— Uttam Dave

When was the last time you tried to change someone. Was it your friend? Lover? Life Partner?. Did you win at changing him or her.? If your answer is a big NO, Take heart, you are not alone. I too have tried to change many of my friends with the sole intention of making their life happier, but in most cases I have failed.

At certain times, people have tried to change me, and they too have failed. They too had good intentions in their minds, but it did not work. Should we try to change anyone? The answer is a clear NO. What makes the process of change so difficult or impossible for most of us.

We criticize, taunt, scold, insult, shout and sometimes resort to violence to change someone, yet none of it actually works. Changing someone or yourself is not an easy process. So what are the factors that we have to battle with before we change for the better.

I have two friends who are heavy smokers. I call them Mark and Rajiv. I do not smoke, so naturally I have an aversion for those who smoke, especially the ones I care about. I wanted them to quit, to save their overall health. It was only when I was not successful did I try to analyse the reason of my failure and the reason of their continuity of the habit.

The first is battling with fear. Anyone who is forced to quit is battling with fear. Fear, as to what will happen if they quit. The short term fear of losing one`s balance is much more than the long term fear of losing one`s health. This creates resistance in the individual. We can never judge the true extent of fear anyone is going through in relation to his/ her personal habit. Equally harmful is undermining someone`s fear as baseless or childish. The fear is very real to them.

Secondly, there is fear of failure. Failure means becoming the subject of ridicule, realising the fact that you are incapable and exposing yourself to the world about your weak will. This block is another barrier. There are hundreds of occasions where we do not even attempt to do something simply because we are afraid if failure and it does take a lot of mental strength to remove this block and get down to doing something that we ought to do. I know, my dear friends must have battled the same things.

Thirdly there is lack of confidence in the individual. He or she may not feel capable to handle that challenge or shift in habit. So probably, before you take up any challenge you need to have a high degree of confidence to emerge as a winner. One of my friends resisted the idea of quitting by postponing the date of quitting and the other gave me all the benefits of smoking according to his perception.

At the same time, my friends were fighting with several smoking myths in their minds. Myths that I was not even aware of and probably they too had them at a subconscious level. Unless all or most of them were blown apart, there was little scope for change. One of the commonly held myths in the minds of smokers is that it helps them to concentrate. I am quick to argue-Meditation is the best technique of concentration. This is the fourth reason of difficulty in changing anyone.

Fifth, I was also challenging their attitude towards their smoking. They had a very positive attitude towards it and here I was trying to make an attitude shift and wanting them to believe that Smoking is bad. Attitude changing is a very difficult thing. It is an amalgamation of what you have seen, heard, experienced or read and there is no guarantee that you may have seen the right things, heard the right things, had uplifting experiences or read the right literature pertaining to your problem.

Sixth, Smoking generated positive feelings in the minds of my friends, something I never knew as I never smoked. It had positive associations in their mind. It hurt them emotionally when I spoke about the harmful effects of smoking. It was like defending a small child against a giant. None of the feelings they presented, actually manifest if scientific literature is to be believed. Yet it was very real for them.

Seventh, Smoking like other things become a habit. The nervous system becomes habituated to it and the pleasure centres are activated, every time you repeat a habit, leading to continuation of the habit. Have you ever tried breaking a habit with a half heart. It never works for anyone. My friends were sailing in the same boat of long set habits like thousands of others.

Eighth, my friends belonged to families where the elders smoked. Their imitation had become a natural part of them. Forcing them to break the habit, meant forcing them to break their identification with their family members. It was something which did not get well with them.

Ninth, I did not know the kind of self talk my friends did with themselves. Probably they all made positive connections with smoking and negative with quitting making it next to impossible for me to change their habit. If their self talk was like-Smoking relaxes me, then nothing on earth could have changed their position. Their self belief about smoking should have been-Smoking causes me more harm than good. Then I could have helped them.

Tenth, none of my friends had any motivation to quit and I was forcing them to. It was like a small boy who had no interest in sports and the parent forcing him to become a sportsman. Could you expect him to even think of the playground? Eleventh, I had completely overlooked the fact that all their friends were chain smokers. Now if Mark, made the change, his friends would either make fun of him or not accept him as a quitter. They were afraid to face their social environment. Ideally, Men and Women have to be helped to face the social environment and how to cope with it. I should have taught them assertive behaviour and how to apply it in their life.

Twelfth, I failed to realize that for them the sense of loss of pleasure got from smoking was much more than the pleasure they would derive if they quit smoking i.e., good health.

Thirteenth, I had made an error in not allowing them the time to contemplate the change, or in making them ready to make a change nor was I ready to accept a relapse. In fact, I scolded my friend when he relapsed. Relapses are a very common part of change and have to be accepted.

Fourteenth, I did not ask them whether they wanted to quit. I assumed what they wanted and that was the right thing for them to do.

Finally, we all have our own comfort zone which we don`t like to be invaded by anyone else. It is like the uterus where we are safe and protected. I had pulled them out of their comfort zone.

Smoking is an example. When you try to change anyone they are battling with all these factors I mentioned in the case study.

But you may argue, there are people who do change. The best candidates for change are those who come up to you asking for a solution to their problem. They are ready for a change. They have already sorted out the factors I mentioned. They are ready to receive advise energies and are unidirectional in the direction of a positive change. All you need to do to them is to offer a path and motivate them.

One of the best ways to change someone else is to pick up a habit which is common to both of you and detrimental to both of you. Break the habit and experience the positivity. Your positivity will influence the other to change without you having to say a word about it.

And most important of all, whoever is going through a change, offer them your patience, tolerance, understanding and help them break their task into smaller parts. YOU CANNOT CHANGE ANYONE EXCEPT YOURSELF. YOU CAN HELP CHANGE THOSE WHO ARE WILLING TO CHANGE.

About the Author
Dr Uttam Dave is a LIFE COACH who runs PERFECT LIFE, an organization dedicated to make Positive and Permanent changes in your Personal, Social and Professional life to enhance happiness and well being.

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