God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference-Reinhold Niebuhr
Can we change people? How can we help our loved ones to adopt a good habit and drop a bad one?
I struggle with those questions every time I take on a new habit or learn a new lesson, which proves invaluable in my life. I want to share it or impose it into the lives of my loved ones.
For example, I’ve been meditating for almost two years now and even though I’ve promoted it passionately and expressed what it has brought to my life.I haven’t been able to inspire many to take on meditation.
Change is a word that has been overburdened with so many expectations that many of us just switch off when the word change is mentioned. I understand that some people are hungry for change and would readily accept motivation and inspiration more than others.
Also, it’s about the right timing for some of us to admit that we need to change something in our life. I recall ignoring the promptings of my father when I was in university to read more about spirituality and to ask the big questions of life. It wasn’t till I hit thirty that I seriously started to read about Philosophy, Religion, and Spirituality and opened my eyes to a new world unbeknownst to me.
“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”—Muhammad Ali
We can’t press a button and change people, no matter how much we love them. And very often people don’t want to be changed as the comforts of no change always outweigh the work needed to commit to change.
The best we can hope is to try inspiring them to become aware of having to change. And for that change to happen and persist, then they have to be emotionally aroused by the impending change.
They must feel some apprehension, even fear, and unrelenting anxiety—strong emotional reactions that act as catalysts to increase their motivation and commitment.
Here are six ways for us to help inspire change in people:
1. Be the example
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”- Mahatma Gandhi
When we practice what we preach and consistently do what we have championed others to do, then it sends a message to whoever is around you that your words are authentic. You are telling people,that you truly believe in what you are saying and it’s working in your life.
E.g. Recently I watched Tony Robbins in one of his events, and the whole theme was about how we can energize our lives and unleash the power within. He kept six thousand people engaged, aroused and able to have fun for four consecutive days-His energy was mesmerizing.
2. Be compassionate
When trying to help, we should focus on listening with compassion rather than being overbearing with our words. We can rouse their awareness by asking clever, introspective questions like “What are the Pros and Cons for you to change or not change?” “If this change was easy, would you want to make it? What makes it hard?” Those questions create a safe environment for them to explore motivations and examine their need to change or not change.
However, be prepared to accept that people will not immediately follow your advice and implement changes into their life. But at least you have given them another way to look at things and were real enough to do it yourself.
3. Change is not easy
We need to remind ourselves that change is difficult and to look back at the number of times we ignored the good advice because we felt it wasn’t for us or that it made no sense whatsoever. We need to guide them so they can see the self-defeating stories they have been telling themselves for so long so as to justify not changing.
We can share our experiences to allow them to see that change is an opportunity to grow with amazing things waiting to happen rather than some unwanted burden.
4. Change can be easy, rewarding and normal
We need to show them that change can be easy and not so overwhelming when we take “baby steps” to make small incremental changes in our lives. The key to change is to be patient and not expect instant results. This whole process must be fun and not seen as a strict ritual.
The rewards must be clear for them to see so that they monitor their progress regularly, and most importantly they must feel that results will ensue.
To change the way they behave, most people need to see that the change they are embarking on is something normal and that most people, especially those they admire would want to act this way.
E.g. Several years ago my daughter was struggling with Math and I made an effort to practice with her for thirty minutes every other day, learning something small every time and making it fun. Over the months that passed I charted her improvement and regularly showed it to her. Since that time she has changed the way she approached math and is now doing very well.
5.Create an environment
Create an environment that supports and encourages the change you are championing. For example, if it’s a healthy life you are advocating then put up posters of the nutritious food, and remove all chocolates, candy, and similar foods from the house.
Share your inspirations and goals with them, and send books, articles and movies that share your passion for that habit. Do this in a friendly manner and have no attachment or reaction to them not taking up the habit.
E.g. I talk about being healthy around my family, run regularly and have my gym in the house, which I use frequently. My kids have grown up watching me do this and have also taken up exercising as a regular habit to feel good and be healthy.
6) Use setbacks to initiate change
Setbacks and the gloom that follows is the best time to advocate change. The ego has been temporarily defeated, and we are now willing to change the way we view our ways. Failures are blessings in disguise even though we never see it like that at the time. The anguish brought on becomes an emotional trigger that helps us clearly see our wrong actions and allows us to accept change readily.
E.g. One of my running buddies recently injured his calf and couldn’t run for a few months, and so lost the opportunity to run a race we agreed to do. He would never listen to my advice on stretching and to take up Pilates as a practice to complement running. Now after the injury he has started regular stretching and wants to take up Pilates.