It’s common knowledge that to create change in life, one needs to want to change first.
Nobody is going to be able to make anyone else change. It just doesn’t work.
When someone resists change and continually put up barriers that prevent them from changing, then there is no point in even trying to help. No one can give assistance if it is not willingly accepted in the spirit it is offered.
Think of anytime you have witnessed a young child’s (or an adult’s) temper-tantrum.
Once the child perceives a slight and doesn’t get their way, their face turns red. Tears begin to flow down their cheeks. They fall onto the floor writhing. The kicking, yelling, and runny nose ensues. Sometimes they may even have trouble breathing.
Now try to recall if you’ve ever seen anyone successfully rationalize with a person acting this way.
It’s impossible to connect with the child (or adult) when they become like this. They cannot process any logical input. Any effort put forth will go unrewarded until they are able to calm themself down.
People don’t really get what they want from freaking out or losing their faculties in this way, but they do it anyway.
Sometimes others may acquiesce; they’ll give in to the demands of this terrible negative energy. The bystander will just want to placate the temperamental in the short term. They will just do it to shut them up and make the horrible and disruptive behavior stop.
This care-taker won’t think positively about the perpetrator afterwards, however. They’ll probably avoid contact with the brat at any cost. Behavior like this leads to people distancing themselves from those who cannot control their emotions and process them in a positive way.
The owner of the temperamental personality will either become a very lonely person, or they will be forced to surround themselves with equally destructive, weak, and codependent relations. That’s the only type of people who would put up with this nonsense.
This example of the temper-tantrum is extreme, but it’s apropos of the larger subject of assisting others in their journeys of change. Now we will step back and look at the less extreme and more common.
Say a person want to live a healthier life.
That man or woman could hire a nutritionist to help them outline a plan to achieve their goal. This consultant can create a diet specifically catered to their health goals.
The nutritionist can read the labels on the back of everything their client consumes. They can communicate ingredients which are harmful in each product. He or she could even recommend alternatives, point out which foods will be best, and which should be avoided entirely.
Afterwards, the one who desires improvement could hire a chef. This professional cook can then make weeks worth of meals with natural and healthy ingredients.
The chef can even instruct them on the best and simplest methods for getting those meals ready to eat. The meals will only require minimum effort to get them from the refrigerator or the freezer onto their plate.
Additionally, this person in our story could hire a personal trainer. This specialist could outline exercises specifically tailored to their needs as well. They could instruct them on how to complete each exercise. The trainer can provide additional recommendations as to how often and for how long they should perform each workout. This personalized plan to keep their body in peak form will take less than an hour a day to complete.
What do you think will happen if they refuse to follow through on the plan developed by the P.T.; even considering the investment of money and time spent on acquiring the exercise plan?
How will their diet adjust if they won’t create action and positive habits in the kitchen and the supermarket? What if they don’t take into consideration the nutritionist’s recommendations? What if they still ignore what they are putting into your body entirely, even with their new nutrition education?
Finally, what’s going to happen if they say “I don’t have the time to heat up my food,” and instead make frequent trips to the drive-thru for fast food, as opposed to heading home to warm up the food that was made especially for them?
That’s what is difficult about choosing when and how much to help others in their journeys of change.
People know what they need. They know what they need to do. They know who they need to bring along on the journey.
Yet instead, they often choose do nothing.
They are empowered and assisted by countless tools, systems, and people, but they choose to deny themselves the necessary discipline to take their desires to a position of action.
They don’t change because they say things like won’t and can’t.
They also say things like, I cannot imagine leaving this job I hate to try to do something different, something I may actually enjoy and feel fulfilled by…
Or I won’t ever like my body…or I will never fit into these smaller sizes…or I could not possibly do these pull-ups…
Or, worse yet, I’ll never attract a mate.
To that I say they’re stupid. I will only listen to this kind of talk once or twice and then I’ll be done done trying to help.
If I see someone needs help, or if they ask for it, I could not possibly refuse that person. I want to be a kindhearted, contributing citizen of the world. I am doing my best to involve myself in community in many ways.
I will give it my a lot.
I will not give it my all because I have to save some for myself, and more still for my family and my friends.
I will do everything possible to assist that person, though. I will be there on their path to improvement, recovery, or whatever they’re attempting to accomplish for as long as they will genuinely try to better themself.
I love to assist others. I get so much out of helping. I volunteer. I generously give my knowledge and my experience. I do it often and, almost always, for free.
