from fearful to fortunate: do what you don't want to
living life with purpose

are the people in your life positive?


The other day I came across the image above and that quote really struck me. Of course I don't want to be sad. I'd rather be happy with everyone, but, as we all know, that's not always the way the world works. When I read this quote, I really got it. I really felt it -- that realization that it's so important to surround ourselves with the right people. Sometimes the wrong people make us happy -- or, at least, we think they do -- but that doesn't mean they are right for us. It's probably pretty likely that if we're going to have someone in our lives in a significant way, we're going to experience happy times and sad times with that person so wouldn't we rather experience those things with the right people? 

The people we surround ourselves with are so very important. Sometimes we become so used to and comfortable with the people in our lives that we don't stop to think about whether or not they are really positive influences. Over the past year or so, I've really been looking around me and trying to understand why some people are in my life and others are not. I've given a lot of thought to who I surround myself with because I really do believe that others affect us in ways we cannot necessarily recognize. Sometimes we are so close to others that we don't necessarily see them for what they are. Like being up close to a painting -- you might be able to see all of the colors, but you're not necessarily getting the big picture. 

And the big picture is pretty important when it comes to those who are close to you. You need to be able to see them for what they are because, whether you want to admit it or not, they're influencing you. For that reason, you have to pay attention. You have to really take a conscious step back and assess them. This can be a lot harder than it sounds sometimes, especially when it comes to people that you feel very certain about. However, just because you are examining your relationships with others doesn't mean that those people are going to prove themselves to be bad for you. There's nothing wrong with taking a look around and assessing what type of impact others are having on you. In fact, it's pretty imperative if you're striving to have a positive life. 

If you want to have a positive life, you have to have positive people in your life. So ask yourself this right now: Do I have positive or negative people in my life? Most of us, if we're being completely honest with ourselves, will find that we have a mix of both. It's pretty hard to have every single person in your life be a positive influence on you, especially when, in many cases (like work and family) we don't always get to choose every person we interact with. Yes, there are some situations where you will be required to spend time with someone who is more negative than positive, but, for the most part, we have a choice. Just as we can choose happiness, we can also choose to surround ourselves with those that make us happy. 

I bet you're wondering how you know if you're surrounding yourself with positive people. Trust me, I know this this hard to figure out sometimes. It's so easy to just assume people are positive influences because, after all, you're spending them with them so you figure that you've made that decision for a good reason. Of course, we're not always as logical as we'd like to be. Sometimes our emotions (and imaginations!) get carried away and we are certain that people are good for us when they are not. Here are some steps you can take to evaluate the people in your life. (Yes, this might feel like you're judging, but don't you have a right to judge those you keep closest to you?)

Is That Person Good for You?

Step 1: Take a good look around you. 
So often we get caught up in life in a way that makes it difficult to really see what's going on around us. We begin to take the people in our lives for granted (in both good and bad ways) and we stop really seeing what's happening. Just think about how, if you drive to work every day, you take for granted the route you're on. If you do it every single day, you could probably do it without even looking. People are like this too. If you don't look around and really pay attention, you might miss what's really going on. So open your eyes and look at what's going on around you. And I mean really look at it. Don't just look at what you think is happening. Look at what is happening.

Step 2: Ask yourself (and others) questions. 
Having done a lot of work trying to change my life over the past year or so, I've come to realize that I really need to pay attention to who I surround myself with. For this reason, I've spent a lot of time asking myself questions about the people in my life. I want to know that they are positive influences on me. Now, I know there is both good and bad in every person so it's not always so easy to say, "Oh, this person is perfectly positive for me!" but there are certain questions I like to ask myself that really help me to get to the heart of whether or not a person is good or bad for me. I like to look at the people in my life and ask myself the following questions:

  • Do I like who I am when I am around this person?
  • Does this person make me happier or unhappier?
  • What kinds of feelings does this person evoke?
  • How would I describe this person in 5 words?
  • How do your friends/family describe this person?

