One of the most difficult things I’ve been working on is letting go of the idea that I can change other people.
I can’t help someone who is unhappy be happy.
I can’t help someone who doesn’t pay their bills on time become a responsible person.
I can’t change how someone is raising their kids.
I can’t make someone eat better if they don’t want to.
I can’t make someone care for their health, their future, or their security.
Even though in my core, I know these things, sometimes I still find myself thinking, maybe if I do X they will be happier.
If I say X they will feel better.
If I do X they won’t have this problem anymore.
If I suggest X they might be more motivated to change.
But I can’t make them want what I want for them.
I can’t make them take actions that I want them to take.
Salt ‘n Pepa said it best: it’s none of my business. How others live their lives is actually none of my business.
It may feel like my business sometimes – especially if the person who is unhappy is close to me or if the person who doesn’t pay their bills asks me to bail them out.
If I care deeply about them, it really does feel like it’s my business and it feels like I’d be failing them if I didn’t give it my all to help them change.
It’s painful to not be able to snap my fingers and create the result I want to see for them.
Not being able to help the way I want to leads to frustration for me.
And sometimes for them too.
Because if I’m putting all my energy into what they are doing wrong or not doing the way I want them to do it or trying to get them to feel differently than they do, my time with them doesn’t feel good. I don’t feel good. They don’t feel good. I’m actually failing them by focusing on what I want for them.
What I can do is focus on how I want to feel in my relationship with this person or how I want the other person to feel when they are with me. In all of these situations, I want the other person to feel loved and supported. Understood. Listened to. Heard. Not alone. I want to feel like I am being the most helpful I can be.
That comes from being kind and supportive.
And letting go of my need to fix how they live or experience their lives.
Maybe, happiness, good parenting, responsible finances or healthy eating to them doesn’t look like what I think it should look like.
I have a client who says, “This isn’t my circus. These aren’t my monkeys”. She’s right. It’s simply good advice. (Sometimes I’m the client and they’re the coach!)
In my coaching practice, I have no problem with this. Showing up. Listening. Supporting. Asking questions without judgement. Encouraging when needed. Not being attached to the outcome. Going where the client needs/wants to go.
But it so much harder to do in my personal life.
Just like with anything else that we get good at and becomes second nature, we have to practice it. Over and over.
The only way for me to feel better about my relationships and help them have more of what they desire in their lives is for me to show up in them with love. And to practice that over and over (and not give up when I slip back into an old way of interacting with someone).
The awesome thing that happens is that when people are loved and supported (instead of judged or pressured), they are more apt to make changes to better their lives (whatever that looks like to them).
I don’t have to like what someone is doing or how they are living to be able to feel love towards them.
Truly, the best way for me to help someone change is to change myself first.
I’d love to hear from you. Are there relationships in your life that you struggle with wanting to control? Have you ever successfully convinced someone that your way is better? What was the result? What helps you distinguish your “circus” or your “monkeys” from someone else’s? Have you experienced a shift in your relationships by changing how you show up in them?
Hey are you joining my Free Exercise challenge that starts next Monday October 12? You should! It’s 30 days of short workouts, encouragement and support – great for beginners! Create an exercise habit that you can be proud of!