen to surround you!

That early chapter was critical. It was when you formed your first understanding of life and its rules – a time when you developed your presuppositions about the world. Naturally, those people who have chosen to surround you at the baby stage played a vital role in shaping your base character. And for some of us, that was a lot to digest: dysfunctional families, alcoholic or drug-addicted parents, abusive guardians, and most prevalently, a high saturation of that brick-in-the-wall mentality. So, before revising who surrounds you now by improving the way you make connections, you may want to think about healing any open wounds of the past.

Your first toxic relationships may start early on from family connections. Toxicity from your family may be even more deeply rooted.
Toxicity shapes you early on (Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Toxic family connections

No matter which belief system you were raised on, the fact remains a fact – a toxic family will stop you in your tracks. I have been always told, for example, that you should forever love and respect your parents. That bond is sacred, apparently, and cannot be shattered. But should you love and respect a parent if they show no such virtues in return? Should you follow money advice coming from a completely different generation? Why would you, when housing is now several times more expensive, we have digital currencies, and the market demands are incomparable?

Nobody says you cannot revisit times of the past at a dinner table with your family of elders, immersing in their nostalgia through the look in their eyes. Sure, they may have some wonderful stories and experiences that you can learn from. Yet, it is vital to filter those lessons and how that history can be applied to today’s reality. Humanity progresses at an accelerating rate, so effective practices of the past have most likely been revised dozens of times by now.

Maybe you are in a better situation where your parents or guardians are woke. Maybe they are in touch with the way our modern world functions, or at least not ignorant that it now works differently. That sounds like a down-to-Earth family relationship. Such parents will likely be non-toxic, but rather open-minded and supportive of your drive and ambitions. They will provide you with that much-needed positive boost to propel your inspirational momentum.

The contrary picture is of parents whose mentality sounds like: “You are young and inexperienced. You do not yet know how hard life gets. You are already failing, and your passion will eventually burn out. Just enjoy what you have.” As harsh as it may be, unmendable toxic family connections should be severed too, if you want to have your chance at greatness.

Who is your current “inner circle?”

When I was working survival jobs – building, waiting tables, delivering pizzas, cooking – I used to have lots of friends. They too worked similar jobs. They too struggled to get by on a monthly and sometimes even daily salary. But that is what tends to happen – when life is at rock bottom it is easy to find like-minded people who can share your dissatisfaction. After all, there are more of us out there surviving than living. I remember I always had a hustler’s mindset, nevertheless. And no matter what pain relief we channeled through after work – getting drunk or smoking – I would always be the one to start conversations about future prosperity. The focus was, of course, how to get to it.

Alcohol, and other drugs, are the catalysts for toxic relationships.
A common end of the day for many of us (Photo by Mauru00edcio Mascaro on

Sometimes my fiery ambitions and ideas would set my friends ablaze. Nearly always that flame would die out the next day to render my motivational energy wasted. Sometimes, they would bluntly change the topic of conversation. “Chill, Tony. Let’s get our drink on and relax. We can talk about business later.” Conversations would then meander in a negative direction – complaining about life. These drunken conversations about life’s unfairness can be replaced by the brainstorming of business ideas and ways of enhancing life to achieve prosperity, can they not? Not even one of those people ever managed to kill my drive. No matter what, I cherished those people big time. They were my world. I truly felt care for them and thought our friendship was unbreakable. Then, everything broke.

Life circumstances forced me to relocate. That struggle, in turn, forced me to look for a better job. And I found it. It was the start of my journey – breaking out of the chains holding me down. I almost tripled my income, and in the years thereafter, I continued multiplying it. Did I forget my old “friends?” No, not me. I tried to maintain our relationship. Yet it was only I who continued trying. They say long-distance relationships are uneasy, but they are not impossible if all parties are in sync.

Finally, I let go. That was the best decision I made. It is fascinating how your surroundings adjust to any upper (or downward) movement between hierarchical classes. Sometimes, this adjustment is automatic, and people drop by themselves. Sometimes, you are the one who has to make the necessary changes to your environment, especially if your time and energy are taken for granted. Preserving old friendships is extremely rare. And if it costs you your progress, it is futile. Rooting for growth should be natural. A friend should at least understand and support it, if not join you in the strenuous adventure.

Yes, you may find yourself with little to no friends, at least at the start of your self-improvement journey. But think about what it means. You take back time that you can now choose to reinvest. You could be bar-hopping with a bunch of friends who have no drive or ambition to succeed and prosper. You could be partaking in meaningless, boring conversations that kill your fire. Even worse, you could be absorbing all this negative chatter that leads to nowhere, like a dry sponge. For now, let’s focus on how to fix your current inner circle.

