If you could wave your magic wand and “poof” something in or out of existence in your life, what would it be? No, I’m not talking about a husband, teenager, or mother-in-law! I’m talking about a behavior; a good habit or a bad one. The first thought that comes to mind is probably a pet peeve, like, “I wish my husband would be more (fill in the blank)” or “I wish my child wouldn’t _____.” Maybe if you’re an introspective soul, you wish you could change something about yourself.
Well, that’s exactly what this post is about; changing yourself. None of us can change another person, certainly not directly. We might like to think we can, but any “control” we exert over someone else is merely an illusion. We can temporarily affect a spouse’s or child’s behavior, but change—as in real change—is internal. To be genuine it must be generated from the inside out.
For example, if you always seem to be butting heads with someone (a spouse, child, co-worker, or boss) change your own behavior and chances are theirs will change too. It takes at least two people to play tug-of-war. If you refuse to pick up your end of the rope, the other person is left standing there with a piece of limp rope in his hands. If he tries tugging on it, it will only result in him falling down.
Pick one thing you’d like to change about yourself. Do you yell too much? Swear? Smoke? Criticize? Is your house a mess? Do you have 14 unfinished projects? Do you wish you talked to your parents more? Do you dream about being thinner? Whatever it is, you can make progress by taking one step at a time, one day at a time.
Let’s say you find yourself being too critical of others. You know you are, you hate it, but it seems like every time you open your mouth something negative pops out. What can you do? It’s very difficult to change overnight, so it’s important to start with realistic expectations.
First off, nature abhors a vacuum. One of the challenges people often face is that they try to go cold-turkey with their bad habit, but fail to replace it with a good one. Try this: Instead of just cutting out snacking altogether, try replacing that handful of potato chips with an apple. Or if being critical of others is your downfall, if you try to cut out all negative talk without replacing it with uplifting talk, you’ll get nowhere fast because old habits die hard. You’ll find yourself continuing to criticize others and then mentally beat yourself up for failing.
The trick is to crowd out the bad with good. Start looking for positive things to say to your loved ones:
“Hey, I appreciate you taking out the trash today!”
“Good job on wiping down the counters!”
“I like the outfit you picked out to wear.”
“Thank you for doing your homework without complaining.”
“I know I don’t say this often, but I have a lot of respect for you going to work everyday whether you feel like it or not.”
If you’re not used to talking like this it will probably feel really awkward at first, maybe even artificial. Just fake it till you make it. Your family might even poke fun at you or be suspicious of your motives, but “try it till they buy it.” I’m not advocating being disingenuous; if you sincerely want to change it takes practicing the traits you want to develop. Just keep plugging along, day by day, and soon enough (30 days or less) your praise and gratitude for others will start coming naturally.
What do you want to change about yourself? How will you plan to do it? Share your progress!