Step 3: Take a good look at yourself.
While it might not seem like the most obvious thing to do, when you’re trying to uncover who is good for you and who is not, it’s important to look at yourself. Look at the person you are when you’re with that other person. Pay special attention to your mind and how you think and feel when that other person is around –- or even when you think about that other person. You can start right now! Think about someone very important to you and listen to how your mind reacts. Are you thinking positive thoughts? Are you angry or sad when you think of this person? Paying attention to how you feel and taking a look at the person you are when you are around or thinking about someone else is critical. You cannot truly understand another’s impact on you if you aren’t paying attention to the way that person makes you feel. Once you start looking at yourself and listening to your thoughts when this person is around you, you will most likely be able to tell whether or not this person brings out the best in you. If you still can’t tell… move on to Step 4!

Step 4: Keep paying attention.
One of the most important things you can do when attempting to make sure that the people you have in your life are good for you is to keep paying attention. Sure, you might have done Steps 1-3 and feel pretty good about the person now, but people change and you change so it’s important to keep paying attention. Of course this doesn’t mean you need to be monitoring the person 24/7 or taking notes every time you are around him or her. This means that you need to pay attention to how you feel and have a general sense of whether the person makes you feel better about yourself. Positive people in your life should bring you up and make you feel happy. This doesn’t mean you won’t have conflicts with these people, but you should generally feel as if the people you surround yourself with are looking out for your best interest. Still not sure if you’re dealing with someone who is good for you? Check out Step 5…

Step 5: Get a second (and third!) opinion.
While your opinion of the people in your life is very valuable, it’s important to ask around to see what others think. Sometimes we become blinded by various things (comfort, love, etc.) and cannot see people or situations for what they really are. For this reason, it’s important to get an outsider’s opinion (preferably someone who you’ve confirmed is looking out for your best interests). For example, if you find that all of your friends think your boy/girlfriend is bad for you, you’re probably not seeing the situation for what it is and you need to be aware of this. Getting input from someone who is removed from the situation will provide you will a fresh perspective and will allow you to figure out if you’re assessing the person (and the relationship with that person) properly. 

After you've gone through these five steps, it should be pretty obvious whether or not a person is a positive influence in your life. If you have any doubts, I'm going to be bold and say that the person probably isn't good for you. As I’ve been looking around my own life recently, really try to find (and keep!) the positive people in my life, I’ve found that it’s really important to pay attention to who you surround yourself with because it can make a HUGE difference on how you live your life and how you feel about the life you’re living. Remember, no matter what, you have the power to keep or remove people from your life and you can really change your world if you rid your life of all of the negative people in it. 


How do you determine if someone is a positive force in your life?
How do you handle a situation when you know someone is more negative than positive

Looking for more to read? Check out my guest post on The Journal of Cultural Conversation called "A Book of Possibilities" and learn how you can make the most of your possibilities... 


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I've been working on this a lot over the last year or's tough but I've been in a much better place because of it.

Michelle - It's one of the hardest things in the world to get rid of negative people in your life because there is usually something good about them. It really comes down to understanding how much of the good outweighs the bad, but once you figure it out and remove the negativity from your life you can be so much happier (as you know)!

Hi Dani. I LOVE this quote!!! "Do I like who I am when I am around this person?" That is a question I had to ask myself when I was ending my last relationship. We had come to a point where neither of us was supporting the other. It was more like we'd put as much energy as we could into the relationship and had reached the point of enabling. We just needed to accept that we'd reached closer -- it is very true that people come and go in our lives -- we're not always meant to be with each other forever.

Davina - I'm glad you like it! Someone brought this up to me the other day and I realized how important it is. You really have to think about how the other person makes YOU not just who the other person IS. And great point about how some people aren't meant to be in our lives forever. The end doesn't have to be a negative thing.

Dani, I believe all relationships offer opportunity for growth. Sometimes that friend may be a good example of "what not to do, "how not to behave." You can look at yourself when you see behavior in others that you don't like and say..."Is there any way I'm acting like this person?" Maybe you don't exhibit a particular behavior at work - but upon further examination, you do react to, or treat others (like your spouse, partner, friends or other family members)in the way(s) you dislike in a co-worker or supervisor. You learn about trust and character - what makes one person different from another. You can also learn to tolerate differences in people who are different from you. It doesn't mean you have to share your secrets with them. Your friends will go through ups and downs in life just like you will. There will be times where they may be "Debbie Downers," and at other times they can be your biggest cheerleader. We can learn something from everyone. We just have to choose our friends wisely. Take care, A.

