Have you ever heard the saying “you are who you surround yourself with?” There are many versions of this slogan; here are a few of my favorites:
“Surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel; energies are contagious.”
“The people you surround yourself with influence your behaviors, so choose friends who have healthy habits.”
“You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.”
“Surround yourself with people who have dreams, desire, and ambition; they’ll help you push for, and realize your own.”
“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher”. –Oprah Winfrey
“The key to success is keeping company with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” –from the Words of Epictetus
I believe we can see this enacted on every layer of society and in many different facets of life. When we talk about the health factor of life, the people you spend time with, that influence you can either help or cause significant harm to your life. The people you spend the most time with are your community. If you spend most of your time with the health crowd, the likelihood that you will be healthy increases. Sadly, the reverse is also true. So what happens when your current crowd is not a healthy one and you are one of the only ones that want to make a change?
Anytime someone wants to make a huge life change; it is almost always going to require transitioning to a new community. There are many different examples of this including:
- If you are the first one in your group of single friends to start dating or even get married, then you will find yourself wanting to do different activities than your single friends. There is a transition.
- The first couple in your group of married friends to have kids changes things. Suddenly you want to pick the most kid friendly restaurants instead of the just the trendiest. Things suddenly have to revolve around nap and bedtimes. This is a huge transition.
These are two natural changes in life. But what if the transition you need to make is for your health? That is often a harder transition for your community to understand. When you make the decision to start eating healthier, for example, it is likely that the people you have been spending time with weren’t focusing on healthy eating. So they still want you to hang out with them, but they want to go to the sports bar and eat deep fried food and all the other stuff you know you need to avoid. To be honest, that’s not your scene anymore, and it’s not who you want to be. If you are going to be in this scene then see if you can partner with another person making healthy choices in this environment. Or find another activity to share with the part of this group you wish to spend time with.
A helpful piece of the challenge of transitioning communities is that as you invest more of your time being active and eating healthy, you will begin to meet others that do similar activities, shop at similar stores or even related areas of the same store. Soon you will know another unrelated group and they will become a new community, maybe your primary community. It’s very common to be excited about these new connections with people who are going the same way you are now going. You have a shared passion, interests, and goals. Your old community may not have the understanding of this new connection. Problems can develop with your old crowd when they see you excited about the transition.
Your old community may not have the understanding of this new connection. Problems can develop with your old crowd when they see you excited about the transition. I believe that as we walk through life, we have the opportunity to walk through many of these transitions and they are healthy for us and those around us. Sometimes our friends make the transitions with us and sometimes that is not the case. It will not be up to you. The most important thing you can do is stay true to what you want to be and give your old community a way to join you on part of it.
“When you are seeking to bring big plans to fruition, it is important with whom you regularly associate. Hang out with friends who are like-minded and who are also designing purpose-filled lives. Similarly be that kind of a friend for your friends.” –Mark Twain.
Let’s just say the group you have been spending the majority of your time with prefers to eat unhealthy foods and lounge around watching TV all of the time. You are the first one to decide to make a change. You have had enough of being obese and tired all of the time. So you start making healthy food choices and walking the dog instead of watching TV in the evenings. Maybe you join a hiking club or start taking dancing lessons. Now when your friends call and ask you to come over to watch TV etc., you’re probably going to have other plans. Our willpower is only so strong, and to be successful; we shouldn’t put ourselves in tempting situations. Instead, you might invite your friends to take a walk with you. Some might accept, and others may not. It is their choice and the choices you are making are yours. It seems there is always at least one friend that is willing to try out the new lifestyle with you. To be the new you the community around you may need some change.
If you are facing one of these life transitions, I don’t envy you, and I feel your pain. It is hard, let’s not candy coat it. However, it is so very worth it. I encourage you to stick with it! Try to take as many of your friends with you as you can. Try to help them understand why you need to make the healthy choices. Reassure them that it is not you rejecting them personally but that you cannot continue to live that way. Give them a chance to understand and support you but don’t risk your health if they aren’t ready to move with you. In the whole scope of life, you never know the impact your choices will have on them. They might not be willing to change their lifestyle at that time. But you might have just planted the seed for a positive change later.
Transitioning communities is difficult. But embrace the new community that is going to support activity and healthy eating. Rejoice that you have found a group that brings out the best in you.