- Mental Health
People Can Change
"People never Change" . . . or do they?
We have all been there. People we love and care about make promises that they are going to change their ways for us and all will be good with the world. Our loved ones may improve their behaviors for a short about of time, only to fall back into their old ways and disappoint us ~ again. We come away from the situation saying, “people never change.”
Can people really change? Of course, people can change. We change all the time. Evolution and growth are a part of life and sometimes regression and being stuck in our ways also characterize our life histories. The reasons people change or don’t change are varied and complex ~ dependent upon the type and reason for the change.
Types of Change
There are so many different ways a person can change.
- Sudden Change: A painful experience or a memorable event might prompt a change in behavior or personality. Tragedy can define one’s life and make us either appreciate the small things or behave recklessly as if nothing matters. A series of failures can make a person try harder or give up. The direction that your life might take depends on your perspective and comes from learned experiences, the influence of others and other unconscious motivators. The change that comes after the onset of a particular event can be sudden and swift. These changes can be temporary or long lasting. Temporary Changes: Sometimes change is temporary and over time the person goes back to his/her familiar ways. Maybe a person decides after a bad breakup that she doesn’t believe in love. She changes her ways by no longer dating and going out to meet potential partners. This situation could last for a while and then one day she gets the courage to try to love again. Permanent Change: Sometimes the change is more permanent and lasting. Maybe a person gets into a horrible car crash and can no longer work, and she is forever changed by the event.
- Gradual Change: Change can also be gradual ~ over time a person grows and matures, develops new skills and changes. Gradual change is a slow process, barely noticeable and usually a lasting type of change. Maybe someone learns through past experiences how to have better and healthier relationships with others or becomes more financially responsible with maturity. These changes are not the result of a particular trigger event. Rather, they just happen over time.
- Active Change: Self-initiated change is an active decision to change something about yourself. Maybe you want to get in shape and lose weight, develop a skill or become a more caring person and do things for others. This type of self-motivated change can be very powerful if the person is really committed to changing and has made a decision to change on her own. Active change usually involves a plan such as getting the help of an expert or concrete goals/steps to achieve results.
Change is Difficult
Promises to change for the sake of others rarely work for the following reasons:
- People who are promising to change for others may not see anything wrong with their behavior. They see no reason for making a change. With little self-motivation to change, there is little likelihood that change will occur.
- The promise to change may not be genuine. A person who promises to change for others may just be trying to say what is necessary to keep the peace in a relationship or just trying to fool someone else into thinking there will be a change in order to get a benefit.
It is hard to really change. It can be scary to break away from your old, comfortable ways of doing things and try something new. Our bad habits and behaviors are our way of coping with life’s challenges, and they help ease us through our stressful, painful experiences. It can be really hard to part from those habits.
Keys to Successful Change:
- Recognition and acknowledgement that change is necessary. The first step of changing is admitting that you have something you need to change.
- Self-motivation to change. You have the motivation to change. Meaning, you recognize the problem and want to do something about fixing your situation.
- Commitment to change. You are 100% committed to making a change and willing to work towards changing on a daily basis.
- A Plan for change. You have a plan for how to implement change and a way to go about achieving the change you desire.
- Support system for change. You surround yourself by those who inspire you to change instead of negative people who tell you that you can never change.
- Belief that change is possible. You have to believe in change in order to see change. Remind yourself of the ways in which you and others have changed to know and understand that change is possible.
If you want to change, do it for yourself and not as a promise to others. Change cannot be forced onto another person. True, lasting change doesn’t come from ultimatums or threats. People will change when they are ready to change. To enact change, you can decide to change something that you don't like about yourself, and you can also support and encourage others on their journeys to change.