As anyone who knows me will tell you, one of my many mantras as I go about my business is this
‘You cannot change anyone else. You can only change you, but guess what?……. When you change, the people around you have to change too.’
I see this all the time in my work and quite often come face to face with it in my own life. The only way you can help other people to change is if they ask for your help and this is where coaching and a variety of other external support comes in. Other than this you simply have to watch them live life on their terms however frustrating this is.
You can explain concepts, cause and effect, behaviours and outcomes. You can express your opinion and share your experience, but personal instructions and fixing is a no go.
Most of us expend a considerable amount of our precious time attempting to change other people, – our partners, our kids, our boss, our employees, our family and friends. We want to mould them to our values and beliefs, to make them see the world the way we do, to encourage them that our way is best. We do not do this from a malicious or negative standpoint, we genuinely believe we are helping them to solve a problem or rise to a challenge, or do the right thing. But the right thing for who? If the decision is made with our back story, with our mindset, with our values and beliefs and with our view of the world how can it possibly be the right decision for anyone else?
If we subscribe to the philosophy of individuality and the view that we are all unique human beings then how can our solution be fit for any other person other than ourself?
Science tells us that there is no such thing as objective reality, there is only our own reality. We see the world through a set of personal filters based on our experience only.
I am currently working through the frustration of not being able to help or should I say fix someone very close to me who is repeating some destructive behaviour patterns and as a result is unhappy, down and feeling stuck. It is kinda irrelevant that I can see some of the mistakes she is making, or that I know she is capable of so much more than she allows herself to believe, or that she is continually sabotaging her future as a form of protection, or that the patterns she repeats are grounded in self hatred and fear.
Until she gets this, until she learns to love herself, I am pretty powerless and can only stay close to her, hold her hand, let her know I care, tell her I am here for her and wait.
If I try to fix her or rescue her on my terms, or take away her decision making ability, I deny her the emotional resilience she will gain from working through it and I also deny her the all important life lessons she so needs to internalise to ensure next time life throws her a low ball she does not fall over.
Even knowing this on an intellectual and emotional level does not make it any less painful to watch someone you love in distress, but I cannot change her without her permission and even with it every professional bone in my body screams at me to step back.
So remember, the next time you start a sentence with ‘I know what you should do….’ Think on, it is their life not yours, advice is always welcome, instructions less so.