Friday, January 17, 2020

Family and Friends and Coworkers, Oh My!

I received an email two days ago from a gentleman I’ll call Fred. With his permission, I’ll share a bit of his story.

Fred’s marriage ended almost a year ago, and he was spending most evenings and every weekend eating meals and dozing in front of the TV. His daughter read my post about making life changes (Creating a Life Redesign Blueprint).  Worried about his uncharacteristic but now-chronic listlessness, she told her dad she thought he needed to make some changes and she knew just the way to get started.

After first he discarded creating a life redesign blueprint as “too touchy-feely” for him. Tired of his post-divorce life, though, he decided to give it a try.  Plus, as he explained in his email, his daughter kept nagging him, so he did it “just so she’d hush up about it”.

Fred jotted down a few ideas and then, feeling intrigued by the possibilities, visited his local library, searching for information on fly fishing camps and African safaris. A helpful librarian told him about podcasts, and he was introduced to a new avenue by which he could learn even more.

He was, he explained, feeling optimistic about life again, and things were going great. Until, in his excitement, he shared what he had been doing with his fishing-buddy brother-in-law and with a coworker who was also a good friend.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com
Their reactions were mixed. The coworker/good friend was intrigued by the African safaris and even suggested he might be interested in joining Fred. On the other hand, the brother-in-law was at first amused and then dismissing, mentioned the phrase “midlife crisis” a few times, and alerted his wife (Fred’s sister), who in turn paid Fred a visit to share how antidepressants had done her a world of good after her youngest went off to college.


Fred suggested in his email that I warn people in the act of redesigning their life to keep quiet about what they’re doing.

Fred raises an important issue. Unfortunately, and for a myriad of reasons, not everyone in your life is going to be supportive of your desire to make life changes.


I’ve learned in the past 10+ years, as I’ve made my own life changes, that people fall into what I consider 4 camps, and how you handle people you care about and interact with, according to their “camp”, could make all the difference in your journey to successfully and positively redesign your life.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com


First, there will be the enthusiastic supporters, the cheerleaders in your life. They will support you 200%, be interested in your progress, and may even help by sharing information and resources. You may be tempted to surround yourself only by these folks, but that would be a mistake. Yes, you need people who consistently and wholeheartedly encourage you to follow your dreams. But you also need some people who, while supportive of you and of your happiness, do not unwaveringly support your every idea and action.


You need realistic supporters. These people care about you and are supportive of your efforts to make positive changes in your life. But — and this is important — they will consistently temper their enthusiasm with practicality, and they will share with you honestly, without pessimism, when asked for their thoughts. You need a couple of people from this camp in your life. They are the ones who, at the end of a long, grueling work week, will remind you that singing Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It’ to your boss  with only 1 month’s living expenses in the bank and flying on a one-way ticket to Tahiti to lie on the beach while writing your magnum opus is probably not the best course of action. They are the ones who will understand your frustration and encourage you to lay the groundwork (financial and otherwise) before buying taking any drastic steps.

You probably also have at least one or two skeptics in your life. They can’t really understand what you’re doing because they avoid change themselves and can’t fathom anyone else being willing, much less eager, to alter a “perfectly good” life. These people can be dangerous to your life redesign. Because they may feel their relationship with you is threatened by the changes in your life, they will be careful not to appear too negative or unsupportive. As a result, they may appear to be realistic supporters and insidiously erode your enthusiasm. Be very carful how much time you spend and how much about your plans you share with a skeptic. Typically, the more time and information you share, the more negative they become; so be prepared to change topics or make an exit if  that happens.

Hopefully, there are no openly oppositional people in your life. A friend of mine calls them Debbie (or Davy) Downers because of their chronic negativity that never fails to suck the enthusiasm and joy out of those around them. It would be wonderful if you could avoid them altogether, but if you cannot, you might simply do what Fred suggests: don’t tell them about your life redesign process. If they find out anyway — and it seems that Debbie/Davy Downers often do find out what we least want them to know — be prepared. You might want to simply tell them that this is important to you and that you’d appreciate them offering you, if not their support, at least no discouragement. You might have to take other steps such as determinedly changing the topic when they criticize what your doing, avoiding them as much as possible, etc.

None of us exist in a vacuum, completely isolated from other people. It's crucial that we treat both ourselves and others, no matter how they view what we life-redesigners are doing, with respect.

Share your thoughts via a comment. Give a shout-out to someone who is a positive force in your life. Share about a less-positive situation and, if possible, how you've successfully handled it. Let's help each other as we journey to more fulfilling, joy-filled lives. 

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