How to change somebody….well, you can’t. Not really. As I mentioned in a previous post, the only way to change somebody is through coercion, which doesn’t work long term, in fact, it is exceptionally short term. The other way to change somebody is through consistent influence based on trust, respect, and love. And that takes some emotional capital and effort on the part of the one wanting to change the other, (as well as effort of the other.)
But here’s a thought….rather than trying to change someone else, how about trying to change yourself? You’ve heard that before, again, it’s almost cliché. Gandhi said it. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You are at the center of your circle of influence. You might be able to influence those closest to you, even those not as close. But you are the one you can influence most.
This will be one in a series of posts on change. Steven Covey, in his prolific book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, organized his habits into two camps, Private Victory, and Public Victory. Private victory is primarily about self leadership; taking responsibility for your life, having a vision for your life, and prioritizing your life. It would be necessary to get a few wins under you belt in this arena/camp before you would be able to make any real progress in the Public Victory camp. Character does indeed count. So before affecting real change in this world, it begins with changes in your life first.
The first habit, Be Proactive, or said in another way, Take Responsibility for Your Life, is a keystone habit. In fact, I believe it is THE keystone habit. It mirrors Andy Andrews’ first decision of seven, The Responsible Decision: The Buck Stops Here. You have the Ability to choose your response. Response Ability. Rather than reacting to everything that happens to you, respond. To react means to act again. You are acting out the same patterns time and time again. Theese patterns have been hard wired into you. (Literally, residual neural pathways forming the fight or flight responses from bygone eras. Your annoying kids are not sabertooth tigers wanting to eat you. Really, they’re not.) Be proactive, not reactive.
You’d rather sleep in on a cold morning rather than wake up at 6:00 am and run a lap at the park? That’s a reaction….you’ve done that day after day after day. You have good intentions, and intentions are fundamental to change, but I takes more. Choose your response. The alarm goes off….choose to swing your legs over the side of the bed, sit up, touch your feet to the floor, push….and your up. Choose to do this. Fight the inertia. It is possible. I did it this morning. Yesterday too. And traditionally, I am NOT a morning person.
Staring at a blank page, or knowing that a perpetual blank page awaits you? Choose that first word, and then a second, third and fourth. Repeat. Honestly, I had know idea how this post would form itself until I just started with my first idea. You can edit later. But choose to write.
The double fudge chocolate chip brownie calling your name? Make a choice. Target weight or the temporary satiation of your taste buds or numbing a pain that you haven’t tackled head on yet. Your choice.
I know, sometimes it much more complicated than that. But regardless, however you decide to make a change in your life, it requires a choice to begin. A choice to stop making excuses. A choice to face a fear. A choice to get help, if needed. But choose a response.
Or don’t make a choice. That in itself is a choice. My favorite band, Rush, says it well.
“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
Freewill from Permanent Waves, 1980
But not choosing is not a choice that will push you out of the rut to nowhere. Or out of the rut to where you do not want to be.
Your change begins with your choices. You have the ability to choose your response.