The Futile Efforts of Trying to Change People

If there's one thing I've learned in the years being a health coach, a personal trainer, a plant based eater, and and animal rights and earth advocate, it is: "ya can't make people do shit".  Eloquent, I know.  But also true.  

If you couldn't tell through my writing or just knowing me, I have a pretty pushy personality.  I would like people to do it my way, or frankly sir, hit the highway.  Some beings in my household might even call me controlling, or ::gasp:: naggy.  I'm afraid I can't really deny that, but I feel like I can be a little pushier because it's my home domain, right?  

Outside of my home domain, any semblance of control I might exert there is lost, and I have really had to learn to chill on pushing my personal agenda.  I know from experience that when someone tells me to do something, my natural inclination is to resist, even if it's a really good and helpful idea.  Why this is my first reaction, I haven't the foggiest idea.  I guess it's a part of my stubborn charm.  

I have noticed the same streak in other people, even when they specifically ask for advice.  You don't know how many times my suggestion of increasing vegetable intake for weight loss has gone unheeded.  I think it's just a little bit of toddler that comes out in all of us and yells, "you can't tell me what to do!"  Perhaps accompanied by an invisible foot stamping or sticking out of the tongue.

So what's a person to do when they want to make a change, either in their loved ones lives, a client, or in the world?  Well, the answer is nothing.  Your efforts are futile.  Just quit.  Walk away.  Bye. 

Just kidding.  Kind of.  I am definitely still learning at this, but these are the conclusions I have come to so far:

1.) Lead by example

Besides gentle reminding sometimes, (unless I'm at home, then the reminding is not so gentle), I try to keep my trap shut and just do what I do.  I figure if someone is really interested in eating differently, working out more, or wanting to try a more sustainable lifestyle, they will ask me if they feel like it.  Otherwise, I think sharing a personal journey is a great way to help other people who might see a different way to do things.  I also try to infuse my suggestions with humor, especially if it's something I have to mention many times, like asking my clients if they have been eating enough vegetables.  I will share what I am doing on my social media account and through my blog, and try not to be too preachy.  Sorry if that doesn't always happen, as I am a very passionate person, but the intention is there.  

2.) Remind yourself (over and over and over and over) that every person is on their OWN journey

As much as I may want help someone or you may want to help someone, when it comes down to the nitty gritty, the person has to want to help themselves.  No matter how many times I have screamed in my head, "if they would just LISTEN to me, their lives would be so much BETTER and I would be a HERO!!!"  It never works.  The person has to hit their own personal rock bottom or have their own major catalyst for change, or be super inspired.  While we may be able to see from the outside what we think is best for them, really it is their journey and their lessons to learn.  Infuriating, but true.  I'm not sure how parents do it- this is probably the story of their lives.  

3.) Spin it in a positive light

While you could go the route of getting in someone's face and saying "hey you piece of crap, if you buy another plastic water bottle I'm gonna punch it out of your hand and sock ya into next Tuesday", the suggestion probably won't be well received.  A better route might be through education or showing them the positives of not buying bottled water anymore (you save a ton of money, way less plastic in the landfills, and it's better for your health because plastic isn't leaching into your drinking water.  Also, it's just tap water in a plastic bottle).  Will they ditch their plastic water bottles?  Maybe, maybe not, but at least you tried and you can continue to fish their water bottles out of the trash can and put them in the recycling bin for them.  I think we can all agree that people want to be around more positivity, so the more you can share your message that way, probably the better off you will be.  

4.) Let it gooooooooo

Wow, this one is hard.  I am the person who will rage about a cigarette butt litter-er for 15 minutes and want to follow their car and throw a bag full of cigarette butts through their window.  Unfortunately, the only person we can control is ourselves, so at some point we have to let things go.  Otherwise I would have about 15 stomach ulcers over factory farming, ocean pollution, cigarette butts, school lunches, you name it.  I've got a temper.  I just have to remind myself to let it go, and do what I can do to help solve the problem.  This is why I will pick up other people's litter- even though they are the ones that littered, I am the one that is bothered by it, and the solution is to clean it up and feel better about the whole situation.  

These are the lessons I have learned so far in my short life and my short career of wanting to change people.  The cool thing is that I have noticed when you let go and do your thing, you have a lot bigger impact than you might realize.  I am always shocked when I get messages or someone tells me that they changed a habit because of me.  Sometimes you get to the point of wondering if anyone is listening to you at all, and then you realize- they are!  Wohoo!  Have you ever tried to change someone and it worked?  Did it blow up in your face?  Let me know in the comments below!  


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