Awhile back, I caught myself criticizing something Jenn was doing. It wasn’t a big deal, but I was aware of how I thought I knew what she should be doing with that aspect of her life. I was quick to comment on her choices. Not surprisingly, my critique didn’t go over well. No one likes being told what to do.
What Led To Your Change?
Think back on your own life, to a time when you really decided to make a positive change for yourself. Maybe it had to do with your physical health, like changing your diet or starting an exercise program. Or maybe you made a commitment to go to counseling to work on your mental health. Whatever the change was, think about what led up to the change. What happened to get you over the hump?
Getting in Shape
I remember when I first started to get serious about getting in shape. It was my junior year of high school, and I was frustrated that I didn’t have a girlfriend (or really any prospects, for that matter). I had been overweight all my life, and I felt like that was hindering my progress. For some reason, the pain of loneliness created a huge amount of motivation, and I finally took action.
It’s interesting, I remember several times throughout my life that my dad encouraged me to exercise with him or practice basketball. His encouragements were kind and helpful, and probably made good sense. But they didn’t really move the needle for me. For me to make a change, I had to really want it myself.
You Can Only Change Yourself
I think most people have similar experiences. We might try to encourage someone to change, and even come up with a great argument for why they should change. We can nag and criticize all we want, but it doesn’t usually work. The reason is that you can only change yourself. We automatically resist when we feel like someone is trying to force us to change.
Let It Go
If you want to help someone change, the best thing you can do is lead by example. Show them the benefits of your positive choices, and how these choices have improved your life. It’s okay to encourage them every once in a while, but don’t nag or try to control. And then (this is the difficult part), you have to let it go. The reality is that everyone gets to make their own decisions in life, for better or for worse. You can’t make anyone do anything.