How to cut off existing toxic relationships (in 5 simple steps)

1. The sitdown

First and foremost, you want to come to terms with the people in your current inner circle. This is the time you voice your intentions and determination to pursue a lifestyle that will get you to your desired prosperity. It should flow as a natural part of your conversation. Here is an example (after you hear yet another complaint about life):

Look, I know. Life is tough. We keep talking about it. I think it is time we reassess the way we spend our time. If we focus on the negative, undoubtedly, we are just boosting that negative energy in our lives. Do we really want to linger in that state? There are people out there right now, with the same 24 hours per day that we have, who invest their time in improving their lives. Why can’t we do it? Is it a bad idea to give it a shot?

Unless the person you are conversing with has totally given up, they should open up to the idea. But things are easier said than done. So this seed that you just planted will need to grow, and for that to happen, it requires care and attention.

2. Invite solutions brainstorming

By nature, we are self-centered beings. So instead of continuing the conversation you started by blabbing on about your ideas and plans for the near future, try to help your friend solve their issues first. How? Nobody will know better than them. Give them food for thought:

As I have heard, your problems are A, B, and C. How do you think you could resolve them? What’s a vision of your future that could make you smile?

That is when you listen, and let your friend activate their brain. Frequently, he already knows what to do about it. He just never got to action, either out of laziness, fear, or insufficient motivation. Lead him to voice the possibilities. Make sure he knows he is being heard by providing that much-needed set of ears. When the moment is right, you can provide suggestions or even better, some support and a set of small actionable steps to begin with.

Active listening is actually an incredible art form. It is not the same as hearing something. The main difference is the attention you pay.
Practice active listening (Photo by Magda Ehlers on

3. Check in and reset

Likely, one motivational conversation about adjusting the outlook on life will not be sufficient. It is easy to slide back down into bad habits. So the next time you get together with your target for detox, test the waters. Is your friend continuing the negative chit-chat and sliding back to their old ways? Realign them with your last conversation. Check in on their progress. Find out what is inhibiting them from continuing if there is a problem.

Depending on their level of frustration with life, your friend may show a little edginess or even aggression about your persistence. That is OK. It is not easy to fight oneself. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it, and this article would have no value. Keep on motivating to set your friend back on track.

4. Issue a warning

If your detox target continues to relapse to the old ways, it may be time to issue a polite warning. This could already be that moment when you lose them, for they may have determined their motivation cannot elevate from level zero. Nevertheless, without a warning, you will not have a pivot. Your warning does not have to be hostile though, for example:

[Friend’s name], remember we talked about this? I recognize it is not a piece of cake. I am struggling too. In fact, it may be the hardest thing you do, but it will pay off eventually. Let’s stick to the script. Is there nothing I can do to help you stay on track?

4. Press on

At this point, your friend will either cling to the effort and look up to you for not giving up or start losing you. Under no circumstances should you drop the pressure. Your friend needs to understand how serious you are about changing. He needs to see that getting out of the old, toxic ways is the only way to keep in contact with you. Think it is a harsh one? No, after all, you are rooting for their success, and they should want it more than you.

Some relationships have not only survived this transformation but blossomed through it. It is the best way to sieve energy drainers. Unfortunately, if your friend fails this test, it was never meant to be. You have to make the call – a toxic friendship out of pity or an unchallenged focus on prosperity.

5. Time to let go

In the worst-case scenario, you would have spent your last motivational efforts to no avail. If toxicity remains, enough is enough. It is time to say goodbye. Sure, you can leave the case open-ended and avoid all future meetings and attempts at communication. It will not be difficult, after all, you will be occupied building your path to success instead of spending time uselessly. You gave your friend all the heads-up needed to deliver that information. They should not be surprised.

It is important to understand when to cut off toxic relationships and walk away from people who are demotivating you. The longer you linger, the more damage you will get from the toxic relationship.
Know when to walk away, continuing on your path to a bright future (Photo by Bob Price on

If they miss spending time together, they will return. Hopefully, they will be back speaking your language and announcing progress on their own journey. For all it takes, you can always welcome them back in that case. Alternatively, do not be surprised if your toxic friend thinks of you negatively from that point onward, or even speaks of you in a foul way. In the end, they probably realized you are not part of their needed toxic environment anymore – a striving outsider. Good for you!

Budging from ground zero on your path to success will be the hardest step. A new life requires a new environment. If you are going to become sustainably affluent, it will not happen overnight. This is not about winning the lottery with no money management skills and blowing it all in a few months. Every decision you make when building this grand fortress in your life will count. Be the driving force. Make life-changing decisions swiftly, and look straight ahead, never behind.


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