“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” – Jacob M. Braude
I have had to learn this lesson many times throughout my life. I run across a friend. I see them struggling with a challenge, neglecting their health, or giving up on life, and I want to jump right in and try to show them the error of their ways. Then, after a few weeks or months, realize that they are not going to do anything about their situation. Have you ever run into this?
You see, people are who they are. Deep down, all of us know our weaknesses. Some people ignore them. Others have tried to make a change and realized that they are too weak to change ingrained habits. They have settled with these weaknesses and literally given up. The pain of change is too great a price for these folks to pay.
If you have a friend or colleague that has glaring weaknesses that are ruining their life, you have two choices: Remain their friend or colleague and accept these weaknesses in their character or cut them loose. They will not change because you want them to. They will not change because it is in their best interest. They will only change when the weakness they possess becomes so painful that they must change themselves.
Regardless of your opinion, people are happy with the lives they have chosen to live. You may think to yourself, “God, how do you live like that?”, but this isn’t your life—it’s theirs. Happiness is defined by each of us. What makes you happy will not necessarily make your friend or colleague happy.
You also have to examine whether the person you are dealing with is empowered or disempowered. Empowered people believe they are in charge of themselves. Disempowered people believe they are ruled by outside influences and circumstances. The empowered person is the champion who conquers adversity and overcomes their weaknesses. The disempowered person is the victim who gives up and lives with their weaknesses. See the difference?
If you are empowered, you will have very little in common with people who are disempowered. In fact, disempowered people will frustrate you to no end. Empowered people learn, apply the learning to their current circumstances, and alter themselves to improve their performance, their career, and their productivity. Disempowered people have given up; they are convinced that outside circumstances and other people our “out to get them” and blame their failure on these outside elements. Disempowered people have given up on taking action or trying to change—they have made quitting a habit. Empowered people keep trying out new ideas, new options, and look for solutions—they persist, because they know they will win if they keep trying.
Change is hard. It is hard because the habits we have built for ourselves are hard-wired in our brains. To make changes, you have to learn how to unravel these knots in your brain and create new wiring; wiring that will serve you better now and in the future. To do that, you need to know how to exploit the same processes in your brain that created the bad habits in the first place. You also need to be self-aware enough to identify which of these hard-wired scripts no longer serve you.
One of the best books I’ve ever read on making changes is Mini-Habits by Steven Guise. The Mini-Habit is simply a habit that is so small that you would have to be on your deathbed in order to fail to do it. Steven’s first mini-habit was a single push-up every day. After he had managed to master this habit, he added writing 50 words a day and reading 2 pages a day in a book he chose to tackle. The genius behind the mini-habit is that it is so small, you can easily accomplish this habit without too much thought, stress, or willpower. In fact, this is the reason Stephen is such an advocate of the process. He researched willpower and motivation and found that both aspects of our makeup are too weak to overcome the hard-wired habits in our brain, especially when you consider all the other stressors in your life and how they eat away at your willpower and motivation to begin with. There is one warning he provides, however. Mini-habits, even though they are small, must be meaningful. One push up a day is meaningful towards improving your health. Writing 50 words a day is meaningful toward writing an essay, a blog post, or even a book. Reading 2 pages a day will help you finish that book in a shorter period than not reading a book at all or reading a bunch of pages one day and then failing to touch that book for a month before reading it again.
The real benefit of mini-habits is the ability to get started on something. Once you get started on a mini-habit, you will build momentum. Once you build momentum, you will be motivated to do more than one push-up, write 50 words, or read 2 pages. You’ll likely do more exercises, write 100 words or more, and read an entire chapter of your book. This momentum will build and build, particularly if you add rewards at critical milestones.
I’ve used mini-habits since I read his book a few years ago. In fact, I’m such a huge fan, I re-read this book each year in December as I build out my goals for the next year. If you want to make changes in your life and you just haven’t been able to find anything that will help you build a new habit or make these changes, give Mini-Habits a try, you won’t be disappointed. Here’s a link to Mini-Habits on Amazon: Mini-Habits by Stephen Guise (I am not an affiliate for Mr. Guise, his book, or Amazon).
To conclude this article, I’d like to remind you that changing yourself is hard, but not impossible. You have to be persistent, utilize a strategy that will work, and monitor your progress. Don’t worry about your spouse, your friends, or your relatives. If they want to make a change, they will. If they don’t, no level of complaining, arguing, or harassment will make them change; in fact, they may stick to their guns even harder when pushed. Believe me, I’ve been down this road with a few of my friends and you won’t win. People will only make a change in their lives when they are ready. They will not change because you want them to. Take care of yourself and make the changes you decide to make in your life. It will be difficult, but you’ll get there. I wish you well on your journey.
Until next time…