Here’s another secret happy people have figured out (second in our series). Happy people have figured out that it’s pretty much a pointless activity to try and change other people. They realise that – hell – it’s hard enough to change OURSELVES, and that is something we have full control over! Think about the last big change you made, and how much effort it took from you to keep on track and create the new habit you have stuck to. Exactly. And that’s you controlling you. Change can be hard enough to integrate for ourselves. Consequently, it’s almost impossible to change others, however much we feel we know what’s best for their own good.
When we make our own happiness dependent on another person changing in some way… we are in for a pretty much guaranteed unhappy ride. It means we are putting our happiness in a circumstance beyond our direct control. The thing is, people don’t change because we want them to. Ultimately, they change – or not – because they want to. At some point, there is a trade off where the discomfort required to change becomes less than the discomfort of continuing as they are, and change becomes the least painful option. Trying to “force” or “make” someone change before they are ready (or they simply don’t want to), makes you and them unhappy.
What we can do though is to inspire change with our own actions. We can walk the talk in term of changes we make with our own changes. We can lift people and inspire people to change, but we cannot make the change for them. However much we love someone, or however right we feel we are about their best course of action, we cannot make that change for them. Pouring endless attention, energy, time, money at trying to force someone else to change is crazy making. Yes, we might know best that they would be happier if only they looked after their health better, or ditched the unsupportive partner, moved jobs to something more creative – but at the end of the day, that’s not truly our business. It’s theirs.
A happy person knows they can pour more of that time, energy, love, money, into the change they want to see in their own life and inspire change by being the lighthouse, by lighting the way. By demonstrating how well they take care of their own health, or prioritising eating well or ditching sugar or coffee. By having great boundaries that they live in their own balanced and happy relationship showing it’s possible. By speaking up and asking for what they need and showing it can be done. By working in their area of passion and fulfilment and taking it from pipe dream to reality. By being brave and leaving something that’s untenable.
Powerful change that sticks is change that comes from a desire to change within ourselves, rather than a well-meaning someone trying to “make us” change. Happy people know this – they support change in others by inspiring and leading the way – and they don’t make their happiness dependent on someone else changing in a certain way.
Don’t get me wrong. People can change profoundly. People can and do make stupendous changes and leaps forward in their awareness and their lives.
Courageous clients making extraordinary change – taking control of their health, happiness, work, love, life and changing it for the better. They own that process, for themselves. Yes, of course, there is a positive knock-on benefit for their partner, kids, staff, friends – but they have made the change primarily for themselves first. The most powerful change comes from owning our own journey and changes, not from trying to impose them on others, however well-meaning we are.