Do You Think People Can Really Change?


I get this question all the time. Or, people just flat out say, “People don’t change.”  Shaking my sweet little head, I always smile at them and say, “You know…I think everyone can change.” I really do believe this but real change only happens when there’s action toward making that behavior, attitude, pattern become something different and more desirable. And that desire absolutely and positively must be owned by the person who wants to change.


The 12-Steps of AA and other recovery programs have had a long history and commitment to this belief and Reinhold Niebuhr in his “Serenity Prayer” says it about as well as anyone I know…


“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.”

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t say this prayer and when I have trouble falling asleep at night, my crazy monkey mind determined to solve everything on the planet, it carries me away into peace and surrender.


Now, after years and years of working on my own crazies, I’m beyond aware that I can’t change anyone nor is it my business to even think I can. Years of trying to change the men I have loved left me feeling depressed, helpless, mad as hell at them, and putting bandages on my forehead after beating it relentlessly against a wall. Did they change? Nope. Was I crazy all the time? Yep. Did it cost me? While I waited for them to change, I couldn’t really live my own precious life.


Early this morning, still dark and rainy, I had myself plugged into Pandora to lull myself into believing I enjoy getting up at 4:30 am. Word-worshiper that I am, it’s impossible for me to ignore a lyric and I laughed out loud when  I heard, “If I held my breath, you’d be the death of me.” Laughed, then felt kinda sad. The part of me that is hopeful and trusting and believes in the resilience of everybody and that we all can change is something I love in myself. And yet, the sting of disappointment and sadness was fresh for me when recently I had to accept that someone I cared about very much was no longer a part of my life because he was who he was and I needed someone different in an area that was a non-negotiable for me. In the past I would have asked him, cajoled and found us both a therapist, set up the appointment and done all the talking. Yes, he would have gone with me, but would it have been because he wanted to change? Never worked in the past and those teachers taught me well. The lyric was the truth and I was not ready to die!


So, don’t abandon your optimist, but my friends, if after you give it a chance and you aren’t finding happiness, and that issue is a non-negotiable for your own integrity and happiness, you have two options.

  1.  To know that what you see is what you have and be willing and able to live with that, him or her.
  2. To decide that you need to move on in order to stay alive or at the very least, be happy living the life you want and need to find happiness.
  3. There is no third option…sorry!
People CAN change, but only if THEY want to. It’s nobody else’s business!

Ready to find someone to share this next amazing chapter of your life? Tired of watching sunsets alone or waiting for someone to change? 

Call me at 510-817-4242 for a Complimentary Session. Perhaps I can help you Find Love in 90 Days!

Donna Bailey, MS

Coach, Speaker, Writer and Expert in Dating and Relationships for “Grown-ups”

Donna’s Big Red Chair






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