Do people change, or is it just our perception of people that changes?
“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” – John Lubbock
Can people be changed? I’ve heard that sometimes people marry and then try to change their new partner into a person that better suits their expectations. I wonder if this is possible.
“The secret of happiness is knowing that there are some things you can control and some things you cannot.” – Epictetus
To be sure, we’d all like to change things in other people from time to time. I can try to change people’s minds by suggestion, by force, by using facts and figures and maybe by being a visible positive role model, but in the end, can I really change other people’s minds?
“People are very open-minded about new things – as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.” – Charles Kettering
In our personal lives, we may be involved in an intimate relationship. Do we, through our interactions and in conjunction with time, effect change in one another? Is that how it works? Or does being joined together in a special relationship dance make change inevitable? If the accumulation of experience causes us to behave differently, is current behavior an accurate measure of whether or not change has occurred? Does change in behavior indicate a change in the person or just a change in the way the person interacts within their environment?
“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.” – Stephen Hawking
Not everyone experiences growth. At least not the kind that is overtly perceptible. Some people seem to be the same, always. Are they really that stagnant? How do they maintain that stasis in this crazy ever-changing world? What intrinsic superglue holds these people together and prevents change?
“They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.” – Confucius
On the other side of the spectrum, there are those we simply can’t label or easily categorize at all. They seem to be constantly in flux. They may change their look, their persona and their environment easily, quickly and often.
When we question the existence of the elusive malleable human, we look for signs of change that make sense to us from our own personal viewpoint. We expect people to change in a manner that we understand. I’m not sure this makes any sense at all. Other people’s journeys will be in their own direction and their course may or may not be in line with our own agenda or expectations. Here’s where perception becomes an important matter to consider when searching for change. What one person sees as growth might look like a developmental dead end to another.
Perception is a limited experience. It’s just one person’s open window. Sometimes the panes are tinted and some people keep the windows shut. I like individuals with open windows because I enjoy the fresh air and unobstructed views.
“All our knowledge is the offspring of our perceptions.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
But back to the issue at hand, how do you know if someone is changing, and is it really even possible?
We might all agree that growth is desirable and perhaps we would like to think we have the capacity to become better people over time. And to be sure, we certainly do have the capacity to learn and adapt. Is some kind of significant epiphany necessary for real growth and development or is a more subtle process just as effective?
When we see someone acting out of character, are we witnessing the pangs of growth? Are we comfortable with this or do we inwardly prefer to keep things the same? If someone changes, will we be able to maintain the same relationship with them? Or does their change mandate a reciprocal change from us? If there is no allowance for variance and the unexpected, do the seeds of change germinate? Growth may be accompanied by growing pains; both theirs and/or ours.
“The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it. The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and not on its growth and development. The error of Louis XIV was that he thought human nature would always be the same. The result of his error was the French Revolution.” – Oscar Wilde
Change is difficult for a lot of people. Change upends their world. They prefer to keep things on an even keel. They do not like surprises and they may not be open to hearing a different point of view. For them, change is a challenge that they prefer not to meet. It is not greeted as an opportunity but rather seen as a burden or obstacle to their stability and complicates their expectations.
“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” – Woodrow Wilson
Other people have a different view of change. They recognize the work that change may demand, but allow themselves to be enriched by the experience. They open their horizons and allow for a few surprises in their lives. These people are candidates for change, although we haven’t really decided if that is even possible yet…
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
People can be a rough crew with which to work, so we may not always stick around long enough to see change occur. It might then look like people can’t change. Yet inwardly, we hope they can. Especially when it is advantageous to the way we think things should be. We want to believe that WE can change for the better, and if that’s possible, then it may mean that change IS both possible and commonplace.
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.“ – Lao Tzu
So, it may very well come down to this concept: If we believe that we can change ourselves, then it may be possible for others to also change. We may even have a part in that process.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Franki
If change is ever-present, why do some people seem immune? Or is it that perception is tricking us again? These immune-to-change people may like to keep things the same but an unexpected event may kick their butt with a lay-off from workor a death in the family. Change happens. Frequency and degree is often subjective and probably not a good indicator of whether a change has occurred or not.
“I put a dollar into one of those change machines. Nothing changed.” – George Carlin