Adjusting Your Social Environment
“You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.” —Joshua Fields Millburn, The Minimalists
The saying goes that you are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. Are the people you spend time with hyper-consumers? If they are, it’s likely that you are a hyper-consumer too. While there is nothing wrong with being friends with hyper-consumers, having the support of your friends while you shift your consumer habits is essential for staying the course. There’s a reason why Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous work: your community is key to staying on track through ups and downs.
A lifestyle change shouldn’t be something that you spring on your friends. You shouldn’t expect them to immediately understand why you’re taking a different position as a consumer, and you should expect them to question your choice (mostly out of curiosity rather than judgment). The key is not to “spring” information on them that impedes their own plans. For example, I experimented with a “no gifts Christmas.” I didn’t wait until December to tell my family about my experiment. I told them six months before Christmas. I also reminded them every month until December. Giving your friends and family time to adjust to the idea makes it easier to digest and will help them support you.
Any lifestyle change that you make can be explained to your family and friends by following these steps:
1. Share your current state. Be honest about how you feel stuck or unhappy about your current situation.
2. Focus on the positive. After explaining that you are unhappy, share that you have been looking for ways to improve your situation and have found something that you want to try out.
3. Emphasize the experiment. It’s easier to accept a change in your loved one’s life (especially one that seems radical, e.g., no gifts Christmas) if there is a time limit. By emphasizing the experimental nature, you’re telling your family that this may only be a temporary change. If they see how much happier you are a few months into your change of lifestyle, then they’ll support the experiment for the long term.
4. Request their support. Asking them explicitly to support you on this journey is one of the best ways of helping them feel included. There’s no need to isolate yourself from those who care about you.
True Friend Test
We like to believe that no matter how much our circumstances change, our friends will always be there for us. In many instances, this is the case. The sign of a true friend is one who supports you in your pursuit of happiness, even if that means you adopting radical lifestyle changes. Our friends care about who we are, not what we own. In some instances, you may find yourself growing apart from certain friends as you make lifestyle changes, and this could be because of the following reasons:
1. The friendship was built on a shared enjoyment of consumerism
2. Your friends may feel threatened by the change in lifestyle because it implicitly challenges their own notions of consumerism (which they don’t wish to change)
3. Your friends are not supportive and/or judgmental, breeding negative energy and actively resisting your lifestyle change
True friends will stick around during your lifestyle changes. They will support your pursuit of a more meaningful life. Don’t worry about those who don’t; they were never your real friends.
Tomorrow’s lesson will show you how you can start simplifying and reducing your exposure to things that encourage you to consume more than you need.
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