The Best Way to Improve Others

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” – Jacob M. Braude

Do you have a problem with your significant other doing things that consistently bother you? If only you could get them to do what you want them to do, it would change your life for the better.  Getting other people to improve on things that you’d like them to improve upon can be difficult to nearly impossible. It’s a problem that I think about all the time and almost everyone can relate to.

I had one of my friends claim that I write these blog posts because I want to be famous. I sat there thinking about it for a few minutes, and I honestly think being famous is not a desire of mine (not for fame’s sake alone at least).  I write these posts because I know how the changes that I recommend have changed my own life for the better. I sincerely want everyone to read what I have to say, so they can skip all the wasted time that I went through in my life.  Fame, of course, would help me connect with more people, so I’d certainly take it if it meant I could connect with more readers.

I say all of this to point out that I think about how to improve others so much that it may not even be healthy. I even write a blog about it.  To be fair, I haven’t really figured out how to connect with many readers that I haven’t met in person.  Most of the people who tell me that they’ve been inspired by my blog or Facebook page are people that are friends of mine from the past and aren’t reading what I write solely because it has helped them, so I know that I haven’t done a very good job reaching out to new people. This is super unfortunate, but it’s something I strive to do better everyday.

Although I don’t think I’m reaching too many readers regularly, I have tried a lot of different methods of improving those I interact with regularly in everyday life, and the best way in helping them improve is improving yourself! Improving others will likely not happen until you start implementing the changes you’re recommending in others. If you think someone else is selfish, you need to selflessly serve them. If you think someone else is prideful, treat them with humility and respect.  If you think your significant other is lazy, you may need to work a bit harder to get their attention. Changing myself has been the single most effective method of changing others in my life.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi

People don’t like being told what they need to do (remember parents, kids are people too). We have the option of continuing to bother others into doing what we want, or we can take actions ourselves and start making improvements. I’ve seen this work on me, and for me. Here are a few examples of how an individual making improvements has rubbed off on those around me:

  1. Working Out/Dieting – When I see people around me that are in better shape than myself, it sparks my competitive nature. I want to be in shape like them. Naturally if those around you are working out, you’ll be more likely to do it. This works even better with a significant other. Not only will they see that you look and feel better, but they will pick up on the habits that you have picked up. My wife will be annoyed at me saying this, but she works out mostly because I work out (correction: she wanted me to tell you that she works out on her own now, but I definitely inspired her). I created a culture in our house of working out, and I also created an environment in which the equipment is available to do it easily in our basement. I never once would tell my wife she has to work out, and she wouldn’t do that to me either, but the fact that we both do holds us both accountable.
  2. Speaking respectfully – When my children are misbehaving and I want to tell them to sit there quietly without moving, I can do that, and it may actually work occasionally. That being said, how I speak to them is how they will speak to others. I’ve had occasions that I have witnessed them speaking inappropriately because of how I have talked to them in the past. Fortunately,  more recently my 3 year old boy has been emulating my empathetic behaviors that I have learned from parenting books. Just the other day, my son wanted me to take him to bed and I was laying on the couch ignoring his request. That’s when he patted me on the back and said, “Daddy… I know you want to lay on the couch. But you have to help me go to bed now”.  It was almost perfect execution of empathizing with someone first before making a request, although he could have at least paused before he requested me taking him to bed. Either way, I laughed at the fact that he now is learning my secrets within a few short weeks of me intentionally trying to become better at empathizing.
  3. Work Ethic –  My wife and I both work very hard in our careers. We push each other to do better things, and become smarter, more efficient, and overall better people. I wouldn’t be half as successful in my career without her, and I like to think I have helped her become more successful by demonstrating good habits to her as well. My 3 year old boy talks about how he’s going to go to work when he gets bigger and regularly tells people he has math homework, because he watched me doing homework occasionally to complete my MBA. From this small sample size, I would say work ethics can and do rub off on those around you.
  4. Learning – My father recently told me that he wants to read books about history because I make it sound interesting. That’s probably one of the best compliments my dad could give me, because I have a deep desire to help those around me enjoy learning and developing themselves. I also know that if I told my dad he has to read a book about history, there’s absolutely no chance he’d actually do it. I’m not the first Krickeberg with the stubborn gene, and judging by my 2 year old daughter, I’m certainly not the last.
  5. Morals/Ethics – We’ve all have heard someone say that person X is a good person, but they started hanging out with the wrong crowd. It’s a fairly obvious statement that who you hang out with impacts your ethics and morality. How you behave also will rub off on those around you.  If you drink excessively, you are more likely to encourage others to drink as well. If you swear repeatedly, others will likely do so as well. Make it a habit to be on your best behavior even when nobody is around so that you can ensure that you present the best example possible when others are around.  With two small children, I have a daily reminder that I can be a very influential person. It can take only one time that I say/do the wrong thing for it to impact the behaviors of someone else.

These are just a few things that I think are important to consider when it comes to changing others. I can think of hundreds of more ways that changing ourselves could change others around us, but I don’t think you need any more convincing. I think we all know that becoming a better version of yourself is the best way to change those around you.  Since you already know this, there’s only one thing left for you to do…. be great today!

Thanks for reading,

Robert Krickeberg

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