“…remember, people respond not primarily to what you do, but how you’re being with them…”
(The Arginger Institute, Leadership and Self-Deception)
One of the most difficult things to learn (and teach), is that behavioral change, while usually welcomed, is not an end in itself. Sure, we like it when people start behaving in a better way toward us and others. And we love reading about all the latest tricks and hacks to changing our own diets, workouts, and work habits. But focusing on making these changes, as if the pot of golden happiness is waiting upon arrival, usually ends in disappointment, both for you and for those around you.
This is because behavior change without spiritual change is superficial and fleeting at best. At worst, it’s a manipulative technique to get more of what we think we need. Someone changes their body, for instance, but this only highlights their insecure need for validation. Or perhaps someone works to remember your name, but not because they really care to know you; they just want to appear that way so they can climb the social ladder.
The best and most lasting behavior changes are by-products of some deeper level transformation. Call it spiritual change—not in reference to something otherworldly, but rather in reference to the core of our spirit, your way of being in this life. This is hard to articulate but easy to recognize when we see it. Someone looks at you when you speak as if they have no agenda other than hearing you—they don’t even know what to say right away because they haven’t been thinking their response while you talk. Or perhaps someone just seems to smile more, without even being aware of it. Maybe even your kid starts opening up to you, after a long teenage silence, without really needing anything from you.
The thread running through all these changes is that when we undergo a spiritual change, we no longer need anyone to validate any of our behavioral changes, or even recognize them. When it is spiritual, we find our own internal validation, and thus have less and less agendas for anyone around us.