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  • Amy Bull

Continued Contemplation…Who Do You Surround Yourself With?

At last writing, I shared some thoughts about the importance of who we surround ourselves with, particularly when it comes to the support we need when making changes in our lives.

When we are exploring doing something different, whether it’s changing jobs or careers, adopting healthier eating or fitness habits, adding a new hobby, or really any type of shift in our lifestyle and habits, part of this change should include asking yourself this question: do I have the right support in my life to allow me to be successful?

To demonstrate this, I’d like to share the story of what I have found to be important to me as I have made a significant career transition in the past 14 months.

Here’s what I would emphasize overall: do not expect a small number of relationships in your life to provide everything you need. And honestly, this probably is good advice in general, but I believe it’s particularly relevant when you are moving through a big transition in your lifestyle.

The different types of relationships I have leaned heavily on over the past year can basically fall into these categories:

  • People who love me unconditionally

  • People who are on a similar journey or path currently

  • People who have knowledge and expertise in your journey, and have been able to teach what they know

  • People who already have what I wanted in my life

  • People who have no investment or attachment to my success and provide space for me to just “be”

While some of these may overlap for some of us, it’s likely for many of us these relationships will represent a variety of people and communities we engage in.

Each of these groups of relationships have provided a unique value to me as I’ve shifted my career and lifestyle, and I feel blessed to have had so much support.

To help with understanding how these different people can support you, I’ll walk you through each category in a bit more detail.

People who love me unconditionally:

The value here is probably pretty obvious; these are the ones who you know that no matter how many times you fall down and have to get back up, they will be there. They will still love you. That’s not to say they might not get frustrated. After all, they love you and it hurts them to see you struggle. This is also why these are not necessarily the folks who are going to be your cheerleaders; meaning, they will still love you but they may respond to your pain with a desire to help you find a way to avoid more pain. For them, that may mean suggesting you avoid continuing down this path of behavior or life change. This can be hard to understand at times, because we want to believe that those who love us want for us what we want, right? It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes they want what they believe would be best for you – which may not always be the same thing you want. Coming to an understanding that this difference is ok, is important. We need to know that we have people that love us no matter what, but just knowing those people are there is sometimes the best way to appreciate those relationships, and find your cheerleaders elsewhere.

People who are on a similar path or journey:

These are the folks who you share a common goal or outcome with. For me, having other women who were starting their own businesses, and were at a similar junction in their business development, has been critical. Having a small community of people that could identify with what I was grappling with, and be there to say “oh yea, I completely understand” and know that they really, truly do understand, keeps you from feeling isolated. Knowing you are not alone in your experience provides reassurance, comfort, and confidence to keep going when you feel like giving up. These are some of your most important cheerleaders. These are the ones that identify so strongly with what you desire, that they have a vested interest in wanting you to be successful, because that boosts their confidence too. I can’t emphasize enough the value of finding this type of support when you are looking to make some sort of significant change in your lifestyle, whether it’s nutrition, exercise, addiction, career, etc. Find these people and your odds of success will go up.

People who have knowledge and expertise in your journey, and have been able to teach what they know:

Call them a mentor, a coach, an expert; this is the area where I’d recommend hiring a professional. If you are super lucky and you know someone who is willing to serve as a mentor to you that has the background and knowledge in the area you are seeking to shift, awesome. However, there will likely be limits to the extent you can truly grow in this scenario. One reason is, that if your relationship with them started before it evolved to being a mentor, then there could be extraneous factors that will limit how much they will push you and give you the harder pills to swallow. If they were your friend prior to being your mentor, they will still want to be your friend, and they might be less willing to be able to shoot straight. Hiring a coach to support me through the process of my business start up provided me the unbiased support I needed. She had a vested interest in my success, because this is her livelihood; her professional reputation was at stake if she didn’t do her job, which was to support me, provide me difficult advice when needed, and keep me moving forward. The support was there consistently; not just when she happened to have available time to give, which is a scenario you could run into when you are working with an unpaid mentor. Your forward momentum on the changes you want to make are likely going to be much quicker when hiring a coach who is an expert in the area of change you want to make. This could save you months or years of struggle.

People who already have what I wanted:

These are the folks who have achieved or already have what you want to be, do, or have. This might be a bit less specific than the other above categories, and may cross over multiple groups and relationships, depending on what your desires are. For me, one example was, I started going to monthly chapter meetings of people who were already working and had successful businesses in the industry I was shifting to. This helped me stay focused on “the prize” and know that people were doing and living and being what I wanted to be. It made it more real and attainable. This could also apply to more general desires that also surround your goal. Some of these are pretty obvious, but illustrate the point. If you are looking to eat healthier, you don’t keep walking into the fast food restaurants, right? You go to the places where the healthy food is. Same concept. If you want to increase your income, being in communities of people who have achieved that are going to expose you to concepts and ideas that will help you move in that same direction. Don’t go down the cookie aisle at the grocery store if you are trying to eat more vegetables.

People who have no investment or attachment to my success and provide space for me to just “be”:

This one may seem the least important, but don’t underestimate the power here. You know those days where life seems to be getting pretty overwhelming, and you know you need to stop moving and worrying and doing, but it’s hard to give yourself permission to do that? These are the friends that invite you to a night out, and while you might start out feeling guilty about not staying focused on your deadlines and to-dos, they talk you into coming anyway, and you realize how much you needed to just laugh for a while. These are the people we’re talking about here. Having a few people you can count on to step in here and there and get you out of your head, even for just a few hours, can be crucial to your health and well-being. Taking ourselves and our goals too seriously can set us up for a backlash when life gets to be too much and you just give up on the long game of making lasting changes.

In closing, I’d like to emphasize something important about the above points: remember that most of us don’t automatically have all of these people in our lives. It’s a process of cultivation. It takes effort, intention, and purpose. And it’s not to say you can’t create successful change without all of these people in your community. But from my experience, by being aware of how forming different connections in your life can influence successful change, it provides more tools and knowledge as you consider moving forward.

Have a healthy & mindful week!



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