Very good post, it really got me thinking about the people I let in my life. I have to say that everything you say here is absolutely right! Thanks for the wisdom.

I completely agree, and I too have worked at surrounding myself with positive people. However, I always wonder what happens to the negative people if all the positive-minded people exclude them. Now, I'm over-thinking (as usual), but it seems to me that the negative folks will be left with each other and their negative influence/energy will increase exponentially. So, while I agree that people who want to live a positive life need to create barriers against negative influences, I think we also must learn to temper negativity when we are confronted with it. There has to be a way to diffuse it.

I enjoyed this post because I have such a hard time letting people go out of my life. I have a very bad habit of always remembering the "good times" even when they aren't there anymore. Most recently I had to let someone go out of my life that I was very close to and unfortunately I have to work 10 feet from them each and every day. It's painful sometimes.

I think this can also be applied to places, not just people. In my case - work. I know this isn't a positive place for me to be anymore and I'm trying to get that changed.

Thanks for your post!

Anita - What great points you've raised! Even the relationships that seem "bad" can be good for us in some ways, though I don't think we should have too much of that negativity in our lives if we can avoid it. Also, as you said, people go through ups and downs and that doesn't mean we shouldn't be with them through the down times. Another great idea you brought up is how sometimes the things we don't like in others are the things we don't like in ourselves. For that reason, being exposed to others' negative traits can help us to open our eyes to the ways we want to change. Wow! What a great comment! Thanks!

Steven - Thank you! I've recently been thinking a lot about the people I let into my life and I'm glad this post could bring that topic to the forefront of your mind as well. It's such an important thing to consider.

Melissa - You bring up a great point. I think the world would be a very interesting place if we divided up all of the negative and positive people. However, I think most people have many layers and it would be hard to put people in two categories because people are often different with different people. I personally think (and maybe this is selfish...) that it's important to think about who you are when you're with that person and how that person makes you feel. If you encounter a lot of negative thoughts/feelings, that doesn't necessarily mean the person is bad... just that the person is bad for YOU. Loved your comment. You really made me think!

Weez - Like you, I have a hard time cutting ties with people. I always drag relationships out waaay longer than I need to and this makes things harder on everyone. This is why I've given this topic so much thought because I really believe it's critical to really think about the way things ARE instead of the way I want them to be. This can be very, very difficult (even though it sounds easy!) and I think that it's important to work on it all the time. Baby steps! Great point you brought up about places too... it's exactly the same thing and sometimes those are even harder to change (like work). You've given me a lot to think about with this comment so thank you!

I cannot be adamant or emphatic enough about how the people in our lives affect our lives! And that is one reason why I have very limited interaction with my own parents.

I vividly remember being in college, on the phone with my father, and listening to the litany of problems in his life. Finally I was like "Dad, do you have anything to say that isn't negative?" and he said "No."

That's when I made my decision. Looking back it's kind of a weird decision. I didn't actually cut him off because of how he treated us as children, I did it because he kept dumping all this negativity on me.

P.S. "Do I like who I am around this person?" is SO IMPORTANT!

If only it were that you said, it's the big picture -with me it's my Dad and that is a double whammy because we work together. I am trying to get out of this situation, but it is so hard. I did decide that I am not going to Thanksgiving dinner with him and his wife because when I boil it down, I would only be going because it was the "expected thing" and why do that when I could be home spending quality time with my husband who wraps me in the colors of the rainbow to keep me safe and warm? Exactly. Maybe he will realize the path he's on and maybe he won't but I refuse to be a hypocrite. It still hurts my heart though.

This is SO true. SO TRUE! I had been thinking a lot about this for the past few months. I had several people in my life who were frustrating me on a daily basis, but I kept them around because I thought I "needed" them. It wasn't until I let them go that I realized how much they had been holding me back. Now I'm much happier, and so thankful that I decided to put myself before everyone else. In the past, I was a person who "held on to people" because I always found the good in everyone and thought that everyone had value in my life. But now I realize that sometimes you have to let people go in order to save yourself.

