One of my favorite questions to ask my clients is: “Are you a wizard?” Usually this gets me a blank look (or a long silence over the phone). My clients have no idea what I’m talking about. Of course they aren’t wizards. They don’t believe in magic. They think I’ve lost my mind.
The thing is, though, when my clients come to me, they do believe in magic. Because they subconsciously believe that thinking constantly about how other people should behave will make them behave that way. If that worked, it would be amazing magic. That would be so great. If you had that power, you could become a billionaire just by hiring your brain out for a few hours a day.
But that’s not how the world works. You can’t control other people with your mind. No matter how much you think about the way you wish they would act, other people will continue to do whatever they want – just like you do! We spend our days (1) acting how we want, because we have autonomy, and (2) wishing everyone else would stop using their autonomy and act how we want them to act instead.
We want our bosses to stop giving us too much work in too little time. We want our partners to pick up their socks and take out the trash. We want our kids to stop throwing tantrums. We want our parents to stop calling with unsolicited advice. We want the person we dated last year to realize they love us and come crawling back. We spend all day thinking about all the things we want other people to stop or start doing.
Oddly enough, all this obsessing never changes their behavior. But we keep thinking this way because we believe that in order for us to be happy, we need other people to act the way we want.
The best news I can give you is that actually, we’re all totally wrong about that. We can feel happy by changing our thoughts about other people, and they don’t have to change their behavior at all.
All that energy and time you’re spending thinking about how other people act and wishing they would change? You can spend that same time and energy on something you actually can control: changing how you think about that person. Practice acceptance instead of resistance. Practice unconditional love instead of conditional regard.
Now when I say this to clients the response I get most often is: Then people will walk all over me! But when you stop to think about it, what does that even mean? That the other person will do what they want? They are doing what they want anyway. They are already doing the thing that you don’t want them to do. Your anger over their behavior isn’t stopping them. It’s just making you feel terrible. They feel fine!
If you stop being angry about their behavior, you get to feel better regardless of what they do. And then paradoxically, you actually have more creativity and energy to find a solution. And that actually is magic.
So as it turns out, we can be wizards after all. It just takes a little practice.
P.S. If you want to learn how to practice this kind of magic, click here to schedule a free discovery call with me to learn more about cognitive coaching.