People resist changing themselves, even clear improvements, for many reasons. One I see a lot, and have felt, is the fear that they’ll lose friends.
The fear makes sense. The people in your life like you for the you they know. Changing your behavior means you may change things that attract them to you. Changing your environment risks them not leaving the old environments you shared. You could lose friendships. Even if you don’t lose them, you might still offend them by changing without them.
We don’t like losing friends.
I call this resistance to change inertia. Other people can cause inertia as much as anything else.
Do your changes align with your values more?
The most important question about your potential change is if it aligns with your values more than your current state. If so, you’ll find your new environments, beliefs, and behaviors will feel more natural, true, and right to you. When your change begins they may feel fake, but the more the changes align with your values, the more you’ll feel comfortable as you change.
If the change moves you away from your values, you’ll have bigger problems than losing your friends. For the rest of this post, I’ll assume you’re changing yourself to align more with your values.
Three common effects of changing your values
The first result you’ll find when you change yourself is that you have less time for some friends. You expect to miss them.
Noble as you may feel for feeling bad about losing your friends, I think you’ll find your concerned misplaced.
1. You don’t miss some friends as much as you expected to.
I expect most people’s main fear is missing people they care about: you always go dancing with a group of friends. If you stop going dancing in order to get ahead at work you’re afraid you’ll never see your friends.
You may not like hearing this about people you care about now, but once you start doing your new things, you’ll miss your old friends less than you expect. This effect may be what you fear — that you find that people aren’t as important as you thought, that you just spend time together out of convenience. Or shared interests and environments more than deeply shared values. If so, finding out you didn’t care for people as much as you expected may make you feel heartless or shallow.
People discount the value they’ll get from the new activities. You end up not minding missing people. You’ll value the times you spend together, but feel you’ve moved on and matured. Remember, I’m only talking about changes that align you more with your values. If those old friends stay aligned with the new values you’ll have time for them. If not, you’ll feel like moving on helped.
You may also find yourself thinking “good riddance” about some. Or even “good riddance to bad rubbish.” Sorry to break the news, but you’ll be glad to be rid of some people you call friends. You probably know this already but don’t feel comfortable thinking it, let alone acting on it.
You’ll also appreciate the new time freed up for the next point.
2. You have time for new friends who share your new values more.
You won’t spend the time liberated from the old friends sitting by yourself. You’ll spend it acting on your new behaviors in your new environments. You’ll meet new people and they’ll align more with your new values. You’ll feel more comfortable with them.
Since the new activities and environments align more with your values, you’ll enjoy and grow from the time you spend with them.
You’ll exchange friends you like more for friends you like less. Your life improves overall.
3. Some lost friends return and the friendship deepens.
Sometimes people feel trepidation about the first effect of easing away from friends. The third effect helps ease the risk you take.
Sometimes the friends you saw less of return to your life with a deeper or stronger connection after you change. I’ve had friendships improve for this inadvertent test. Maybe someone you liked to watch sports with disappears when you start your new company and don’t have time for sports, but then maybe they return and you realize you connected on something more than sports from the start.
This effect requires you to risk losing friends. Only then can you find out if the risk was worth it.
Net change: your life aligns more with your values and your overall friendship increases
Ultimately risking your friendships tests your confidence in yourself to create new relationships that fit your values more than the ones you risk losing. The more you know the new values fit you better, the more confidence you’ll have. The more you practice transforming parts of your life, the more you’ll know how the new values fit.
I recommend practicing with small changes with small risks to develop your transformation skills. Then move on to bigger or more complex ones.
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