One thing I’m trying to let go of, is the feeling I need change others.
Part of my frustration comes from wanting others to live better but not seeing them take action to do so.
It’s not because I want them to be like me, to think and act like me but because I want so deeply to uplift and improve their quality of life.
We may shout at our children to clean their room, berate our relatives to eat healthier, leave passive aggressive post-it notes to messy roommates but does that really ever work?
One clear example I can think of is smoking. I find it incredulous that someone would voluntarily choose to smoke knowing full well the negative effects but I forget all the times I have drank to excess, binged on chocolate or caused myself unnecessary worry. I am not so different.
What we can do instead
Breathe – Just taking a moment to breathe in and out before responding can be the difference between saying something that will cause more frustration and showing compassion for them and for yourself.
Understand that you can’t control others – Sometimes we feel tough love or a little control is all it will take but it inevitably ends in misery for both yourself and others. But we simply cannot make someone pay attention to something they don’t want to. Once we relinquish that need for control, we’ll be far happier and can then approach with influence, encouragement and support.
Live via leadership – True leadership is leading by example, being the change you want to see in the world. Instead of telling them not to do this or not to do that, just go about your life living it how you wish and others may begin to follow. One example was a friend who would take their coffee cup back to the counter on the way out making it easier for the staff. He didn’t explicitly say we should do so but once others saw him doing it, they simply followed.
Educate – If people do ask, why do you not eat meat? Or why don’t you own a car? Then you can educate them, not in a pushy way but explain simply how you think your actions can contribute a better quality of life. The great thing about this is that it can cause healthy debate and you may even learn something new from them.
Ask them for support – One way to get people interested in change is to ask them to support you. They could give you a nudge when you try to order one more glass of wine or get them to hold you accountable by agreeing to workout together. People are generally happy to help and once they help you and see the benefits they may then want help to change themselves. This even works on people who may not like you. It’s possible to turn a hater into a fan, simply by asking them for a favour!
Show compassion – Have you ever had to change something about yourself? Changing my diet was really hard for me and it still is when I’m confronted by easy access to foods I’m trying to reduce. Use that understanding to show compassion for others who are trying to change.
Change what you can – If you can influence change in someone that’s incredible and should be celebrated. It’s not an invitation to change them further unless they want to.
Change the people around you – “You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.” I would recommend this last because the world would be boring if we were all the same and having people who challenge our ideas and actions can be a good way to keep us in check. However, it may be time to say goodbye to friendships that you may be feel are holding you back or are toxic to your well-being.
This is something I continue to struggle with but hope that this advice will both help myself and others who struggle as well.