I will even be there when others reach those first moments of struggle. When they encounter external and internal rejections. I’ll be there to act as a cheerleader. I’ll shout from the bleachers, “You can do it!” I’ll be there to try to lift up their spirit.
When they feel alone, I will not only make myself available, but I will be generous with my network as well. If there is someone I am acquainted with that they could benefit from their wisdom and expertise, then I will make the necessary introductions. I will encourage the relationship and celebrate if it flourishes and blossoms into something greater.
The second and third time they struggle I will remind them of their strength. I will bring their attention back to their goals.
Together we will reflect on what they have overcome already. We will remember the strength it took to ask for assistance, and to accept it.
We will remember those first struggles. We will revisit the plan. We’ll adapt it if needed and then empower them to new refocused action.
After the fourth or fifth struggles I will take on a ‘tough love’ stance. It will be incumbent on me to push the little birdie out of the nest to get it to fly.
After all, I’ll know they can create the changes they desire or I wouldn’t have invested this much faith and energy.
I will have seen the greatness and inspiration within them, but I will be less patience with the self-defeating talk and behaviors.
Nobody needs to prove anything to me or anyone else at this point. They’ll just need some tough reminders.
As the old adage says, “Shit or get off the pot.”
Around the sixth and seventh time my patience will have exhausted. I’ll feel a certain amount of frustration that is much different from the other person’s own.
The frustration they’ll feel is dumb. It will be self-imposed and unnecessary. It comes from some primal ‘I want to hide behind my mother’s skirt’ place deep in their psyche.
The frustration I’ll experience will be self-imposed as well, but it’s different. It will be that ‘I keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result’ type of frustrating.
My frustrations are equally dumb.
I’ll lose interest in their path to improvement at that point. I am smart enough to read the writing on the wall. My efforts will be reduced to halfhearted at best. Once I determine that they will not learn, or that they will continue to fall back on their detrimental habits, I’ll recognize that I am fighting a losing battle and move on.
I realize that I cared so much about assisting the other person. I wanted to be present for them as they succeed. However, they didn’t consistently act on the assistance I provided. They didn’t listen and take the advice and help to their heart.
That person didn’t care enough about themself and their goals to create positive habits that would bring about permanent positive changes in their life and current situation. It will still be the same life and situation that they had communicated so vehemently on wanting to change in the beginning.
And like that, I’ll be gone.
I have my own shit that needs worked on and improved. I have other people I love and like in my life that also could use my efforts, presence, and time.
I’ll have to move on.
The break-up will inevitably happen regardless of the outcome.
It will happen whether the desired change occurs or not. The only difference will be the results.
If the person improved themself and their negative situation, then they will no longer need me.
They will still have a close friend and confidant. They will have a closer relation with whom they shared a significant life experience. Still, they will be understanding of my position in needing to work on myself, or to have to move on to help others. They will allow me to part with their blessing.
If I move on to help someone else that is in a bad way, they may even act to assist as well.
If they didn’t improve, and their life and situation still sucks, then I say, “Oh well.”
Better luck next time.
It’s the final lesson I will try to impart on them.
Maybe they will finally remember what they should have committed to memory in the first place. Maybe they will be frustrated and angry with me. Maybe then it will lead to them doing the right things for themself out of spite.
Maybe they’ll grow so much, that as time passes and the old wounds heal, we can reconnect. We will laugh, cry, and reminisce over our hard work. We can celebrate how much better off we are now for all the lessons we had learned throughout the arduous and painful process.
I always look forward in hope of that day. I’ll relish in the nostalgia. I’ll appreciate reacquainting myself with an old friend I love so much.
Then again, maybe they won’t do any of these. Maybe they’ll still be stuck because they can’t or they won’t. Maybe they’ll still suck.
And because of that they didn’t change. They chose to remain in that place of negativity. Their path will be of delusion and defeated acceptance.
Regardless of how it turns out, I’ll be okay. Even if the process hurts occasionally, I always learn and grow from it. It’s impossible not to.
I’m constantly looking for new knowledge and insights of my own. I see life as a progression. New perspectives arise. They make sense in ways they hadn’t, or wouldn’t have, in the past.
I try to keep myself and my actions positive. I learn to listen to others’ points of view. I try to create gateways and opportunities. In turn, these lead to happiness and the life I desire.
It’s how I was for so long with the person I attempted to help. I just couldn’t hear “I can’t!” “I won’t!” and “I don’t…” any longer. I had to move on.
With or without help, change will only occur when one wants to change. Otherwise, they just can’t be helped.