Emotions are more contagious than any virus. (If that sounds like an exaggeration, think about how easy it is for drivers to spread anger, or how quickly the media can spread fear.) If I am resentful then I will spread that resentment without even realizing it. If a friend is energetic then I will get energized simply by being around them.

People who pursue their most profound desires often exude energy, excitement and purpose. People who neglect their own values are at best depressed and anxious, and at worst display a constant low-grade resentment.

This has certainly been true in my own life. And for quite some time I tried to tell myself that my depression only affected myself. But in reality my depression affected everyone close to me, everyone in my emotional “families.”

We are all a part of emotional families and the way we react to people has more to do with our perception of where they are in the “family tree” than with any specific things they say or do. It’s the same with others. People do not perceive me for who I am, they perceive me based on my position in their emotional family trees.

The more I go after what I really want, the more the emotional families surrounding me change. When I pursue my own deepest goals, other family members are more likely to feel they have unspoken permission to do the same. When I say no to things that do not fit my values, other people feel that they have permission to say no. The more energy I have, the more energy the family has (and vice versa.)

The secret, the incredibly difficult balancing act, is to clearly define your self and goals while staying connected to others. It’s a necessary balancing act, though, because unless you have some very limited goals you won’t be able to get there alone. And that means you will need to love others (or at least be incredibly good at faking it.)

A word about love. Loving others is not just an emotion. Loving someone means respecting them especially when they disappoint, anger or frustrate you. It means listening to them tell you what it means to love them, instead of doing for them what you wish someone else would do for you.

Loving others means listening so closely that you could speak from their position if you had to.

Going after what you really want means first of all admitting what you want, and admitting that you aren’t good enough yet to achieve it. It means knowing that you are going to fail a lot. It means taking tiny steps towards your goals, and celebrating each and every small victory along the way.

Unless what you really want is extremely limited, you will not be able to all of that alone. You will need to listen and you will need to love.

There is no contradiction between going after what you REALLY want and loving others. In fact, in order to do one you usually must do the other.