My inspiration to write this post comes from a personal matter I’m dealing with, regarding someone I care about who is a smoker. All of my efforts to persuade this person to give up smoking have failed. Something this person said a while back about how it has to come from him got me thinking.

Why do we change? Do we do it for ourselves, or does the will to change come from our love and consideration of the people in our lives?

I have a theory, based on my observations, not only of myself, but others I have known in my life. When we live our lives solely for our own gratification and desire, do we not then fall into reckless, even self-destructive behaviour? Do we not succumb to unhealthy habits, such as drinking, smoking, drug use, or even promiscuity in our sexual activities? Perhaps the self-indulgent behaviours are less obviously destructive or unhealthy, such as overeating, inadequate physical activity, etc.

But what happens when we have something or someone to live for? How does that impact the choices we make in our lives? Do we not then stop to think about how our choices and actions may affect those we love? I know this has been true for me. It was true for my grandfather, who only gave up drinking after my older sister and I were born. And I have seen it in others, how their priorities change, often drastically when they find a sense of purpose, be it becoming a parent or close loved ones.

This notion that making positive changes in our lives has to be something we want for ourselves, while all good and well, can’t be all there is. Often it seems to me that it is a cop-out, a cheap excuse to avoid difficult challenges, such as breaking addictions or bad habits. When taken in this context, as being only about ourselves, it seems to me narcissistic.

Human beings are social creatures. Nature did not create us to be loners. We thrive in healthy groups, where our efforts empower and strengthen those around us. When we devote ourselves to our families, friends, and our communities, we find renewed energy and motivation to be the best we can be, to live in a more positive and conscientious way. My belief is we can strengthen our own will power in this way, by cultivating a certain amount of selflessness. Not in the sense that we do not make any effort for self care, because that, too, is self-destructive. No, I mean that we find that perfect, harmonious balance of self-care and devotion to others, and in our modern, self-indulgent times, we need these renewed, strengthened bonds with the people who should matter in our lives.

Buddhism_On_Suffering

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” – Gandhi

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19 thoughts on “Why We Change

  1. I fought and lost a similar battle. My mother was 16 when she became a mother. She smoked to sooth her nerves like everyone around her. When we were older, we begged her to stop. It was selfish of us to desire her to stay with us and be a charming grandmother to our children. She told us it was her body and she would do what she wanted with it. She died at age 49 and left a hole in our hearts and our children and grandchildren never knew what a wonderful, caring, and strong woman she was. My decades of grief at her loss is a selfish thing. I still miss her. She died on her own terms, cigarette in hand when her last breath left her body. Sadly, she never got the chance to reconsider her decision to continue smoking.

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    1. Oh my gods, Dan, I’m sorry! I knew your mother died too young, but I didn’t realize this was the reason. It wasn’t selfish of you and your siblings to ask her to quit and wish for her to live a long, healthy life. That’s what people want us to think. That we are selfish for caring and for asking our loved ones to make healthier choices. To me it feels like turning things around on the other person so the one addicted can live in a state of denial. I don’t mean to sound like they should feel guilty, but just to acknowledge that the addiction really is harming their health and wellbeing.

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      1. Yes, she was a two pack a day gal. I agree, really. This is a discussion that goes on forever in history and it really boils down to what you wrote. Do we change for ourselves or for those who love and need us. I like both. Why can’t we easily make a decision to change for the good of all concerned? It just seems the human mind struggles far to much with such a decision.

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      2. Both sounds like the perfect balance. I really wish that tobacco would be treated like a drug, the same as cannabis is treated. At least cannabis has medicinal uses and is nonaddictive. Yes, there is a difference between habit-forming and addictive, for those who don’t know. But tobacco is highly addictive. I’ve heard more so than most illegal street drugs, and it provides no real benefit. I think by now we all know the health impacts. In the States, people aren’t so accepting of smoking, but here in Germany, it’s like it’s hardwired into the culture. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t smoke, and even harder to find someone who never did.

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      3. I do remember how horrendous it was to be a non-smoker in Germany. There was no safe havens at that time and no ventilation in public venues. It does seem to be a national obsession for them, thus no incentive to quit.

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      4. It’s still pretty bad in public places. You know, even in outdoor public places in the States, people aren’t so likely to sit down near children and light up, but here, it doesn’t matter if it’s outdoor seating at a cafe or waiting for the bus, people come, sit right next to Frida and start smoking. Even when there are plenty of other places to sit further from kids and nonsmokers, they still plot down right next to you.

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      5. Of course you resort to such tactics! 😂 This is really a thing with Frida. She’s makes enough gas for several people! She cracks us all up! I’m convinced there must be a dietary imbalance, because so much gas just can’t be normal… 😮

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  2. Self-care is self-preservation, but the way not to make it selfish or harmful is to *remain* within, *join* with, or indeed *establish* strong families and communities. The unbalanced change and individual suffering usually results from the lack or weakness of those. Gandhi speaks well within a certain context, but I disagree with Buddha! He left his own family in order to prove something already known (i.e. moderation is good) and offer a solution that exposed his own desire to because famous for it! I saw a Indian film from 2009 about his life the other day, and I was struck at his sheer ego and savior mentality, especially after he acquires slavish disciples. I am considering a series about polytheism in media and this is surely among the films I will write about.

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    1. I heard about Buddha leaving his family and did wonder about that, but didn’t know more than that about his personal life. I posted the picture just to convey the eastern philosophies of the body, mind, soul connection and those pertaining to the overcoming of desire, which I believe is part of the process to giving up bad habits and addictions. Something vedic would have sufficed, but I thought people might miss the point. I look forward to reading what you write on the movie you saw. What was it called, by the way. It sounds interesting.

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      1. No objection to your intentions! Perhaps I was too quick to state my general dislike of individual philosophers who build a whole system and worldview around themselves. I criticize the Greek philosophers for the same reason. Nevertheless, they all have something of value to offer, and in your case, you were selective for the context. I’m sure the Vedic tradition does have prescriptions against excessive desire, but not the huge (and unnecessary) emphasis Buddha places on it! Anyway, the film (very interesting indeed) can be seen directly here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCIDz5D5zVs

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      2. No, don’t apologize. I appreciate your honesty and boldness, especially on topics that most people would never dare to criticize. Using images and quotes to convey messages is something I really only do for those who are less likely to respond only to the written word. You know, this is such a visual, fast-paced world we’re living in, so it seemed necessary to reach out tore readers, in the hopes that maybe it will be helpful to someone out there. If I can’t get through to the people close to me, maybe I can at least bring the right message to the right person somewhere. Thanks for the link. I’m totally intrigued! Can’t wait to watch it! 😁

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