Life Lesson 1: You Can't Change People

Our first topic from the 19 Life Lessons You Should've Learned By Now is:
You either have to accept people for who they are or not at all because changing them will be next to impossible. Seriously. Good luck with trying to mold people into what you want them to be. It’s a recipe for disaster. Just know when to cut your losses or stay. Don’t get lost in the in-between.
Let me start by saying this: if you don't learn ANY OTHER LESSON of the next 19, please learn this one.

People are exactly who they are. You expecting them to be somebody else, just because you think it would be better only does a disservice to you.

I know. I get it. A.Sizzle understands. When you know somebody, and you love somebody, and you see all of their potential flying out the window every day, it's damn frustrating. You just want to shake them and scream "please, for the love of all that is good and holy, JUST BE BETTER." But it doesn't work that way.

A week or so ago, a friend was looking for some advice on how to get her sister to make better life decisions. The sister was spending money poorly, cheating on her boyfriend, etc... My friend was frustrated because aside from seeing how her sister's decisions were effecting her poorly now, she could also already begin to see how her sister's decisions would end up messing with HER (my friend's) pockets later on down the line.

I told her, "well, you can really only do 2 things. 1, highlight her poor decisions and 2, wait for her to change. That's it. She makes the decisions she makes because they work for her somehow and until she is ready to start making different decisions there's not much else you can do."

So if you can't change a person, what are you to do when you're forced to watch someone you love walk down a dangerous path? Truthfully, trying to show someone the error of their ways is a lot harder than you think. For starters, you oughta consider whether or not their ways are actually bad. There's a difference between spending all your money on designer clothing and having none to pay the bills, and spending all your extra money on designer clothing, but still maintaining your household and taking care of your responsibilities. One is clearly a bad idea, the other is a sign of priorities.

My mother likes to tell me, "if I had half the money you've spent on gadgets, I could probably put a down payment on a brand new car." And I love to respond, "you could also do the same thing if you had half the money you've spent on shoes." Different priorities do not = bad choices. We'll touch on this at a later point, but it is relevant now. Begin by making sure the other person actually NEEDS to change.

And if you determine their decision-making (or whatever) is truly detrimental, the most you can do is tell them you think that way. Give them the information and then let them think about it. I don't watch Intervention, anymore, but when I did I always noted how during the intervention, family members would read from prompt sheets that often began with "your addiction has negatively effected me in the following ways..." The interventions were most often about providing perspective, showing an addict that their selfish choices were actually hurting a lot of other people and then... waiting. Giving them the information, their options and letting them make the final choice.

These things won't always turn out the way you hope. Some people just need perspective, but others need a whole paradigm shift and you, if you're focused on yourself and being a great you, don't have time to provide whole paradigm shifts. If you have someone in your life making poor choices that are effecting you or that you figure probably will sooner or later, let 'em know, let 'em decide and then, if you have to, keep it moving. But don't waste one moment trying to change them. They, like you, have every right to make their own decisions without your trying to make them be different.

6 months ago, I had to have a couple of very difficult conversations. I had come to the conclusion that there were some folks in my life making decisions about our relationships that I didn't like and I realized it came down to who they were. They were operating from a mindset that I just did not agree with and so I decided to end our relationship. In one case, the other person seemed to be truly shocked at how I felt and expressed a willingness to change. I didn't go into the conversation trying to manipulate their decision, but because I showed them how their choices were hurting me they were willing to make different choices. But they didn't draw that conclusion simply because I was upset, though that was a major factor. They also saw how their choices were hurting themselves and that, my friends, was the real influence.

Tomorrow's post: Life Lesson 2: Defining Happiness For Yourself

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