The Truth About Changing For Someone (+ Why It Probably Won’t Work)

Trying to change for someone? It might not work. Click through for habit change tips and goal-setting tips you haven't read before!“I’m sort of shooting myself in the foot here, but no. I don’t think you should buy it. I can’t, in good faith, take your money.”

I laugh awkwardly as my friend squints at me over her laptop.

We’re co-working in a pretty, light-filled coffee shop downtown. I’ve been telling her about my course Make It Stick Habit School and (shameless brag!) how it’s helped people build writing habits, gym habits, better sleep routines – all kinds of stuff.

And her very sweet response was “That sounds like something my husband needs. I’m going to buy it and make him take it.”

I was incredibly flattered that she had so much faith in my methods that she wanted her husband to benefit from them. I loved that she wanted to support the work I do! What a great friend!

But here’s the truth: Change is hard enough when we’re trying to do it for our OWN reasons. It’s DAMN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE when we’re trying to change for other people. Click To Tweet
Think about it. Which is more motivating: Changing your spending habits because you’re ready to live that roommate-free life? Or because your mom keeps shaming you about your credit card debt? 

Is it easier to build a running habit because you know it’ll help you sleep better or because your partner nags you about your blood pressure?

Are you more likely to break your nightly happy hour habit because you’d rather put that money towards a vacation? Or because your best friend makes “jokes” about how you’re a lush?

Sure, we’ve all made choices to avoid shame, embarrassment, or nagging. This is why I dig all my chip crumbs out of the dip before Kenny gets home from work! And why he speed cleans for an hour before I get home from any trip!

But.
Making big changes to our daily lives from a place of obligation or negativity is unsustainable. We can’t shame ourselves into lasting change. Click To Tweet

This is why I wouldn’t let me friend buy my class for her husband; I knew it wouldn’t work for him.

In fact, in the ‘before we get started’ module of Make It Stick Habit School, we talk about choosing one habit to work on for the next six weeks. Then we double – and triple! – check that we’re all changing these habits for the right reasons.

Because our friends are doing it? Nope.
Because our partner gets annoyed about it? Nah-uh.
Because our parents wish we would? Keep going.

But a change we really, truly want to make? That we’re excited about? Ding ding ding! There we go! That’s a habit worth changing!

Change that sticks is change that’s motivated by self-love and commitment and an understanding of how we’ll benefit. We need this understanding to fall back on when we’re tempted to skip our daily meditation or swing through Target for some mindless shopping. Shame and obligation make for poor support systems.

And if you can’t find way to get excited about changing something you ‘should’ change? Take a step back and give yourself some space. Life is long and no one has to be great at everything. You’re allowed to change the things you want to change and leave some parts of your life gloriously un-perfected.

I want to hear from you! Have you ever tried to change something or make/break a habit out of shame or obligation? How’d that go?

P.S. The live version of Make It Stick Habit School opens for enrollment on March 19th. My last live course sold out in 4 days, so you might want to get on the waitlist!

Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash

3 Comments

Kel

The timing of reading this blog is too good… Last night, I got a second “nag” from my partner about not folding my clothes in the drawers that he’s offered me at his place (am I going through your drawers, mister? Nope!). I’m in no rush to change this habit that tends to creep up when I get tired or stressed. I do like things nice and tidy, but I know that eventually it may look like a bomb exploded in my dresser. I guess I’m wondering, how on earth do I tell him that I don’t see the need to change that immediately? So today I took almost everything out except essentials and PJs so he has nothing to judge, haha!

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Amy

Long-term change doesn’t stick if you’re changing for someone else. When I change something, it’s because I’m ready to change it. Not because someone nagged me into doing it. Even then, it may not last, but it’ll certainly last longer than doing it for someone else.

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