I love this post, and remember a time when I was still hanging out with negative people (because deep down I still had unresolved issues of negativity and not feeling worthy). What you said in Steps 2 & 3 was exactly what I did finally in weeding out the last of the negatives. Specifically I asked myself, "How do I feel when I'm around this person?" I had someone in my life who was a ton of fun 10 percent of the time and a real downer or critic 90 percent of the time. I lived for that 10 percent, and fooled myself into thinking I could change him in time. WRONG ANSWER! Finally I cut and run.
And afterward, I started realizing that for months beforehand, my friends were telling me that they didn't really like that person and I wasn't myself around him.
What a great post --- everyone ought to read it!

Paying attention! So true. Something I forget - and actually being "present!" Thank you again for the wonderful guest post - your writings are always a true treasure, Dani!

Hayden - Thanks for sharing your personal situation in your comment. It's a great example of how sometimes we have to limit our interactions with people who are negative for us, even if they happen to be our parents or loved ones. Very interesting that you limited your interactions with your dad because of his negativity. It just goes to show you just how draining negative people can be!

Stephanie - Oh, it's always so much easier said than done. I know that from experience! It definitely hurts (especially during the holidays) but I think it's great that you're choosing to be with someone who "wraps you in the colors of the rainbow" (love that!) instead of someone who brings you down. Just because something is expected doesn't mean you have to do it!

Elle - Excellent point about how sometimes we feel that we need people, when really that's not usually the case at all. Usually it's the people we think we need that hold us back. We should WANT people, not NEED them. I'm glad you brought this up in your comment because it's so important to think about this.

Megan - Thanks! You've brought up a great point about how we sometimes focus on the good times but that's not always for our benefit. While I'm all about focusing on the positive, sometimes there really is more bad than good and it's so easy to see things as we want to see them. It's hard -- very hard! -- sometimes to see what things really are, but it's so great when we are able to see the truth and free ourselves from negative people.

Laura - As you've probably realized from reading my blog, being present doesn't always come easily to me, but I really believe it's very important and it really does relate to this topic because we need to pay attention to the people around us and make sure they are the right people for us. Thank you so much for the compliment! :)

Ooo, I love those questions you ask yourself when determining who is a good or not so good influence on you. The "describe your friend in 5 words" one is a GREAT question and would be very telling.

I'm like most, I have a mix of positive and negative people in my life. I'm lucky that my partner is really positive seeing as he is the one I spend the most time with.

I do consciously limit the amount of time I spend with people I know are negative. I find sometimes though that a person can be upbeat but still draining (eg if you can't get a word in). I tend to watch how I'm feeling when I'm around people. If I feel drained or out of kilter around them, then that's a sign they aren't the greatest influence for me.

Great post Dani! Very thought provoking.

Sometimes people around me are positive and puts me in good mood, other time, their bad mood rub off me and I become angry/upset until I let go of that bad energy. I believe some relationship can be considered toxic and make you feel bad about yourself.

Hey Dani,

I especially liked how you pointed out to ask yourself the question "Do I like who I am when I am around this person? ".

That is a very important factor because alot of the times, we act completely different with the people around us. One thing to tell if we are comfortable and truly connecting with that person is to see if we are acting like ourselves.

Also, definitely ask yourself if this person makes me happy or not. Surprisingly, even during abusive relationships, the abused person doesn't even think about his/her happiness. That just goes to show you how powerful one single question can be, it can open up so many possibilities and options and open up the mind.

anyways, thanks for the advices Dani. I think they are really helpful.


Great prescriptive approach and I do think who we hang with makes a huge difference in our lives.

This is such good advice! It is so true that we act differently around different people. Those who have truly negative impacts on us can wind up doing more damage than is good to be able to step back and reassess exactly what is going on in such a friendship.

If I can add another perspective. It's not a one way street and we influence those around us as much as they influence us (maybe more if we protect ourselves from the negativity of others). Which means that, provided we keep our own positivity, then we can have an effect on the negative traits of others.

So rather than removing negative people from my life, I prefer to make sure I have enough positive people around to keep my batteries charged to allow me to deal with them.

