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Extra Lessons: 4
1. Transforming your Social Life
Transcript of the video lesson:
Are you unsatisfied with the relationships in your life? In this lesson, we’ll look into what is there for us to change, and what is there for us to accept and work with. This is important as it will give you the proper mindset for taking the rest of this course. So that you will know in what ways you can change your social life.
In particular, we’ll look into the desire to change the people we’re in relationship with. Most of the time we are good at pointing out what is wrong in the relationship, and how this is because of the other person. It’s more interesting however to look at how you would like to change your own behaviour, because this is the only thing you can change, and it’s a great opportunity for personal growth, which will benefit not only that one relationship that you’re trying to change but will transform your whole social life for the better.
In this lesson you will learn:
- How you can change your social life through your own personal growth
- That you can change relationships by expressing desires and leading by example
- What you cannot and should not try to change: the other person against their will
- What unconditional love is
- How you can build a more fulfilling social life
How can you change your relationships for the better? By becoming better yourself. This course will focus on teaching you the skills necessary to do just that. You will learn among other things to communicate more clearly, to become more confident, and to connect with the right people. This will not only benefit your current relationships but will benefit all of your future relationships as well. You’re not just improving your relationships, you’re improving yourself by becoming a more skillful person.
This will have benefits in many other areas of your life as well. When you become more confident in your relationships, for example, you will likely also become more confident at work. When you become more unconditionally loving towards others, you will likely become more unconditionally loving towards life itself as well.
If you’re learning relationship skills, you’re always growing personally, even if the relationship doesn’t work out the way you would have wished for. And this personal growth will change all your future interactions for the better. You have the power to change your social life into a more fulfilling one.
The only thing you cannot do
Your only limitation in improving relationships is that you cannot change the other person. The other person can only change themselves, by wanting to do so. No amount of your force will do this trick. This is a hard one to accept. When I ask people what they would like to change about their relationships, the single most thing I hear is that they want to change how the other person is acting. They want their husband to communicate more openly or they want their mother to accept them the way they are.
While there is a chance you might improve these specific parts of your relationships that involve others, let’s first take a look at the motivation behind you trying. Are you only in a relationship with this person for whom they might become in the future, while you’re actually unhappy in the relationship right now? The other person is another person, not an object or project to improve. Do not stay with someone just because you hope or think they will become a “better person” in the future. If you do that, you’re not really with the person that they are at that particular moment. The love is not pure, you are not loving them for who they are, but rather you are in love with the idea of who they may become one day. So you’re loving someone that they are not and that they might never become. They have free will and they can use that to either change or not change, that choice is completely up to them. If you try to infringe on their autonomy you will likely waste a lot of energy and become frustrated. But even if they change, there’s a chance that they don’t like the change themselves. Moreover, even if they like the change themselves, it’s damaging to the relationship since you were not loving them for who they originally were.
Change through expressing your desire
So what can you do if you feel you want to change someone? It’s a perfectly acceptable thing to at least let the other person know your preferences and desires in a respectful way. So please, don’t feel guilty to just let the other person know how you would love things to be.
One of the testers of this course wrote about this: “I often get lost in extremes, in the past I often wanted others to be different, and nowadays I sometimes believe I’m not even allowed to say I want things to be different. Wonderful to get that permission, and to see that to express is not the same as to force or command.”
So yes, you have the permission to express your preferences. A common issue that comes up here is that other people easily feel triggered when you tell them you would rather have them behave differently. They might feel rejected, threatened, insecure, or inadequate. You can make your own intention more clear by saying that what you want the most is that they are themselves, and happy and that you love and accept them the way they are. If they don’t want to change, you don’t want them to change either. But you do want to communicate your preference, because the change you’re asking for might as well be something that they really don’t mind changing, and that they would love to change if it makes you happier in that way. And the change you’re asking for might also be of inspiration for them, maybe they had never thought before about growing in that particular area.
To stay with the previous examples: you can tell your husband that you would like to communicate more openly with him. You can tell your mother you have a desire to be fully accepted by her for who you are. Maybe your husband wants to learn how to communicate more openly as well but doesn’t know how to yet and would love to tackle this challenge with your loving support and advice. Maybe your mother has never been aware of the fact that she’s not accepting you for who you are, and will be willing to work on this.
