How to change someone for the best?

How do you change someone?

There's only one answer - you don't. Because you can't.

You can offer assistance, understanding, sage advice, a steer in a direction, a range of options, an alternative, a different view. You can hand-hold, listen, light the way...

But you can't change them.

The will for things to be different

In order for someone to change they must want to change.

They must want it bad enough to start taking steps toward it. And not just saying they want to change, but believing they are capable of change, of different circumstances, different outcomes than they have right now.

Belief - you're halfway there already

Believing you are capable of change isn't always easy when you haven't experienced the results of change yet. You're kind of being asked to believe before the benefit of proof shows up.

Whether it's a circumstance, a habit, a situation, whether it's getting a new job, quitting smoking or drinking, creating positive change in a relationship or losing weight, it's helpful to remember past times when you've experienced success, of when your belief prior to an outcome got you there in the end.

Sometimes you have to proceed as if it is true.

Affecting change 101 : a guide for personal change

  1. Create a plan.
  2. Start small.
  3. Create favourable conditions - make it easy on yourself (if you're wanting to lose weight, don't have biscuits and potato-chips in the pantry), if you drink too much, only buy for dinner party, don't keep 'just in case' bottles in the house. If you find yourself slipping into a negative-thinking funk, learn about mindfulness and positive psychology.
  4. Enlist help. (more on that below).
  5. Feel the results BEFORE they happen - feel as though you ARE already fit - start calling your body your 'bikini-body' or _______________(place your own words here), imagine fresher air in your lungs as a non-smoker, feel how a person with great relationships feels in their bones. You can feel yourself into change.
  6. Think yourself into change - ask yourself smart questions like: 'how would a person with great people skills handle this situation?' Do that. When faced with dining options think 'what would a skinny person eat?' Eat that.
  7. Track your progress. Draw graphs, create tables.
  8. Write down what you were proud of about your actions. (e.g. "today I improved my health and the planet by not driving to the supermarket for wine. The benefits are: a skinnier, sexier me, it's better for my health, I didn't harm the planet with carbon emissions, I saved time by staying home and doing something else I care about, I felt proud of myself in exercising this change". Even better, if you didn't achieve your goal behaviour in the moment write "what behaviours can I take to do better next time?" e.g. I will take a deep breath and count to three before responding to the annoying comment.
  9. Celebrate success - do something you find fun, go to a show, allow yourself the time for creativity you crave, go to a movie or spend time outdoors in nature.

Improving your relationship with someone you love

Let's say you're in relationship, but it's starting to rust and fade around the edges, maybe over time real metal fatigue has set in. You sense things are reaching a crisis - that things must change.

Let's say he's not participating in your life like you'd like him to. Perhaps he's not there emotionally, she's always with her friends, or he puts all his efforts into work, seeming to have nothing left for the family.

Maybe one of you is suffering a mental or physical crisis and needs support, or there are financial difficulties or outside forces seem to be drifting you apart.
The first thing is to have an honest conversation - devoid of judgement and ego attachments. 

Seek to understand each other - the issues, what's really going on for the other person? What do they really mean when they say they're tired? Why do they think they're tired? (e.g. are they not physically tired, but tired of making the effort required in the relationship, do they feel exhausted by work pressures, or is there an underlying health issue that needs exploring?)

When you're in relationship, in fact, from the moment you get up in the morning, you develop patterns of thinking and behaving. We don't even know we're doing it!

It's hard to see the world through another's eyes and it's hard to deviate from the super-highway of regular reactions and behaviours when they've been practiced and imbedded so long.

These well-worn paths make it challenging to create change on your own, to truly hear what another is saying, let alone develop anything useful from it.

Sometimes you need an adjudicator - an umpire of sorts - someone who's on no-one's side, but creates a space where both can be heard; someone to act as a travel guide to explorations, and who can help you develop a workable road-map.

Someone who can avert the desire to resort to shouting, knives, or door-slamming!

I'm not from a culture that willingly seeks help (in New Zealand we've been brought up with the 'number eight wire'll fix it' and 'just get on with it' mentality).

However, I believe a relationship on the rocks can benefit from the life-line in the form of a counsellor or psychologist; someone who can aid the relationship to do more than just keep it's head above water.

If one party's thinking "I can't go on like this", maybe it's time to enlist help. The key is to find a professional and style of approach that feels like a fit for you.

If you can't get your other half to go, go by yourself.

You need guidance and support in creating change from the inside out. It doesn't mean the other person will change - but you will feel more empowered to do what's right for you, in the context of the relationship.

Choice and action go together

The crux of the matter is we all have choice - it's our choice to stay the same, to cling to the status quo, to set and value boundaries, to make choices - easy and hard, to set our own standards (and decide what to do when those standards are breached).

We choose to grow, to change, move on, to stand up, to show up truthfully and heartfully, to play harder and more compassionately in this relationship - because it's worth it, or to decide if it's time to let it go.

Stuckness is a state of mind; it only exists if you let it high jack you into believing there are no choices.

If you've been high-jacked by stuckness you'll find yourself making excuses
for not changing, for not deciding.

"It's not the right time", "when the kids leave home", "when the mortgage is paid"...

This is your life, and you have this moment.

Step into change, grab it by the antlers and give it a good shake!