Life’s Biggest Time Waster

There are plenty of activities that we could argue are a big, fat waste of our time…traffic jams, waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, watching TV, surfing the internet, and more. However, in my experience, these are all minor in comparison to the true Grand Daddy of all time wasters. The biggest time waster is one that every single one of us has been guilty of indulging in: Trying to change other people.

A few years ago, I was having a conversation with someone I kept crossing paths with in the personal development sphere; I’ll call her “Jill.” We were talking about a powerful speaker we both had the pleasure of seeing. This speaker is very action oriented and empowers you to get off your butt and create the life you want. Jill and I were discussing how motivating this speaker’s message was and then Jill told me how she was trying so hard to get her sister to “see the light” and start creating a happy life for herself. I asked if her sister was unhappy with the life she was living, and Jill said, no, but all she did was watch TV and had no desire to work towards a personal or professional goal. If only Jill could motivate her to do something worthwhile with her life. It took me several moments before I challenged Jill on what she was doing – trying to change another person.

While Jill was good intentioned and wanted only the best for her sister, she was wasting some serious time trying to change her sister instead of working on things she could control – like her own personal development. We have all been guilty of focusing our energies on others’ shortcomings. Think of that person who drives you nuts. She walks around like she’s all that, she’s rude, only cares about herself and people who can do something for her. She’s selfish, self-absorbed, materialistic, and just an all around bitch. True as that may be, ruminating on all her poor qualities is a sheer waste of your time. You have exactly ZERO control over her. Compare that to the TOTAL control you have over yourself.

When we take inventory on others, this often gives us a short-term buzz, because at least we don’t have any of their nasty characteristics. It can help us feel good about ourselves for a little while. But this false sense of superiority doesn’t actually make us better. If you look around, you’ll always be able to find someone who possesses traits or qualities that you deem unacceptable. You start to think that if only he would change a particular aspect of himself he’d be a better person. And you analyze and consider why he wouldn’t make that change. You wonder what kind of a person wouldn’t see how this was holding them back, or making them unlikable, or whatever. But at the end of the day, you’ve changed nothing about the person with your judgement, and worse, you’ve changed nothing about yourself to improve your life, your circumstances, your traits and characteristics.

You can reason, plead, implore, judge, ridicule, or instruct another person to change an undesirable trait or behavior, but you will never be able to change another person. Influence, maybe, but, not change. That’s up to them. The only person you can change is yourself. An added benefit of focusing your time on your personal development, is you may find as you grow and change, the shortcomings of others don’t irritate you like they used to. You may find during your own personal journey that others were judging you and wondering why you weren’t changing a particular aspect of yourself that seemed so obvious to them.

It all comes down to the fact that we are all on our own journey. We all have opportunities for improvement. We don’t have a lot of time to waste on how others could improve. That’s not our responsibility. If each person, instead of judging and taking inventory on others, worked on making themselves better, the world would become a better place.

Your turn! Share in the comments section your own life lesson of focusing on yourself instead of others.

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  1. I can totally relate to this post. A business friend of mine once said ” the key to success is to focus on our own business”. Try to judge and change another person will neither lead us to our success nor make us look better. Sometimes people are happy at where they are and our good intentions will cause their unhappiness, so it would be the best to focus on self-improvement and just accept others as who they are.

    • I LOVE that quote, Erin – “the key to success is to focus on our own business.” So many circumstances that could apply to. Thank you for sharing it!!

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