You may be struggling with having supportive friends and family when it comes to your goals of starting a business or trying an unpopular career. They discourage you. Fight with you. Try to stop you. What do you do when they don’t support you?

You have two choices. You can let it bother you or you can keep doing what you’re doing, but beware that you have a difficult road ahead. Studies have shown that people are strongly motivated to follow the crowd and copy what their peers are doing, even if it doesn’t make sense, even to the point of duplicating irrational behaviour.

So if you want to wander off from the traditional path, and pursue your own successes, understand that it won’t be easy. I have some tips on how to do that, but first, some insight into the way people think will help you to build that thick skin and independence. Let’s start with pack mentality.

Why Others Don’t Support You

There is a story of a fisherman who went out and caught buckets of crabs. A man walked by and saw a bucket with no lid. He wondered if the fisherman was worried the crabs would crawl out. The fisherman said he wasn’t. If one crab tried to crawl out, the others would pull it back down with the rest of them.

It’s sad, because if all the crabs worked together, they could escape. People with crab mentality feel jealous when someone does something remarkable. They will bash other people’s goals in an effort to keep everyone at the same level.

This is a reason why friends and family won’t support your goals, particularly if you want to try something none of them have done before. Entrepreneurs and business owners and anyone who wants to leave the well-trodden path face this isolation. Their friends and family decide whether something is okay based on what other people do.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini demonstrated social proof in an experiment on thievery. He was curious how people perceived right and wrong depending on what their peers did. He removed a sign from the forest that said, “Your heritage is being vandalized every day by theft losses of petrified wood of 14 tons a year, mostly a small piece at a time.”

The path without the sign had less theft. The path that still had the sign had more theft, implying that people thought the message gave them permission to steal. Not all social proof was negative, however.

It’s a bleak message to think that people could permit something like thievery. It opens the door to people allowing immoral behavior if their peers think it’s okay. And it’s scary to think that if you made a decision to do something your friends and family didn’t like, then they as a group could turn against you and take action, even if what they are doing is wrong. So how could we turn social proof into something positive?

How You Can Change Their Minds

There is evidence you can influence positive group behavior. In a study, researcher Albert Bandura and his colleagues worked with a group of children that feared dogs. After they watched a boy playing with a dog and having fun for over four days, they were able to lose their fear over time and play with the dog also. Knowing that people naturally want to fit into a group, this model for changing behavior has many implications.

If you’re thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, and you come from a family of employees and your friends are employees, and they’re warning you about the consequences of failing and going deep into debt… you can expose them to successful entrepreneurs and their stories as proof that your goals are not only achievable, but have been achieved before. So how easily can you sway their opinion?

It’s possible to do it, if they believe everyone around them thinks the same way. In a simple social conformity experiment, researchers realized how powerful conformity is when they were able to teach people to behave irrationally. In the experiment, a newcomer to a patient waiting room noticed everyone stood up when they heard a beep. Eventually, she learned the behaviour and she stood up at the beep even when she was alone in the room. When new people arrived, she showed them to behave in the same manner. A social norm had been created, and no one questioned the reasoning behind it.

You might be wondering, could we teach people to do as we ask if it’s that easy? Let’s go back to the metaphor of the crabs in the bucket. You’re the crab trying to escape the traditional path and find your own, independent future. Your well-meaning family and friends are trying to pull you back in. How can you persuade others to agree with you?

If you are seeking validation or permission, and the people around you don’t support you, don’t wait for it. As you’ve been reading so far, people have a very strong tendency to follow the crowd and do what they think is acceptable, even if it doesn’t make sense. It’s more comfortable to fit in and settle with the other crabs than be the one struggling to climb out. If you need emotional support, then you don’t have what it takes.

So what can you do if people around you don’t support you? How can you keep going on a different path? When I first started as an entrepreneur, I didn’t have any support, so I understand how difficult it can be.

Today, I’m going to share some advice on what to do when your friend and family, and others around you don’t support you and you find yourself trailblazing a path on your own.

Watch this video on what to do if others don’t support you.

Give Them A Chance To Understand But Don’t Expect Them To

When you decide to take a path in life that isn’t familiar to your loved ones, they might not support you. There are several possible reasons for this.

