I have great relationships in my life. Great relationships.
People who inspire me.
People who challenge me.
People who motivate me to do better.
People who I can laugh with.
People who I can dance with.
And some people who were great, until they’re not.
Through no fault or judgement, my path changed, theirs did not, or it diverged from my own so dramatically that it was untenable to continue.
I spent time with people who deflated me.
I spent time with people who discouraged me.
I spent time with people who made me anxious or depressed.
Does this sound familiar?
What it taught me is that if I am not diligent in managing my network, then, in essence, that network ends up controlling me. Even if I saw eye-to-eye with the people in my teens or twenties, or thirties, they were now detrimental to my journey.
We are on a different path.
My biggest and toughest example of this was when I went from being in corporate life to starting an entrepreneur life. I got hit with all kinds of tough decisions when it came to my network of family and friends.
"Go back and get a real job."
"You don’t know what you are doing."
"There is no security in that."
There was so much negative rhetoric that I ended up removing myself from friendships that were no longer friendly and putting boundaries around the discussions I would have with my family.
Instead, I started aiming for sincere and authentic relationships that led to excitement, inspiration and increased energy.
And here began my positive relationship with “networking”.
Networking and Networks
Personal and professional relationships require us to care and be genuinely interested in the other individual. The mere fact you have something in common that excites you both can create a dynamic energy that carries you forward in your own life.
For some, the term “networking” has developed a negative connotation over time, associated with building relationships purely to get ahead in your career or relationships that help you.
This has led to a lack of quality in our relationships in our personal and professional lives.
If you are not feeling dynamic energy in your interactions, then it is time to apply the theory of the Network Matrix.
Using this tool, you can use a systematic approach to analyse which relationships are draining energy or lifting us to higher possibilities.
People at different life stages of their lives cannot always relate to your goals or vision. Life is a journey. For example, if you are moving from the corporate ladder to entrepreneurship, then you likely need to spend more time with other entrepreneurs who understand that journey.
It is tough to recognise when to extricate yourself from some of the deeper relationships you have had for a very long time.
If you cannot remove some connections entirely, then you must learn to hold boundaries with those that must stay in your life. Either way, you can then make space for yourself and increase time spent with inspirational and supportive people that benefit you.
Maximising time with the people you admire or aspire to inadvertently creates space for good things to happen!
The Network Matrix
The Network Matrix is a simple but strategic view of your existing relationships.
The first step is to identify the core adult relationships in your life.
Make a contact list in no particular order.
Who are your core contacts?
Who is in your life outside of work?
Who do you care about but don’t talk to too often?
Who do you wish you spent more time with?
List everyone you can think of.
The second step is to categorise those that bring you energy or those who drain energy.
The two measures are frequency and desirability.
Transfer each name from your list of people to the quadrants in the network matrix where you believe the relationships fit the description.
For example, if you have a friend who always raises your energy, and you do not see them enough, they would be in the top left quadrant.
Once you have filled in the matrix, you can start actioning each quadrant.
Explore the four categories.
Starting at the bottom left, you can already see how to create more energy in your life.
Infrequent and Undesirable
These people in your network are potentially disabling you from moving forward. Luckily they are not in your life too often, so removing or reducing interaction with these individuals will not be too difficult to manage.
ACTION: Remove the relationship or continue to reduce the time spent here.
Frequent and Undesirable
This category requires the most work. These may be colleagues or family members you don’t see eye to eye with but must interact with; this means you need to take energy to manage these relationships. Reduce reactions and exercise patience here.
ACTION: Accept and manage relationships here with strong boundaries.
Infrequent and Desirable
These network contacts also help you move forward in your desires and ambitions but may not be in your life frequently. Increase your frequency of contact here; this might require work but will inject more and more energy into your life. They are the people who give you inspiration and motivation in your current life journey.
ACTION: Inject energy into relationships here and increase presence in your life.
Frequent and Desirable
Finally, the wonderful category where you have the people who are in your life and you frequently interact - well done! These are your friends and family who identify with your current identity and help you move forward in all you desire and your future ambitions.
ACTION: Appreciate and amplify the energy in relationships here.
These are your champions, and they represent your current identity.
BONUS: If you have less than five people in the last category, you have some work to do to meet new exciting people and add them or promote them into that category!
“Remember: at the end of the day, people do business with friends.” - Brian D. Evans
Use the Network Matrix to improve your existing relationships to make space to meet more interesting people you want to spend time with.
Your network is invaluable and indispensable.
Build your network with attention and intention.
Download the Network matrix and create energy in your life. Download here