If you have explicitly expressed your desires and you are sure the other person has listened and understood you, it’s useless and disrespectful to keep repeating yourself when your goals do not align. If your husband doesn’t like talking about his feelings, that’s for you to accept. If your mother holds firm that certain things about you are unacceptable and she does not want another perspective on that, that’s something for you to accept about her. Do not try to manipulate or control other people, you cannot force something they do not want down their throat. If you want the other person to feel respected and loved by you, express your preferences but be ready to accept their no for an answer.
Change through leading by example
Apart from expressing your desires, you can also lead by example.
As Mahatma Gandhi has said: be the change you wish to see in the world. If you want to communicate more openly with your husband, ask yourself how you can communicate more openly with him yourself. And are you fully accepting your mother the way she is? The great benefit of this is that you become aware of growth opportunities for yourself as well, which will serve you for the rest of your life in every relationship, even if this one will fall apart.
Hopefully, you acting more in this way will inspire change in the other person. Maybe your husband will value you sharing about your insecurities, and feel safer to talk about his own emotions as well. Maybe your mother will be happy that you finally accept her way of worrying about you, and starts accepting that regardless of her worries you make your own choices in life.
You can only hope to inspire others in this way, you cannot expect them to change. And you’re also not entitled in the sense of “I communicate so openly, now you should too!”. So make the change for the benefit of your own personal growth, and let is be a free desire that the other person will follow your example.
Let’s take a little side track here: What is a free desire? A free desire is a wish for how you would like your future reality to be, but without the insistence that is should be that way, and that you cannot accept a different future. How do you know whether a desire is free? If you think about a certain desire you have, for example, that a good friend will become a better listener, do you feel positive about it? Something along the lines of joyful, excited or just relaxed? That means your desire is already a free desire. It means you’re happy and hopeful about the possibility of this desire becoming fulfilled, without being too attached. Or does having this desire feel contracted? Does it make you feel a bit stressed or dissatisfied? That means you’re trying too hard because you think you really need it in order to feel okay. While you don’t, you don’t need it. Your happiness is not dependent on specific people acting in specific ways. To liberate your desire, trust that life will bring you a future that’s perfect for you, whether that contains joyfully receiving the fulfillment of your desire, or receiving other gifts like unexpected surprises and challenges that you can learn from. Be confident that you can thrive in whatever situation, take back that power, and be ready to accept whatever life brings you. And from that place, your free desire can inspire you to lead by example, to be the first one to get better, and maybe that will inspire the other person, and maybe not.
Why is it so hard to accept others?
Why do we try so hard to change the other person? We do this especially with people who are close to us, like our life partner or our children. That is because we put the most weight on those relationships. They matter the most to us, to the point where we are unhealthily attached to them “succeeding”. Of course, you have a desire for your closest relationships to be fulfilling, but can that desire be free? Can you also be happy without this relationship working out? If you believe you need this person in your life to be happy, and that this person needs to act in a certain way for you to be happy, you’re suffocating them. Let them be free instead and trust you can be happy without this relationship.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking “Well I would love to let others be free and trust I can be happy without them, but I don’t know how!”. First of all: More help in is coming your way in other lessons, but it depends on you personally what you need to learn to trust you can be happy without certain others. Maybe you’re afraid of not getting enough love. In that case, you will like the next lesson in which you learn to rely on yourself as a sufficient source of love. Or maybe you’re not confident that anyone else will like you, in which case Lesson 3 will help you build that confidence. Or maybe you think this particular person is the only person who is that amazing. In other words: you’re not believing in an abundance of wonderful people. Lesson 6 will teach you an abundance mindset.
Believing you don’t need to change others
Can you imagine that there’s actually already a reality in which you can be happy without certain others being in a certain way, but you’re just not seeing it yet? You’re not seeing this reality yet because you’re holding some limiting beliefs. Investigate for yourself: Why do you believe you need others in certain ways in order for you to be happy?
