You can’t make ‘em change

It’s happened to all of us. We have someone in our lives and we want to help them change. Maybe they want to quit smoking, make more money or improve an important relationship in their life.

Whatever it is, the story is the same. They tell us they want to change, they have tried to change, and they have never successfully changed.

So, what is that about? Can you help them change, and more importantly, should you?

One of the core pieces of change is that you, or your client, must be ready for change. They have to see the desired outcome and be able to get clear on that.

Remember the part of NLP about making sure all parts of them want change?

That is the key.  And that is where things often go wrong.

How many times have you heard someone say they wanted to quit smoking, then watched as they happily walked outside to have smoke?

Or listened as someone talked about how unhappy they were with their job and sat in wonder at their lack of effort to find a new job.

That happens fairly frequently, especially to those of us who are helpers. (Hint: If you’re reading this, you’re likely a helper also) 😉

So, where is the disconnect? What is happening that is making someone say one thing and do another? Why do some people seem to complain, but not take the steps necessary to change the circumstances they are complaining about?

Much of that lies in the “ecology” of change. Ecology is simply a way of asking if they are totally congruent about wanting to make the change.

Take smoking, for instance. Some people can quit cold turkey, deciding one day to quit and never looking back.

For others it is a struggle that can go on for years, with failed attempts as testament to their desire, and struggle, to quit.

What is the difference?

I believe it is, in large part, due to congruence.  Let me share what I mean.

Everyone knows that smoking is unhealthy. It can cause cancer, heart disease, CPD and many other health conditions that can shorten our life and hurt the quality of life.  And have you looked at how much cigarettes cost these days?!

These facts are undisputed.

Yet, untold numbers of people continue to light up. Contrary to all logic and science the tobacco industry is still going strong.

So why, if people are aware of the health risks, do so many struggle to quit?

Often times it’s because of a lack of congruence within them about quitting. You see, there are some nice things about smoking. It can seem calming to the person who smokes, it’s often an excuse to leave a room, as a habitual smoker it actually feels good…there are a lot of reasons someone may not want to quit.

Of course, there are also common beliefs about quitting smoking that people also want to avoid. The discomfort of “withdrawls,” losing the social connection with other smokers, and having to find another way to get their alone time.

So, while the “pain” of quitting is immediate, the rewards of quitting are long term…which also creates an instant gratification/long term benefit conflict.

It’s not until all parts of the person are ready to quit, willing to put up with the short term challenges in exchange for the long term benefits, and dedicated to becoming a non smoker that they are likely to successfully quit smoking.

The same holds true for any change.

If there are parts of you, or your client, who are not all on board with change, it won’t be as successful, permanent or easy.

When you are considering any type of change, again, for yourself or others, ask yourself directly if there’s any part of you that is not ready to change.

Then wait for the answer.

One of the hardest things to do when practicing NLP is to wait for the answer. It’s human nature to want to fill in the blanks (after all, we start learning to do that in school). In this case, however, it’s very important to allow the answer to come naturally.

Ask yourself “Is there any part of me that doesn’t want to change” and wait for the answer.

Once you have the answer you can address any part of you that is hesitant, that still has reservations or isn’t quite ready for change.

As you practice asking yourself and others this question you will get more comfortable with knowing when the answer you’re getting is the “true” answer. You will likely learn a bit about yourself, and a bit about anyone you’re working with.

This is an incredibly powerful question that, when asked and answered truthfully, will multiply your success with change. Change will begin to come easier, more quickly and last much longer.

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