Of course there are always a few cases who stubbornly refuse to choose to be happy and optimistic and then I ask myself if I want to continue or if I want to walk away - or maybe just be hinest with them and see what happens.

Sami - Yes, those questions have really helped me out lately! I think we all have a mix of negative and positive elements in our lives, but it's important that the people who are closest to you (like your partner) offer more good than bad. Thanks for your comment!

Zengirl - What a great point! The energy of others really can rub off on us, which is why it's so very important to surround ourselves with people are are positive influences on us!

Steven - I agree that it's very important to consider the person we become when we are around someone else. In fact, I think this is even MORE important to consider than who the other person is. It's so important that the people around you make you a better person and, as you said, that you can be yourself around them. If you're not being yourself, the person is probably not good for you.

J.D. - Thank you! Yes, who we hang out with can greatly affect us and we don't always take the time to think about who we are keeping close to us. It's always good to take a step back and evaluate this.

Joanne - I'm glad you like the advice! I think it's okay to act slightly differently around different people, but, for the most part, we should focus on being ourselves and we should be around people who love us for who we are!

Ian - Thanks for sharing your perspective! You've brought up such an excellent point. Sometimes we can really impact others with our own positive thoughts and actions and it's important to try that before getting rid of negative people in our lives. Sometimes that just doesn't work and all of the extra effort can be draining so it's sometimes necessary to get rid of the people who are bring you down. However, you've brought up an excellent point about keeping enough positive people around to help you deal with the negative ones!

Hi Dani - This is so true. I've had folk in my life who have been constantly negative, in the past and they seem to drain all the energy out of you.

This is such GREAT STUFF!! Thank you Thank you, I am not blessed with knowing how to express what I feel correctly & All of the Above is so REAL! I wish I could have learned this a very long time ago. The part that I get hung up on though is when people say " But its Family, blood is thicker then water" Well some of my friends have been the very BEST blessings in my life & some of my family members have hurt me the very worst! So I am supposed to go with that because they are blood??? I can't do it anymore & I have been SO RELIEVED of so MUCH STRESS it is a miracle! I greatly appreciate all your wisdom. Many blessings to all of you.

Cath - It's amazing how many people can be draining and negative forces in our lives. Though it's not always easy to rid ourselves of these people, it's so important that we do so if we want to live happy, healthy lives.

Lynn - Thank you!! :) I don't think it matters if people are family or friends or complete strangers. If they are a negative influence on your life, get rid of them! I'm so glad this post helped you out. I really do believe we all have to do our best to make our lives positive and it's up to us sometimes to take control and get rid of the negativity in our own lives.

It can be a hard realization that some of your long time friends in life are actually holding you back, I am in this predicament right now this post really hit home. I try to see it in a positive light however, for in order to realize the negativity in others we have to have become more positive ourself!

Acknowledging that we need to surround ourself with more positive people can signify that we ourself have changed and grown!


Mike - Yes it can. That's one of the hardest things to realize, that someone you really love and care about is actually not good for you. It's so important to surround yourself with positive people as much as you can so I wish you the best of luck with your current situation!

You mentioned that "we can really impact others with our own positive thoughts and actions and it's important to try that before getting rid of negative people in our lives. Sometimes that just doesn't work and all of the extra effort can be draining so it's sometimes necessary to get rid of the people who are bring you down. However, you've brought up an excellent point about keeping enough positive people around to help you deal with the negative ones! "

Would you be able to share a post on ways we can impact others with our positivity? I know ultimately they can only help themselves, but how do we be that little hope of positivity influencing them? I know so many people are desperately in need of the that yet can't get out of their negativity.

Chloe - Thanks for your very insightful comment. You're very right that sometimes our extra effort doesn't pay off and that can be one of the most frustrating things, which is why we need to do our best to avoid those who drain us or focus our attention on people and things that are positive. You've brought up a great idea for a post and I'll definitely give it some thought and do my best to create something on that topic. Thanks for the feedback!

"Do I like who I am around this person?" is SO IMPORTANT!

Guru - I agree! That's one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves when trying to determine if the people in our lives are positive. Glad you highlighted that point!

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