People Do Not Change…

Unless They Want to Change

This is an important rule in life. Remember it.

I know I haven’t written a blog post in a while and that is due in large part to focusing on further developing our podcast. However, my wonderful daughter woke up early this morning (loudly) and after cajoling her back to sleep, I decided it would be a great time to work on an article (thanks Sophia). Today’s article is about a very simple rule that will bring you a lot more freedom in your life. The rule goes as follows: people do not change, unless they want to change.

Remember Newton’s Laws of Motion? (I don’t, in fact, I had to Google it before continuing any further). In 1687, Isaac Newton (then not yet referred to as “Sir” until he was knighted in 1705, thanks Google) proposed his three laws of motion in his ground breaking work the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. His theories on motion, which eventually became laws (the highest order of the Scientific Method), revolutionized the way we see the world today. Well, some of us anyways (I won’t drop any specific names but they see the world as non-spherical).

Thanks for inventing gravity, bro!

Now, obviously, I haven’t read his book but from what I gather it can be summarized as didactically exploring the three different Laws of Motion. The three laws are as follows: #1 “without resistance: objects in motion, stay in motion”; #2 “the greater the force, the greater the acceleration”; and #3 “for every action, there is a reaction”.  I am no physics teacher (so definitely don’t quote me on the 2nd law) but for the purposes of this article we are going to extrapolate the theories of momentum and motion into human behaviour. That is that people who act a certain way are not going to change unless they either A) have to or B) want to. No amount of wishful thinking or mindforcework is going to make a person change. You can encourage change, you can even be the model of said changes but in the end: the individual is the ultimate decider, the force and the accelerator, of change in their life.

I have heard it said that a majority of the world’s mental frustration and angst is based upon trying to control things that are simply out of their control. When I work with children (and clients of all ages for that matter), I always tell them that the only person they can control is themselves. Not nature. Not animals (especially not cats). And not others. So stop trying. If there is a behavior that you do not like about someone, you have choices to make. You can either tell them about it and hope they decide to change their behavior or you stop worrying about it altogether. Notice how both of these choices are under your control.

If you have a friend who is chronologically challenged (they are late for everything, and I’m not talking 15 minutes here, I mean an hour) and/or has extremely poor communication skills (perhaps they were raised by Carthusian monks on a lifelong monastic silence) and it drives you bonkers. Stop. Reflect. Is any of this behavior yours to control? No. It isn’t. So stop trying. These people will not change unless they have to or want to. Now, that is not to say that you say nothing or do nothing with this sheepish individual. Again, go back to your self-agency. You can make choices for yourself. Ask yourself: what do I want? If you want your friend to improve on quality x,y, or z, then tell them. But do not text them. We shirk from conflict enough as it is these days and texting, being the new form of human communication that it is (even angry letters sent from Popes and contemporaries of the Middle Ages typically took time to put a level of thought into their diatribes), is simply not an effective method of having a constructive discussion. If you want people to change, you need to tell them and then they can decided whether or not they want to.

The other version of change is when people have to. But really, nobody has to do anything if they don’t want something of it. Take for example the case of the “hopeless alcoholic” (I borrow this character  from Bill W’s Alcoholic Anonymous) who can’t stop drinking. Indeed, the compulsive drinking of this reprobate seems to suggest that they are afflicted with something not dissimilar from a disease. It is killing them yet they cannot stop. They are addicted. They are powerless to the drink. Yet we hear of so many people with similar tales of addiction that are able to successfully become sober and remain that way the rest of their lives. But how? Because they want to. They want to be clean. For their families, their friends, themselves. They are proud of their success and their choices (and damn proud they should be). Even if an individual is arrested and told that they can’t, say, have a drink. They still could do it. But if they look at themselves and realize: I am not proud of the fact that I physically assaulted a newspaper box and soiled myself at a bus stop, I need to get myself together here. That is not them having to do anything, that is them wanting to do something. They want to change themselves. These are lasting changes. Not when the wife says do this or I’ll leave. Not when the police say do this or you’re going to prison. Only when the individual says, I need to do this for [insert reason, clause, ultimatum here].

I could write a lot more on this. I have decided that I will and put them into a book to be lost in the oversaturated market that is self-help books. But that is enough for right now. If you like this, then comment on it and ask for more. Share it with your friends. Print it. Frame it. Or burn it. Whatever you do, realize it is your choice. Realize that no one has control over you. That you are the most important voice and decider in your life. That is not to say you should be a selfish individual but rather that you do things because you want to. Not because you feel like you have to. If someone really cares about you, they will want you to do what you want to do. They will not pressure you, they will encourage you. So make good choices and remember that you can’t control anyone, so stop trying to force it. People do not change, unless they want to.

R.G.

Image taken from: https://en.dopl3r.com/memes/dank/how-people-fixed-lightbulbs-before-isaac-newton-invented-gravity/792013

Your Choice/Getting Reps In

February 18, 2020

I started writing these articles or excerpts- whatever you would like to call them, as a way of positively relaxing, reflecting and growing. You see the old method I previously employed, that of getting all pent up during the week and then getting smashed up with my friends, is extremely counter-intuitive to being a successful new parent. Hangovers and screaming children are a fatal cocktail. I also realized that I didn’t want to follow some of the similar missteps of others by self-medicating with alcohol as a method of stress management. The interesting thing is that alcohol increases stress levels rather than inhibits them. Therefore, I needed to find something different and fast. My relationship with my partner and my child depended on it.

