Helping people be who they want to be


I’m an idealistic person by nature.  I’m also really into personal development, life hacking, etc. As a result, I often think about different ways to change my mindset, behaviors, and habits.

Thinking about change is all good when it comes to myself. At any given moment, I know what I want to be, and anything I can do to change into a better version of myself should be a good thing.

Things get much tricker when applied to others. It isn’t always all good. Other people have different mindsets. They are motivated in different ways, and want different things. Thinking about changing someone else can be a very dangerous thing. Go about this the wrong way, and you could lose some friends. At the worst, you could be viewed as manipulative and it could destroy relationships.

Still, I care about myself, and I care about others. I can change (I think?), and so should others right? If I could do something great for the world, I would like to help others change.

However, as I grow older, a lesson repeats itself, and it is starting to be clear to me.

And the lesson is this:

You can’t just change people, or tell them what to do. You can only help people be who they want to be.

If you believe this, there are a few ways to go about genuinely helping people.

  1. Help them define who they want to be. Some people don’t quite know what they want to be. If you can help someone begin thinking about what they want to be, that is huge. Others have an idea of who they want to be, but are still figuring it out. I’d say most people are in this camp. For these people, whatever you can do to get people to refine their vision of themselves is a win.
  2. Inspire them to be who they want to be. Real change can take courage, and inspiration is always good. Sometimes you do this by kicking them in the ass. Other times you are their cheerleader. Or, in the right circumstances, it can be as simple as just being yourself.
  3. Actively help people be who they want to be. There are several ways to do this. You could be a supportive shoulder to lean on. You could help make it socially OK to be who they want to be. You could lower or remove barriers in their way. Or you could help them leap forward: it could be monetary (such as investment money), social (making an intro to someone important), whatever.

As far as I can tell, any time spent doing these three things is time well spent.

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