How (and when) to Know It’s Time to Change Your Support Network

RAFT Team, May 16, 2022

As your needs and interests change, so will parts of your support network. Here's how to know it's time to change, how to make those changes, and how to silence the voices in your head that tell you you can’t.

Who is in your life right now?

Who are the people you know and interact with right now? Are there some relationships you’d like to deepen? Are there some that drag you down? Take stock of how you feel around people, and note the people you really enjoy being with and who help you be the best you can be. These are your people, and the ones you’ll want to invest a bit more time into. All the others, you can still enjoy being with, but don’t feel you have to invest extra time and energy into the relationship. A small world isn’t a bad thing as long as you’re connected with a few other people.

What are your interests?

Your world is as big as you make it. This includes the people in your life, your responsibilities, and your interests. And with the past two years keeping us at home, many have picked up new hobbies or rekindled interest in things they used to love. And often, this has meant that you’re NOT doing all the things you used to do. 

We all grow and shift and change on a daily basis. Over time, this means you align yourself with others who share your changing values, beliefs, or interests. Whenever shifts happen in life, it’s good to take a second look at your support network. Are the people in your circle supportive of the changes you’re making? Is your relationship with them still relevant to where you’re headed?

This doesn’t mean a sudden cold shoulder to those who no longer share the same interests, but it likely means you’ll find yourself spending less and less time with them. And that’s okay. Just as in nature, we go through seasons in life. Some people are perfect for particular seasons, but not for others. As you build new relationships in line with your renewed interests, some previous ones will naturally fade. You can read more about letting go here.

How do I connect with others?

Ask yourself 3 questions: What do I love, what do I want to learn, and where do I want to go?

What do I love?

Are there things that bring you joy every time you do them? It may be bowling, cross-stitching, painting or pottery. Perhaps gaming, growing tomatoes, or playing guitar. From sunrise to sunset there are things to enjoy. Think about the things you love and how you incorporate a new person or two in those activities. 

Maybe you could join a bowling league. Maybe your local craft shop has classes you could take. You may even find a pottery shop where you could rent a little time to do what you love around other people who love it too.

Pop into your local game store and see if they have a monthly game night you could join. See if there’s a community garden in your area. Or an open mic night where you could listen to others who love music, too. 

All of these are opportunities to connect with other people. 

What do you want to learn?

Surely there are a few things you’d love to learn more about. It may be on something you already love, but it may be something new all together. Maybe you want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s going to take some knowledge, training, gear, and talking to people who have done it before. All of which provide perfect opportunities to connect with others. 

Change Your Support Network by focusing on what you want to learn

Maybe you want to learn how to roller-skate. Yes, you can watch videos online. But you can also meetup with other people who love to skate. What better opportunity to keep yourself motivated and moving forward than to spend time with people who are learning the same skill.

You may want to learn about how to invest your money or save for retirement. See who offers free classes and take it from there. Today’s world makes it easy to find experts on almost any topics, and a group of people who follow those experts. And these are the people who already have a big interest just the same as yours.

Where do you want to go?

Where do you want to be next year? Your answer may be anything from a physical location, a mindset shift, a financial goal, or a career shift. Find people with similar goals so you can help keep each other motivated, accountable, and informed. It’s much easier to make changes in a community of enthusiastic supporters than all by yourself. 

How do I stay connected?

It’s one thing to build a support network. It’s quite another to use it. Here are some common excuses you may turn to when you’re thinking about connecting:

  • I don’t have time.
  • I don’t know what to say.
  • It will be awkward.
  • It’s been too long since I've talked to them.
  • They’re probably busy.
  • I don’t want them to feel obligated.

Are these all valid? At times, probably. Should we listen to these voices? No. Because the truth is, everyone is busy. We all feel awkward at times. And reconnecting after a long time apart can feel strange. But make the effort. Reach out. You won’t always hit a home run when you do, but even connecting with just one or two others makes the awkward moments and self-doubt worth the effort.

If you’ve been hurt in the past, you probably have a natural tendency to want to make it on your own. This is normal! Give yourself self the time and space to reach out slowly and build trust, but don’t let that fear stop you from building a solid support community. 

For your next step, name one thing that’s overwhelming you right now. Who in your world might be just the right person to help you with it? It might simply be asking someone if they know someone who can help. Make it a goal to reach out today. If you truly can’t today, put a reminder on your calendar to make it happen before the week is done. Just commit to asking for assistance.