Throughout my twenties, I thought it was meaningful to lose yourself in parties and the drink. To forget your values and act like an absolute idiot to attain laughs, attention and even popularity. But that was all incredibly misplaced. While I made lots of great friends throughout my travels, many of whom are still in my life, quite a few of them have subsided and gone elsewhere. The reality is that this was all very much a mask to hide my true self. I am a hurt person. A lot has happened in my life that has negatively impacted me. A lot of it was my own fault. Some of it wasn’t. Regardless, I had an option: to change my values and my lifestyle or slowly destroy my life because of my unhealthy habits. The choice was mine and no one else.

 So, like any human with half a brain and a kernel of dignity, I chose to get better. To spend more time with my family and do more productive things. I chose to change. I had the humility to realize that the way I was living was not positive but rather destructive. I almost lost a great relationship and everything that came with it because I was too stubborn to get some help. Life is not easy. For anyone. And if it is easy, then who can you really relate to (it’s hard not relating to anyone)? We all experience pain and we will all at some point or another, if not already, experience immense loss. Loss and pain is part of existence. Death is what makes living real. Time is the only universal currency in all living things. Money doesn’t mean shit when you die, only what you did with the time that you were given does. So start using your time wisely. Which is precisely what I started doing: using my time wisely.

I started going to bed and getting up earlier. I spent more time with my family. I developed a bond with my baby daughter. I played less video games. I put my phone on silent and didn’t respond to people right away. I avoided group chats like the plague. I stopped caring what most people think (after all, if they didn’t respect my new way of life- why bother having them around?) I limited time spent around negative people and energy vampires. I drank less booze and ate much healthier. I mediated. I took cold showers. I journaled (kind of doing that right now). I drank more water. I went to the gym almost every morning. You get the idea: I changed my habits. I changed my life style.

Change is a choice. A choice you make daily. It is not about being perfect. It is about doing your best. Every day. That is how you fall asleep quickly and soundly every night. Knowing you did your best. So that is what I decided to do: my best. I realized that when I was partying, drinking beers, eating garbage food and feeling terrible for the next two and a half days. I was not doing my best. It was evident. I need not ask anyone for a second opinion- the proof was in how I felt: like shit. Not only did I feel gross in terms of physical body- but I also felt like garbage inside my mind. My mental wellness was getting thrashed around like a headbanger at a Slayer concert and not in a good way. The irony is that I partook in these activities because I wasn’t feeling very good about myself but it was also through these activities that continued to make myself feel worse. The fact is that I simply was not doing a very good job of being a partner, a parent and a professional (my productivity at work was struggling too). I simply had no passion. No drive. I had a house. An education. A family. But something was missing.

A passion.

When I was eleven years old, I wrote a book. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t very good. The plot was the same consistency as a Michael Bay film and featured characters that didn’t really develop. I used my grade seven classmates because I really couldn’t come up with interesting characters and didn’t want to. I was more interested in telling an action packed story where me and my friends took on a demon infested island. I wrote this book in one day. I was so excited. I was having so much fun. I didn’t care about the quality of it. I just loved creating this juvenile adventure that was overflowing with gore yet lacking in philosophical exposition. I wrote it while laying in bed and when I finished, I could hardly sleep. I couldn’t wait to show it to my friends the next morning. When I got to school, I felt like I carried a treasure inside that Garfield notebook. Before I knew it, everyone was reading it. They loved it. It was such a great feeling for I had finally found something I was good at. I was terrible at sports, music or most anything that required a level of skill. But for the first time I was getting honest praise for something I accomplished.

For a long time, I forgot that feeling. Instead, I turned to a plethora of other hobbies. I reserved writing for when I would become ‘inspired’. But that never seemed to happen. I just kept putting it off. Occasionally, I would start a project but then get distracted by a friend, a girl, booze, or all of the above. I went through my undergrad and finished my masters. Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do during this time was write. But really, it probably should have been the first thing. You see, for me, writing is part of my self-care plan. When I actually do it, it really doesn’t require that much energy. Behavioral psychologists call this a flow state, when you do something that seems to escape the parameters of time and you get lost in the act of doing it. Finding something that puts you in this state can help in combating mental health disorders[1]. Writing helped do this for me, so why did I stop.

I probably stopped because I lacked consistency. I lacked having a plan. I lacked holding myself accountable. I lacked courage. I simply wasn’t getting any reps. I kept putting it off, thinking that tomorrow would bring the inspiration I needed. Well, you probably don’t need me to tell you that tomorrow never came. If you want to see change, you need to start right now. Not tomorrow. Not on New Years. Today. This very second. Now. So think of a goal. Maybe you want to get in better shape. Then stop reading this and do as many push-ups as you can do. Or do squats while you read it. Start right now. If you want to drink less booze, go buy a six pack of kombucha instead (it tastes like beer). Whatever it is that you want to change or get better at, you need to get repetitions in (I call them reps). The more daily reps you get in, the higher your chances of success. So make it something you can do relatively easily (ex. Mountaineering is not a good daily goal unless you live in Switzerland or a mountainous region; however, if you want to read more, then have books near you that you can pick up). Also, remember, you are not perfect. If you miss a day, shake it off, start again tomorrow. Do your best.

Remember, in the end, it is what we do with the time that we are given. Make the gift that is this time worth while and do what you want to do. Nobody else is going to do it for you. So go out there and get those reps!

(Semi)Pro-tip: If you want to see lasting change, make it a change that you can accomplish daily. For example: if you want to eat healthier, go to the store and buy some veggies! Then put them in your lunch and eat them. Feel good about eating them. Say: I just ate veggies. Go me! Or whatever mantra is going to make you feel good about your choice and insodoing is going to keep you making positive choices. It all comes down to you making a conscious choice. No one can make it for you. If you want change, you need to be that change.      

-RG


[1] Google it if you don’t believe me.