Becoming aware of your limiting beliefs is the first step.This is easily followed by seeing what unlimited beliefs you would rather have. Would you like to believe you can always find sufficient love within yourself? Or that you are confident and know you can find people who will like you? Or that there is an abundance of amazing people out there, and you can meet them? Would you like to believe you don’t need anyone to change and that you can be happy regardless?
After having identified your limiting beliefs, and the unlimited beliefs you would rather have, it’s really a process of stepping into that new reality. You are a being of logic as well as intuition, you need to bring both of these parts into your new paradigm of reality. Let’s take a look at both.
Your logical self wants to be convinced by evidence that the new belief you’re choosing is already true. If you send your mind on a little quest for this evidence, you will likely find it. If you want to believe you don’t need your romantic partner to have enough love, then your mind might find proof for this in the facts that you have many sweet friends, or that there have been times in your life in which you were single and yet happy as well.
Your intuitive self wants to feel the new reality. You can do this by just feeling into the new belief. It just takes a little bit of imagination from your heart. Ask yourself for example: what would it be like always feel there’s enough love for me?
If a new concept that you would like to adopt into your view of reality is very alien, it takes more time to think and feel your way into it, than when it already sounds like something that might actually already be true, but you’re just not so aware of it all the time. The process takes how long it takes. Be patient, and persistent. And one day you’ll just realize: “Hey, this is totally a reality for me now! I really do not need others to be in any other way!”
Conditional love means that you only give your love under certain conditions: like only being nice to your mother when she accepts you the way you are. Or only loving your husband if he has learned to communicate more openly. Growing deeper into unconditional love instead will greatly benefit the aliveness of your heart and the deepness of your relationships. Unconditional love means that you love others no matter what. You can feel this for every being on the planet. You can feel this even for someone who treated you badly.
It does not mean you have to tolerate certain behavior towards you. You can tell someone not to abuse you, you can leave your husband if he doesn’t meet your desire for open communication, and you can still love these people at the same time. They just don’t match up with your relationship desires, that’s all.
If you love unconditionally, you’re not just thinking about your own well-being, you’re thinking about their well-being too. You want them to be the happiest they can be, you want them to be themselves and to live their lives to the fullest in exactly the way they want to do that. If that includes them to be in the way you want them to be, great. If that doesn’t include them to be the way you want them to be, then that’s fine too. It’s less fun if they don’t want to be the way you would have liked them to be, but from a standpoint of unconditional love, you wouldn’t want them to be any other way than they are.
A humbling thing to realize in this regard is that your preferences are not higher and more valuable than the other person’s preferences. You may value open communication. But your husband might value quietude and privacy. You may value acceptance. But your mother might value honest feedback and the freedom to always share her judgments. So don’t moralize, instead, see that it’s all just personal preferences.
So when you find yourself wanting someone to change, remind yourself of the fact that you want them to be happy the way they are. If you have expressed your desire of how you would like them to change, and they express no interest in that, just say: “Okay, I see we have different preferences. And I accept you the way you are, even if that doesn’t match with my preferences.”
And it’s up to you to find relationships in which your preferences are compatible with those of the other person, meaning that these preferences are capable of existing in harmony together.
Building a fulfilling social life
The most important tool you have to build a fulfilling social life is your own personal growth. Practicing relationship skills will benefit all relationships in your life.
This doesn’t mean that you will be able to turn every relationship into exactly how you want it to be. Because the other person has free will, and the two of you might just not be compatible enough to ever make it work. If the other person is aware of your desires but does not want to change in that way, it’s a good idea to give up on it and ask yourself if you still want to be with them if they are like this. Changing your social life for the better is not about staying in a unfulfilling relationship and trying to change what cannot be changed. Building a fulfilling social life is about changing what can be changed, and otherwise get out of there and find people with whom you have better matches, with whom you are more compatible.
Every relationship will make you more aware of your preferences and deal-breakers. Maybe you want to be with someone who values open communication as well. Maybe you want to be with someone who easily accepts others the way they are.
Especially within romantic monogamous relationships for many it’s a very hard choice to stay or to leave. What if you accept your partner the way they are, and a lot of things are working great, but there are a few things between the two of you that really don’t match? Accepting your partner the way they are is of great value, but it doesn’t provide you with the answer whether the relationship needs ending or not. Another hard one is: what if you’re family members? These relationships you certainly don’t choose right? We will look more into this topic in Lesson 7: When to end a relationship?
