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.
“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