“For some time now, I have been telling a close friend to do something that will make his life better. He agrees that he should do it, But keeps coming up with excuses. It’s so frustrating. What should I do?”
I want to ask Dhoni this question. I think, I know his answer, though. He will curl his right palm into a fist and cover it with his left palm and say, “After one point in time, there is nothing you can do. Simply focus on yourself and hope that your friend comes around sometime.” I’m speculating though. With Dhoni, you can never be sure. When the team performs dreadfully and expects a dressing down from Dhoni, he just drops his kit bag and walks off to his room without a word. People management skills level - GOD!
But this isn’t about Dhoni. It’s about you and me. Sometimes, we end up in situations where we know the importance of something for someone close to us (personally or professionally). But try as we might, the idea just doesn’t get through. We repeatedly explain the significance, give them ‘third and fourth chances’, spend time thinking about their shortcomings, and waste tremendous amounts of time and energy trying to motivate them to do what’s ‘right’. It doesn’t end well.
For example, someone I know made hiring mistakes for his organization. I tried telling him, but he wouldn’t listen. Six months later, he said that he thought he had made ‘a few’ incorrect hiring decisions. I had to visit the barber to make my hair look normal again because I pulled so much of it out.
To another, I suggested an idea that would provide amazing returns in the long run, but would take time to get off the ground. I think he didn’t like it, because he sounded like, “What are you smoking, buddy?” Three months later, he pitched the same idea back to me. To the barber again.
People won’t do something even if the benefits are so blatant that they could head-butt them any moment. Can you motivate them? Nope. It doesn’t work. They have to figure it out for themselves. Only when a human feels like he has thought of an idea does he embrace it. Until then, all you do is burn energy and frustrate yourself and those around you by trying to get this person ‘on the right track’.
I’m so engrossed in writing this post that it’s way past breakfast time. Mom has called me thrice. Each time, I’ve responded with “in a few minutes”. Then she walks into my room, ready to smack my head with her favorite frying pan.
“Why don’t you just tell me once and leave it at that?”, I ask. She is a mother, she says. She mumbles something about not being able to do anything about me and walks away? Well, what can I do about her?
There is one thing I can do. And so can you. Detach.
Accept that it’s the person’s choice, and that he will bear the consequences. Your life will be the same. Detachment allows you to be kind to them. And trust me, they deserve kindness as much as you.
“Me? What are you talking about? This is about someone else!”
True. But as you read this, there are people who want to tell you what to do - spouse, parent, child, relative, friend, peer or even a stranger - people who believe that you should do something for your own good. But they don’t tell you so. They are practicing kindness with you. It’s only fair that extend it to others. If you have to choose between being right and being kind, choose the latter. You cannot be right all the time.
Dhoni doesn’t try being right, even if the game is drifting. Instead, he leverages such opportunities to help players learn from their mistakes. Surely he knows what bowlers should do, what fields they should set, how batsmen should handle situations. But if he tries being right all the time, the team will depend on him like a creeper on trees.
What’s wrong in that, you ask. It’s a small price for making people do the right thing. Well, we initially love the idea of things going well according to plan, don’t we? Of people reaping the rewards of what we told them to do. But gradually, this becomes unsustainable. We create robots instead of thinking people. And over time, we lose our minds.
Let people figure stuff out for themselves. ‘But they need me’ is the biggest cause of agony in mankind. We come to live our own lives. Our journey begins and ends with us. Others merely join us for some time. That doesn’t oblige them to do what we want them to.
Don’t blow a gasket because someone won’t listen to you. Instead, focus on being a better version of yourself. And be kind. Detach. This will let you love the people for who they are, rather than who you want them to be. And it will allow you to love yourself. With love comes happiness. And you deserve happiness just as much as everyone else in life.