We’ve all been there. Our significant other is too shy. Or too outgoing. Or not ambitious. And your child is lazy. Or too social. Or not social enough. Or has no interest in anything that makes any sense to you. What do many people do in these situations? You guessed it – try to change them.
But I’m just going to come out right now and be blunt: stop doing that.
There was a time in my life where I was guilty of trying to change people, too. However, I must confess that I didn’t admit that I was trying to change them. I said I was trying to “motivate,” “inspire,” and “help” them be the best person they can be. But let’s face it: I was trying to change them. I was fooling myself to think otherwise.
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So here are four things I learned from many years of trying to “help,” “motivate,” and “inspire” other people.
Reasons Why You Should Stop Trying To Change People
1. It’s exhausting and frustrating.
Think about all the energy you have put into trying to change someone else. Is it fun? Is it working out well for you? Probably not. All you are probably doing is focusing on the things you want to be changed and putting a lot of negative energy and thoughts toward it. But that is exhausting and frustrating, isn’t it?
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It’s kind of like if you’re trying to push a car out of a snowdrift. You can push and hit the accelerator all you want, but lots of times the car goes nowhere – the wheels just spin around and around in the same place. And what do you have left? Your exhaustion and frustration – and being in the same exact spot where you were before you started.
2. You should treat others the way you want to be treated.
You don’t want people to force you to change, so why is it fair for you to do it to others? Many people have a relatively elitist attitude when it comes to their own beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. They think their way is the “right” way.
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I’m sure you’ve experienced having someone to change you. It doesn’t feel very good, does it? So what gives you the right to do that to other people? Nothing.
3. You should be focusing your energy on changing yourself for the better.
Instead of pointing out what’s wrong with other people, maybe you should start looking at yourself. We all have things we can change about ourselves for the better. We could eat better, exercise more, treat our loved ones more respectfully, or motivate ourselves to find a better career. Your energy is much better channeled into helping yourself become a better person instead of forcing it upon others.
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4. It’s not possible.
You can’t change other people. You can’t do it for them. So don’t even try. People only change when they want to, and not a second sooner. You can scream and yell and it still won’t matter. You can ground your kids. You can withhold love from your spouse. You can set ultimatums and rules.
But I like to compare this to holding a beach ball under the water. You can do it, but only for a short time. Eventually, the beach ball will come back up to the surface. So if you’re holding the metaphorical beach ball under the water and trying to force change in someone else, you are basically wasting your time.
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I’m not implying that you should give up. By all means, be your best self. Inspire. Motivate. Be a great role model. And hopefully, others will admire you so much that they will want to take action to be like you. If not, then just shrug your shoulders and go on being your awesome self. After all, that’s all you really can do.
Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University. She is also a motivational expert on the TV show ‘Living Dayton,’ the co-host of a popular radio show, a video expert for eHow.com, a frequent keynote speaker, and the author of several books.
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