One of the most common issues that I get asked about is how someone can convince someone else that they care about to care more about their finances and life situation. My answer to them, for the most part, is that they can’t make someone care about something they don’t care about. You can convince someone to put on a good show for a while, but without some internal motivation, it’s hard to create any lasting change in life.
I have a friend that I’ve known since I was very young. He’s got two children, a wife, and a felony on his record for a mistake he committed over a decade ago when he was young and stupid. He’s quiet and unassuming and can be an incredibly hard worker when you get him focused on a task – he can work me under the table.
Recently, he lost his job. He had worked for several years at a pretty good factory job, but he lost it when an uncontrolled event caused him to miss his alarm and show up late at a key time.
His family lives in a modest apartment that they should be able to keep, but they’re also facing some debt.
Right now, he just seems kind of lost. I think he’s just content to draw his unemployment insurance and let the next few months just go by.
From my perspective, this is an opportunity for him. Why not get the foundation in place for a lawn care business or something similar in the area? Why not simply look for any service that the community needs and start fulfilling it? I have many friends that have simply done that – they’ve just started fulfilling a need that they’ve heard about. Why not go out there and throw an application at any job available?
The ingredient that’s missing is the motivation to improve his situation.
I’m honest enough to recognize that he’s simply lacking that key ingredient. He’s got the basic things that he wants out of life – a roof over his head and enough food to keep his belly full – and he doesn’t have the fire to do what it takes to build more than that.
You can’t start a fire without a spark.
On the flip side of that coin is someone I’m going to talk about in detail on The Simple Dollar in a week or two. She’s a young woman who has come from a background pretty similar to mine – a small town and a family that didn’t earn a whole lot of money as she was growing up.
Right now, she’s a full time college student, working a part-time job to minimize her college bills, and trying to jump-start a small business at the same time. Sometimes I wonder when she sleeps.
She wants to build something big for her life – or at least something more than what she has now. She has passions and dreams and plans and is willing to chase them.
She has the spark. Will the fire follow it? The possibility is there, at least.
That spark is the difference between these two stories. It comes from within. It comes from a desire to change yourself. It comes form having dreams and actually putting forth action to chase those dreams.
The spark is pretty obvious if you spend much time around a person. It’s egither there or it’s not. Are they setting goals for themselves? Are they actively taking on real challenges in their life? Or are they just walking through life with whatever is handed to them?
When you see a spark, nourish it. Offer all the advice in the world. Offer any assistance you can give. I don’t encourage giving friends or family loans, but I do encourage gifts and grants.
If you don’t see a spark, there’s not much you can do. The support you give won’t bring about change. It will merely continue the behavior you already see. Give love and care, but recognize that pressure for change won’t bring it about and support for change won’t change a thing unless they’re making the change already by themselves.
You can’t create that spark. They either have it or they don’t, and it’s usually pretty clear from watching how they act. The best thing you can do for both yourself and for them is to react to the path they choose.