If you want to help people to change you’ve gotta stop wanting them to change.



We all want our friends and family to be happy and make great choices. It’s a natural desire we have towards those we love and care about. Yet interestingly, all the wanting in the world doesn’t actually produce any real change. In fact, wanting someone to change, grow or make healthy choices may be the least effective way of positively influencing them to change.

Think about the conversations you’ve had with the people you care about particularly when you feel the need to give them advice.  I’m sure you feel like the advice will be useful and is coming from the right motivation. Yet the receiver can’t help but feel that the suggestion is not really about them at all, but about what you want—and to be honest...it is. We want, or even need others to do and be certain things to make ourselves feel better about our own lives. Unfortunately, when we communicate this wanting to those we love, it is experienced as a judgment. It’s received as an imposition of our views, expectations, rules and map of reality onto the other person, and that never goes well. It invariably produces inner resentment and resistance.

Stop wanting them to change

Wanting someone to do something, even for all the ‘right’ reasons, only produces expectation, obligation, pressure and judgment. This external and temporary form of motivation does not hang around once you leave the room. Lasting motivation, by contrast, is always internally driven.


The initial development of my coaching toolset came through working with the long term unemployed. I can still vividly remember being assigned a client who had been labeled as a complete no hoper by the employment agency he was signed up with. The case worker told me that he had been on their books for 3 year, in and out of every program they’d ever run and had absolutely zero desire to change. He spent most of his time sitting in a dark room playing computer games, and his parents bank rolled him, so he was under no financial pressure. The case-worker wished me luck as we walked into our first meeting.

I decided to go out on a limb to see what I could discover beneath the surface.

“G’day mate, just wondering, are you a piece of shit?”

“What did you just call me?”

“I said are you a piece of shit?”

Standing up and walking towards me, “How dare you talk to me like that!”

“Oh cool…so you’re not then?”

“No I’m not a piece of shit!!”

“Fantastic…I didn’t think so. These guys just told me that you were a no hopper and had zero desire for change. I didn’t believe them for a second, but I had to find our for sure for myself.”


It was a high-risk strategy, but I had him. He could no longer play the ‘I’m no one and I want nothing’ card. He just told me that he wasn’t a piece of shit. This meant that deep down he was not happy wasting his life. He was just afraid of failure, disappointment and rejection. This fear was paralyzing him from doing anything meaningful with his life.

He had heaps of people in his world telling him that he needed to change and get work. They tried everything to motivate him, yet it wasn’t until he could see that I wasn’t another person who was trying to get him to do something he didn’t want to do that he opened up about what was really going on in his life. My whole approach was to dig into what HE wanted. – Then to serve him by giving the tools he needed to fulfill these desires.   

People are inherently good. They are doing the best they know how. Every negative behaviour has a positive intention. It is always an attempt to bring peace and comfort to themselves.

People want to be happy.

People want to be loved.

People want life to work out for them.

People want to make a positive contribution to the world.

It’s all inside them.

Tap into this, and you’ll discover a deep and unending source of internal motivation.

Having people wanting things for us or from us is unavoidable, which is why having access to a space that is totally judgment free is so useful.

To be useful to someone you cannot be yet another person in their life who wants them to do something they don’t want to do.

Find out exactly what it is that they deeply desire and then serve them by helping them to achieve these goals.

The judgment free space

When I’m coaching people, my first job is to create a truly judgment free space with zero wanting.

I push this as hard as possible by telling people that I will not lose sleep over them. I will not be moved by their sad stories and when we are done I will forget all about them and their problems. It is not my life and I am not the one with the problem.

As a person who genuinely does care about others, it’s not that I actually don’t care about your issues or outcomes, but all my caring does absolutely nothing to bring about change. I actually have no ability to get a different result for them. Their results are totally up to them and it is essential that they know, see and own this.

In the judgment free space you get to have incredibly real conversations, saying and hearing things that you certainly wouldn’t get away with in any other space. When you really experience the freedom of no judgment, you are able to come out of hiding and be totally vulnerable without fear of being hurt. The cool thing about this is that when all the self-protection barriers come down, change takes place almost immediately. Until we’re willing to accept where we currently are in life and become present to that reality, it is impossible to move to a desired reality. So often we hide behind a false reality for fear of being found out and judged.

It is impossible to help others change without creating a truly judgment free space. Wanting them to change is the least useful you could possibly be.