Happy people don’t try to change others
Here’s the second secret happy people have figured out (read the first one here). Happy people have figured out that it’s pointless to try to change other people.
They realise that it is 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 them. It’s uphill work to “make them” live life differently.
When we make our own happiness dependent on another person changing in some way, we are probably in for an unhappy ride. It means we are putting our happiness in a circumstance beyond our direct control. People don’t change because we want them to. Ultimately, they change 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 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 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 they would be happier if only they looked after their health, or ditched the unsupportive partner, moved jobs to something more creative.
But that is not our business. It’s theirs.
A happy person knows they can pour more of that time, energy, love, money, into the change they want 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.
By how they live in their own happy relationship. By speaking up and asking for what they need and showing it can be done. By working in their area of passion and and taking it from pipe dream to reality. By being brave and leaving something that’s untenable.
Powerful change 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, making stupendous changes and leaps forward in their awareness and their lives. I see courageous clients making extraordinary change every day.
Yes, of course there is a positive knock-on benefit for those around them — but they have made the change primarily for themselves.
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.