Updates from new blog at www.nextchapternewlife.com/blog/

Thursday, January 8, 2009


No wonder we find making changes so hard. Of all the possible changes you can think of, all affect some aspect of your social life. Our social life is not only important to us it is a vital part of who we are. I'm sure someone reading this might pooh-pooh that idea. Think about it for a minute. Unless you live in a mountain cave and come in contact with absolutely no one, you have social contact and most likely some of those contacts have meaning to your life.

Let's look at some various examples of what I mean about changing your social life. I tried to think of the most self focused change that can be made,, that had the least to do with someone else. I thought of plastic surgery. If you think about the context for doing plastic surgery, it does come across as a very "me" focused change. The doctor doing the surgery will interview you about your motivations. Key to the discussion is the notion that you aren't doing it to please someone else, but rather to feel better about yourself.

I hope you have the picture now. Assuming that is all true, chances are very high that people you come in contact with will possibly react to you differently afterward. Your friends and family will have their reactions to it. You will sport a new attitude about yourself and your interactions with others. Summary: you thought you were changing your body but you have also changed your social life, at least to some degree.

Now, plastic surgery is not something most of us can't relate to but I wanted to make a point about change and its social aspects. In our lifetime, most of us will go through common changes like getting married, having kids, changing jobs, moving, and retiring. All are changes that have positive attributes and all are changes that will remold the social fabric of your life. Certainly there are other "less positive" changes that will thrust social changes upon you such as: divorce, illness and death. Let me take one of these examples and expand on it again so you can relate to it more deeply.

You are making a job change. The list of concerns are numerous, even if you are making the change for good reasons like pay, job advancement, training or experience. Among the concerns you might have are:

  1. will I like my new boss (social)
  2. I will miss the friends I have at my current job (social)
  3. will I like the people I work with at the new job (social)
  4. can I perform my new job (not social)
  5. I will be in a learning curve and feel uncomfortable (not social)
  6. my routine will have to change (may be social as it might impact home life and after work activities).


In this situation, the motivation for making a job change could be social or purely objective like more pay. No matter the motivations your social life will change.

The place of work presents to all of us what I call "automatic friends". These people automatically share several common experiences. They are working for the same company and therefore impacted by the company's situation. They are doing similar or related work and probably work for the same boss. You eat together and over time you learn about each other lives. You also probably know that without the context of work, you probably would never see most of these people no matter how fond you might be of them. Yet without them in your life, they would be missed. You may also feel a sense of disloyalty for leaving them. There is another aspect not to be missed about the social aspect of change. I call it "tribal mentality".

Since I've made my point about change being social change, you then have to understand that you are a part of a group or a system. In this last example the group or system is the work group. When even one person within a system makes a change it becomes a change for everyone. As humans we don't really like change because it represents some level of discomfort. We will do almost anything to avoid being uncomfortable. The individuals in the "tribe" may be outwardly supportive but inwardly they are demanding that life remain the same. They have a habit and you're part of it. They will continue with the habit as long as they can. If you maintain contact with them after you leave, chances are they will see you as the person they knew in the old setting. They may attempt to interact with you as they did previously, yet it will be odd and out of place. Their behavior may cause you to question the decision to change. They will do everything they can to have you stay the same, not because it's in your best interest but because it's in theirs. Now, multiply that times the number of people in your group and you have "tribal mentality". It's definitely one big contributor to why change is hard to make. It's because we are but a thread in the social fabric of our life. It doesn't mean it can't be done. It does mean you have to understand it will be part of what will make it tough.

My hope in pointing this out to you is to help you understand that there are real but subjective elements to every change you go through. The best help with this aspect is simply to be educated. Knowing that these situations will occur and are very natural can be good to help you slog through. That knowledge won't necessarily make it go away or create less anxiety but will help you self manage your reaction to it. You must keep your eye on the goal. On the other side of change can be a new and exciting life.