It starts with changing yourself
Be the change you wish to see in the world. — Mahatma Gandhi
It took me a long time to finally understand the meaning behind Gandhi’s famous words.
It may not be everyone’s meaning, but it’s mine.
Since the first time I read them, those words stuck with me. I wanted to follow that advice, but I simply didn’t know what it meant.
Like most people, I just wanted the world to be a happier and healthier place.
The change I wanted to see in the world was peace. I wanted everyone to be kind to each other, to treat each other with respect and dignity. I wanted people to care for one another, and to be empathetic and compassionate towards one another.
I didn’t want people to suffer anymore. I didn’t want things like wars, sickness, poverty, violence, or corruption to plague our planet anymore.
As a kid, though, making just one of these changes seemed way too big, let alone all of them! I had not one clue about where to start. It all seemed so huge and impossible and overwhelming.
How could I change the whole world!?
I was just a little kid in a big world. What impact was I going to make?
Start With You
Growing up has taught me a few things — one of them being that I don’t control the world. As much as I want to at times, I’ve learned that I just don’t. That’s how it is.
I do have some control, though — and it begins with me. Looking inward is where my power lies, and where I can make the changes I want to make.
Each one of us has this power — and if we all took responsibility for ourselves and learned how to love and care for ourselves, I believe we would change the world.
It all starts with you.
If you want your parents to take better care of their health by eating better and exercising more often, you have to do those things first. Be the example.
But here’s the key:
Don’t do those things just so you can rub it in their face. Don’t do it just so you can use it as proof that you’re perfect, and so that they’ll have no excuse.
That’s not the point.
People Change For One Reason
Trying to manipulate somebody else, or guilt them into doing something you think they should be doing isn’t healthy. It’s not the right approach.
And it’s also not going to work.
Have you ever tried shaming someone into making a change in their life? Or maybe you’ve tried to scare them instead, by telling them horror stories and statistics of what could happen to them if they don’t change.
How often do they change as a result of this?
If you really look, you’ll probably see that it usually has very little effect, if at all. They may make a change for a few days or weeks, but if they’re doing it for you, and not them, they won’t keep it up.
People only make a change in their life when they’re ready to. It doesn’t matter how many times you try to motivate, encourage, scare, guilt, or shame them into doing it on your timeline. They’re not going to budge.
I’m definitely guilty of this. And if you’re honest, so are you. We’ve all done it, because we don’t know another way. We just want our loved ones and friends to be happy and healthy, and we think we know what they need to do to get there.
If you’re really honest, you’ll even see that it’s easier to focus on someone else’s life and meddle in their business than it is to take care of your own. (Or so you think).
I’m not perfect, either. I still do all of this — and often!
I’m learning how to stop, but it’s not easy. It’s like trying to break a spell you’ve been under your whole life. Its magic powers have taken control of you, and you’re not thinking for yourself.
The only way out is to become aware that you’re under the spell.
Don’t Accidentally Push People Away
We all love to tell the other people in our lives what they should be doing, and how they should do it. It makes us feel good about ourselves to think that we’ve got somebody else’s life figured out for them (especially since we can’t seem to figure out our own!)
However, in my experience, all this really does is drive a wedge between people and make both of you feel worse.
If every time you see your mom, you’re nagging her to exercise and care about herself, she’s going to end up feeling worse about herself, and probably eating worse as a result. She may even start to dread your visits because she’s tired of being told what to do (and that she’s not good enough) — and that is heartbreaking.
If every night, you’re at your partner to work on his goals and dreams, he’s probably going to become even less motivated, moving further away from them instead of closer. Rather than it being an exciting, uplifting aspect of your lives that you can share and build on together, it will just feel like work, and he won’t want to do it.
His increased lack of motivation and inspiration will also negatively affect you, making it harder to get excited about your own goals and dreams, and the future you’re creating.
We think we’re helping by trying to motivate others, but in reality, we’re often making it worse.
So what can we do instead?
Be The Change
Rather than spending time in other people’s business, we can learn to attend to our own.
Taking care of ourselves and focusing on our own lives does more good than we’ll ever know.
As Benjamin Hardy, PhD wrote in an article I read this morning, “In order for your words to have power, they must have integrity. It’s easy to say one thing and do another. And when such is the case, your words come off as shallow.”
Instead of telling your parents to exercise and eat healthy, you do those things. Make them a part of your daily life, and you’ll reap the benefits from them. Instead of telling your partner that he should work on his goals, work on yours. Make it a habit to include making progress on the things that are most important to you.
As a result, you’ll become a better person. You’ll be happier, healthier, have more energy, and be more positive.
And that’s what other people are naturally drawn to. When people see someone who radiates with life, happiness, peace, and love, they want that.
Your example is showing them the way to a better life. You become the proof that it does exist, and that it is possible to change.
And that’s how the whole world is changed — one person at a time.