How Positive Alliances Produce Real Change

This week I had the chance to participate in a multi-day communications seminar. And before you ask, no it wasn’t one of those cliché “Rah! Rah! You can do it!” seminars. It centered around the importance of effective communication in both your work life and personal life.

One of the biggest rules was email and texting are NOT communicating. They are a means to share information but only talking (preferably in person) is considered having a conversation. That struck me since as a millennial I think my first inclination is to just communicate as fast as possible with text and email.

Even more importantly I learned how real conversations and listening to people without interjecting allows for the conversation to become much deeper. Sometimes silence is the best decision.

Huddle-up team

When I left this seminar, I realized that I had a new perspective and felt much closer to those who attended it with me. The quote I remember most from one of the speakers was: “You are the average of the ten adults you spend the most time with.”

It was that statement that lead me to think about change. Not just about being confident enough to make a change but why having a support system around you during that time is vital to accomplishing change. So who was in my huddle and ready to support me?

Making a change can be as simple as getting a new haircut to making life altering decisions about your health. All of those changes, both big and small, need their own level of support from others.

Now I’m not saying that we have to depend on the approval of others to make decisions or have self-worth. That’s not true at all. Those feelings can only come from within yourself but having a base of support only helps to bolster the positivity you feel.

Let the “new you” shine through

Take the simple example I gave of getting a new haircut. I actually recently cut my hair to the shortest it’s ever been. In a matter of minutes it went from almost down to my hips to barely long enough to fall past my collar bones.

As it was re-shaped and styled I noticed it made everything look different about me. It changed the way my outfit looked and even made the shape of my face seem different. I loved the change! I felt less weighed down. So naturally I was excited for the feedback from my friends. Luckily all the feedback was just as excited and positive as I felt.

This is a small thing in the grand scheme of decisions we make but it was this experience that made me think: how would I have felt if my friends didn’t support this change? I think I would have been immediately self-conscious and filled with doubt about myself.

Now if you think about it, if I would have felt that way over something as easily fixable as a haircut, how would I have felt if my friends didn’t support major health changes I wanted to make? That made me circle back to the quote I mentioned earlier. “If I’m the average of the ten adults closest to me, then what does that say about me? How does that influence my life?”

Identifying the Regina George’s in your life

I think this is one of the hardest aspects of starting and maintaining your health journey that no one tells you about. I think some of us can bring to mind a friend who seems to be the negative influence in your life. They convince you to get loaded nachos when you’re following a nutrition plan or push for you to stay out late when you want to hit the gym early in the morning. There might not always be malicious intent but their actions make it harder to stick to your plan. Now ultimately it really is on you to push back and tell your friend no but it can be wearing after a while.

That’s why I found that if you want to make a permanent change you have to really think about who you surround yourself with. Truthfully, I don’t have many friends that struggle with their weight like I do. But I do know that even though we don’t share this experience they want what’s best for my health. That makes all the difference when I struggle to stay on track. I know the people who love me want me to reach the finish line as much as I do.

I’m not saying to just start dropping friends like hot potatoes if they don’t want to do CrossFit with you or something. I would however make an effort to find some “fitness friends” so that you have a peer group with the same aligned beliefs. Whether these are people you meet at a group class at the gym, people in an online fitness community or keeping the healthy friends you have closest to you – those are all positive influencers.

Get on board or get left behind

But what do you do when you have a friend who is blatantly not supportive of your health change? These are the people who:

  • Regularly say nasty things or criticize you for choosing a healthy option
  • Complain that you’re at the gym or being active
  • Appear to be jealous of the hurdles you get over
  • Comment negatively or inappropriately about your body shape

I’ve had some of these people in my life and I know that I just have to limit my time with them. Sometimes I only see them in group settings to avoid the comments when we’re one-on-one. Others I’ve just stopped seeing all together.

That may seem extreme but I have realized how much I have grown in self-worth without that negativity. I don’t dislike these people but I know that because they’re not growing with me then their time in my life has run its course. I found that sometimes you can talk with the person to work it out and other times their negative vibe means it’s time to let that relationship go.

The take away here is whether you’re just starting out or almost at your goal, people who have support are more likely to stick to their healthy routine. So take some time to think about who you want in your “support team” huddle. Be careful of the doubters and the naysayers and stay true to your goals because your health and happiness can rise above it.

Always remember to consult your doctor before starting any exercise or nutrition program.

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