During this course, you will become more aware of your preferences, deal-breakers, and you will grow your relationship skills, and so you will start finding more and more easily fulfilling relationships.
In this lesson you learned:
- You grow personally by building your relationship skills during this course. This will benefit your current and future relationships.
- You have a chance to change your relationships by expressing your desires and leading by example.
- It’s more effective and satisfying to learn to love unconditionally than to try changing the other person against their will.
- Through building better relationship skills and becoming more aware of your preferences, you can find more fulfilling relationships
If you still find it a painful idea that you might not be able to “save” a certain relationship by changing it the way you want to change it, take a look at the extra lesson called “afraid of failure?”. If you don’t feel confident yet that you can build your relationship skills, hang in for lesson 3 on building confidence. If you want to know more about when to end a relationship, and how to find new connections, look out for lessons 7 and 8. In the course Fulfilling Relationships II, we’ll go deeper into freedom and letting go of unhealthy attachment and insecurity. For now: proceed to Lesson 2 on how to cultivate self-love, a medicine for… well, almost any problem you encounter in relationships.
Transcript of the exercise:
We have been talking a lot about the need many of us feel to change the people we’re in relationship with. Let some people come to your mind that you feel this need with. Who do you want to change? And in what way? … Choose one of these relationships to work with during this exercise.
First of all, we want to come from a place of unconditional love. Remind yourself that although your own happiness is, of course, important to you, theirs is too. You want them to be happy, and that includes respecting their free will of how they want to be and how they are choosing to live their lives. With this particular person in your mind, and in your heart, can you feel into that you want them to be happy?
You might not like the idea of letting them be in another way than would be convenient for you because you believe you need to change others in order for you to be happy. Let’s work with that for a moment. Imagine that the following statement is true for you: I can be happy, regardless of the choices other people make in their lives.
Can you find logical proof for this? For example, can you remember a moment in your life where someone acted inconsiderate towards you but you felt happy nonetheless?
What would it feel like to live in a reality where you are happy, regardless of the choices other people make in their lives?
Now return your focus to this one person in your life that you have been wanting to change. One way to respectfully make an effort to change the circumstances to your preferences is to express those preferences. Imagine yourself communicating your desire to them for the change you would like to see. What would you say to them?
Imagine them reacting positive, they would like to make that change for you.
And now imagine getting a no from them, they don’t want to make that change. And imagine yourself being fully accepting of that.
Another way to respectfully make an effort to inspire change in the other person is to lead by example. What would you need to change about yourself, to possibly inspire the other person to change in the way you would like them to change? … Can you see how improving yourself in this way will benefit yourself, your other relationships and possibly other area’s of your life as well?
Imagine yourself making this change, … and imagine the other person feeling inspired by it, and changing in that same way.
Also, imagine yourself making this change but without the other person becoming inspired by it. And imagine that you feel happy anyway for improving yourself, and fully accepting the choices the other person is making for themselves.
Sometimes we are only still in a relationship with someone for whom they might become in the future. Ask yourself right now the question: Would I still want to be in a relationship with this person if they don’t change?
If not, know that although you can choose not to spend time with them anymore, you can still love them.
This relationship has taught you something about your preferences. What preferences have you become very clearly aware of through this relationship? … Now within your own mind thank this person for assisting you in learning this about yourself.
Know that it is possible for you to find relationships in the future with people who are more compatible with you in this aspect. Can you imagine for a moment finding new connections with people who completely match with you in this regard?
So this is how you transform your social life into a more fulfilling one. Either you change what can be changed, or you accept what cannot be changed and move on to find more compatible relationships.
Take a deep breath in. And slowly breath out. When you’re ready, open your eyes.
If you want to, you can repeat this exercise with other people in mind. Or you can apply the process to the different things you would like to change about this same person. And of course, I encourage you to bring it into your daily reality by practicing it. Feel into unconditional love and acceptance, communicate your desires, make changes in yourself that can inspire others to change as well, and if necessary end relationships that are not compatible enough and find ones that are.