Don’t change other people. It doesn’t work. You’ll waste your life trying. Many of us spend all our time trying to change the people in our lives. We think we can change them in ways that will make them better equipped to make us happy.
This is especially true of our children. We talk to our children for hours about how we think they should change. But children don’t learn from what we say. They learn from what we do. Today’s children, upon hearing us talk to them about how they should change will often say, “Yeah, right.” I think they got this phrase from Bart Simpson. It’s shorthand for “I’m not listening to what you say, I’m listening to what you do.”Gandhi was especially tuned in to the futility of changing other people. Yet Gandhi was probably responsible for more change in people than any other person in our era was. How did he do it? He had a profoundly simple formula. People would often come to Gandhi to ask how they could change others. Someone would say, “I agree with you about nonviolence, but there are others who don’t. How do I change them?”And Gandhi told them they couldn’t. He said you couldn’t change other people.” You must be the change you wish to see in others,” said Gandhi. In my own seminars, I probably use that one quotation more than any other.
I am always asked, “How can I change my husband?” Or, “How can I change my wife?” Or, “How can I change my teenager?”People who take the seminars on self-motivation, at some point during the workshop, agree completely with the principles and ideas.
Then, they start to think about the people who don’t buy-in. In the question-and-answer period, their questions are about those poor people. How do we change them? I always quote Gandhi. Be the change you wish to see in others. By being what you want them to be, you lead by inspiration.
Nobody really wants to be taught by lectures and advice. They want to be led through inspiration. Sales managers often ask me how they can get a certain salesperson todo more self-motivated activities. I tell them that they have to be the salesperson they want to see. Take them on a call, I say, and let them watch you.
Don’t tell them how to do it, inspire them to do it. I once attended a concert given by my daughter’s fourth-grade chorus, which sang a song called “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” The song’s words went, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me….” I beamed when I heard it. It was such a beautiful expression of being the change—a celebration of self-responsibility that rarely is portrayed in young people’s lives today. What you tell people to do often goes right by them. Who you do not.