Change and others

Change can be good, life coach Jan Aitken writes.

So far this year we've focused on setting up some goals or intentions and then taken a look at how to handle some of the roadblocks that can pop up and slow us down or even stop us.

Last column there was an exercise to help us figure out who we want to be and t

hen align our behaviour and responses to that. All in all that's a lot of potential changes in a few months.

Making well-thought-out changes in our lives is fun, challenging, scary, empowering and lots of others things as well. Sometimes those close to us can be less than supportive while we try to incorporate these changes into our lives.

Sometimes they can even outright sabotage our efforts. That lack of support can be devastating, hurtful and really confusing. It can have us question whether the things we're changing are worth it and it can lead to some serious rifts in relationships.

Let's take a moment to try to understand what might be happening, why we might be getting less than wholehearted, unconditional support.

Making changes can cause all sorts of tensions for us and we're the ones who have thought it all through. We have all of the thinking and plotting and planning in our head, we have all the background information and we're clear on what we want to do.

Possibly those close to us have missed out on all that background stuff and suddenly someone in their life is doing something differently. Maybe it's something that has been done a certain way for many years.

Change for others, especially if they have no control over it, can be frightening and confusing for them. It can leave them feeling like they're on the back foot trying to figure out what on earth is going on.

Their life is now changing. Some common responses to change that might come across as negative can include:


Fear of the unknown or fear of being left behind.

‘‘What will change next?'', ‘‘What does this change mean for me?'', ‘‘Oh boy, do I have to change as well?'', ‘‘What if I'm not good enough anymore?''.


Change can trigger things in others that they feel they should change themselves and this can be very uncomfortable for people.


Often those around us will worry we'll fail or be hurt during the process of changing something. Their natural reaction is to want to protect us but it can come across as being really unhelpful.


Unfortunately if someone around us is unhappy with their world and they don't have the emotional, physical or financial resources to start changing things then jealousy may pop up.

If your friends can't or won't support you or at the very least refrain from attempting to derail your efforts then it may be time to upgrade your ‘‘friends'' to a better model!

Family can be a bit more tricky to deal with; it's not always practical or appropriate to remove ourselves from them.

Whoever it is who is a bit flummoxed by you changing, the steps for dealing with it are communicate, communicate and, you guessed it, communicate.

Firstly, understand that not everyone will be supportive of you or your goals and changes. While that can be hurtful, it's a reality and something worth thinking about when you embark on new goals and implementing changes.

Avoid getting into arguments about what's happening. It's likely that will just entrench everyone where they are. Inherently we humans like the status quo and we'll try to hang on to it as long as possible.

Try not to laud the new improved you over others or be judgemental and look down on others. That really is a road to nowhere, fast.

The better approach is to try the diplomatic route and explain why you want to do what you're doing. Tell them why it's so important. Let them know you want to see what happens when you do something different.

Acknowledge their concerns (if you know what they are) and gently explain that this is something you'd regret if you didn't try it. You will probably have to set some new boundaries and be consistent, upholding them while people get used to the new you.

You are training others how to treat you. Flip-flopping back and forth can be really confusing for everyone so be prepared to firmly, but politely, stand up for yourself.

Life is too precious and too short to be surrounded by energy drainers and people who genuinely don't want the best for us. It may be time to acknowledge we are on different paths from some of those around us and to let go of some relationships. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed, and then succeed.

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

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