  • Your situation is unfamiliar to them, so they don’t know how to help
  • They fear the unknown and they want to protect you
  • They fear that you will fail

You can try to explain to them what you plan to do, and hope to convince them. Give them a chance to understand what you are doing. But don’t count on their support.

My mom wasn’t supportive when I told her I wanted to quit school and pursue entrepreneurship. One day, she planned the Dim Sum Ambush by inviting my friends and my relatives to dim sum (Chinese food) together at one big table.

I thought we were just having lunch, but I soon realized it was a meeting of me against them, with my mom trying to convince me to stay in school. My friends and my relatives sided with her.

No one supported me, and it wasn’t just that day. I was fighting on my own for many, many years.

Show Them Your Commitment To Success

When you start on your path, your track record isn’t likely to be any good. You will have tried many things, and failed many things. Or you’re young and straight out of school with little experience. Why should they trust you when you tell them about your vision?

Social pressure goes both ways. Your loved ones want you to be just like them and follow the proven formula that’s worked for them. Go to school, get a job, buy a house, pay off debts. You want to be different and leave the herd. But what if you’re leaving one herd you don’t want and joining the wrong herd?

Making such a decision is very, very possible. Entrepreneurs can follow the crowd into the hottest market, hoping to succeed because that’s where all the other startups are going. In a 13 year study, researchers discovered that venture capitalists that entered a market that was “hot” didn’t fare as well as entrepreneurs that entered “untouchable” markets with careful scrutiny. So do your due diligence. Research the path you want to take and then tell others.

They won’t buy into your belief or your plan at first because your track record isn’t very strong.

So the first thing you need to do is believe in yourself. Believe in yourself and what you want to do, and stay committed to your goal.

Don’t expect or wait for anybody to support you. It’s going to be lonely, but you can’t let that stop you from what you plan to achieve, as long as you stay committed.

Over time, once you achieve some success, then you might get some support when people see how dedicated you are. When my mom saw how committed I was, then she started to support me because I had earned her respect. And that takes us to my final tip.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Successful Without Support

One reason why people don’t succeed is not their fear of failure, but their fear of success. They know what it’s like to struggle but they don’t know what it’s like to succeed. The people around them aren’t that successful, so they don’t have many role models.

Take a look at the people around you. If they haven’t had the opportunity to make a lot of wealth or reach a lot of success in their lives, they can’t see how you can reach prosperity. So when they see you on your path, they’re afraid of losing you.

You’re going somewhere they’ve never been. They can see that you’re talking, acting, and behaving differently.

It can be your spouse, your parents, or your siblings who are afraid of losing you because you’re doing something completely unfamiliar to them. Even if you’re doing your mission to make a better future for them, they don’t support you because of their fear.

You could be the first person they know to reach a high level of success. So don’t be afraid to be successful. Change how you react to the people around you.

High performance coach Brendon Burchard advises, “One way to manage the response you’re receiving from others as you grow and pursue your dream, is to limit your exposure to them. If that’s not possible, then change how you react to them.” So become independent and make your own decisions.  

Make Decisions For Yourself

At the end of the day, it’s your path. You get to decide how to live your life. It doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse, your parents, your children, your siblings, or your friends… don’t let them influence your choices. It’s not going to be easy to go against the herd and be the crab climbing out. But think about the reward when you succeed.

You can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself. Make your choices for yourself and don’t count on their support. Don’t drag them along by trying to change their point of view. It will just slow you down.

How to deal with a lack of support  

Here are some quick tips on what you can do if you don’t have a lot of support from friends and family.

  1. Be yourself. Know who you are and don’t try to convince others of your worth. When you become successful, you will attract others who are like you.
  2. Address the concerns from your loved ones and listen to what they have to say. Just because they don’t understand what you are doing, doesn’t mean they don’t respect you.
  3. Become self reliant and focus on your goals. Tune out all distractions, especially the fears of those who don’t support you.
  4. Reach out to a new network to find people with similar goals to yours. Ask them for advice and support. There are many online groups these days.

If you are certain about what your goal, your mission, then stay focussed until you reach success.

Are you committed to your goals? Comment below.