The Power of Our Circle - by Katie Ford

Have you ever heard the Jim Rohn quote “You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time around”? If you didn’t, you have now. How did it make you feel? What thoughts came to mind?


Sometimes it is easier than others to control who we spend our time around, and what if this extended way went beyond just five anyway? Could we benefit from reminding ourselves what is within our control, and what isn’t? It would be lovely to say “I’ll never be around people that don’t benefit me positively”, but working in an area that is often an emotion fuelled setting, that isn’t always possible.


You might hear people talk about their “circle”, the metaphorical ring of people around them. This will include colleagues, as well as friends and family too; and we may have different circles in different settings.


I wanted to share with you seven important lessons that I’ve learned through personal development, as a vet, locum and mentor, as well as a speaker, influencer and coach.


1. Non-judgemental self-awareness is a really important skill to practice. Tuning into how we feel around certain people can be phenomenally helpful in looking at tweaks to make moving forward. I added the caveat of ‘non-judgemental’ as if we feel someone drains us of energy, I certainly used to feel that was a fault of mine and that feeling this way towards someone was mean - it isn’t. How you feel might also change with time. We don’t have to go ahead and tell someone that this is the effect they have, it is helpful to be aware of it - we’ll come onto this more shortly. Equally, look for those who cheer you on.


Action idea: Consider listening to podcasts that help educate on self-awareness such as Unlocking Us by Brené Brown, or On Purpose by Jay Shetty. What we listen to, read and watch can also feed into our overall experience too.


2. Mary Portas said “surround yourself with radiators, not drains”. This doesn’t mean cut ties completely with those who drain our energy, sometimes it is just not possible, but it might mean that we limit our time around them where we can. Conversely, we can also increase the time we spend around the ‘radiators’ that fill us with warmth and energy. Could it be that rather than spending a whole afternoon with someone that drains your energy, that you schedule just an hour? Maybe you could invite the fun colleagues out for dinner? Another caveat. This doesn’t mean if a friend is feeling down that we run from them, but instead be aware that we might need to consciously look after ourselves more if our energy is affected by this to ensure that we can help them. Action idea: book in a catch up with someone who you love spending time with, or schedule in an activity that gives you energy.


3. Conversation direction can be in your control. One of my own mentors was an A&E consultant turned coach and mentor, and he observed the effect some of his colleagues had on him. He described a culture of complaining, and via the noted emotional contagion effect, he found himself acting in the same way. He couldn’t actively spend less time around them, as it was his job. He started to change the topic of conversation each time he came on duty, especially if a conversation felt to be heading down a draining path. He’d often just ask things like “how did you get into medicine?” to new colleagues, or “what did you do at the weekend?” to familiar ones. Of course expressing concerns and discussing worries is absolutely warranted, but I’m sure we can all agree that continuous complaining can have an effect on the culture. Action idea: think of a few conversation changers that you can keep up your sleeve.


4. Don’t forget social media. Jim Rohn was never around in the times of social media, but I’m sure he’d agree on this one; the people that we spend our time around, that also happen to be in our pocket through a screen. Be aware of which accounts make you feel good, and which ones don’t. You have control over your newsfeed, and a simple “unfollow”, “snooze” or “mute” can be incredibly freeing sometimes. Using functions such as “unfollow” instead of removing friends means you remain connected, and the other party will be none the wiser if that is of concern. Also look for the accounts that do make you feel good, and feed your interests. Action idea: find ten new accounts that you love to follow. Each time you see a post that you find yourself comparing or not feeling yourself, mute or unfollow.


5. “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”—Theodore Roosevelt. This extends far beyond success, and into our wellbeing as well. Focusing on building good quality relationships can be extremely beneficial. At the risk of sounding older than my years, I definitely embrace quality over quantity now. Spend time actively listening to others, embrace your differences, give people your time and attention away from technology too. Developing empathy, trust and treating others how we’d like to be treated ourselves are really good starting points. We can have thousands of connections, but very few friends, and that can add to loneliness; foster and grow the relationships that mean something to you. Action idea: reach out to a good friend, tell them what they mean to you and actively listen. Alternatively, look at finding new connections to foster with similar interests via networking, clubs/organisations or events.


6. Practice self-compassion. As vets and nurses, we give so much of ourselves to our patients, clients and others. Through my own journey I found that the most important relationship that we have is with ourself, even with positive and kind people around us. Try to gently tweak self-talk, and distance yourself from the unhelpful thoughts, think about “what would I say to my best friend about this?”. Look at what went well, and treat yourself with kindness. Action idea: gather together some reminders that you’re proud of, thank you cards, quotes and things that are important to you.


7. Talk, on a variety of levels. If a client conversation or encounter has affected you negatively in practice, chat through it with a colleague or friend. If there is an ongoing negative experience from someone else, please reach out for help where you can - this might be speaking to management, reaching out to counsellors or medical professionals. You don’t have to handle this alone. Remember that Vetlife is available 24/7, by phone and email (www.vetlife.org.uk/).


Always remember that everyone is different and that some of these tips will be easier to implement than others; use what feels right for you.


Wishing you all a brilliant week ahead

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