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Video: The Manual

Whether we know it or not, most of us have manuals that we have “written” for other people in our lives on what they should do and how they should behave. Most often these people are not even aware that these “rule books” exist, yet we expect them to follow the rules and get upset with them when they don’t.

How big is your manual? Who is it for? And are you willing to let it go?

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Episode Transcript:

Hi, it's Brooke Castillo from The Life Coach School and in this video, I'm going to be talking about The Manual.

Now, The Manual is a concept I created based on coaching hundreds of people and noticing that most of us, of course, including myself, have manuals for other people. What I mean by that, is that it's like an operating manual, and it has all the directions on how that person should behave, and what we would like them to do, and how we would like them to speak, what we would like them to think, and how we would like them to treat us. Most of us have these very thick manuals for other people, and we don't even tell them about them. We don't even tell them what's in the manual because they should just know what's in the manual. They should just understand me enough to know what's in the manual.

So, many of us cause so much unnecessary suffering by first of all, having manuals for other people to follow, and secondly, expecting them to know what's in them without even telling them. So, first, let's talk about why we have manuals in the first place. It goes back to that concept of believing that other people are responsible for how we feel. We talk ourselves into these ideas that, if they behaved this way, I would be happy, if they behaved this way, then I could love them, if they behaved this way, then I would feel like I was cared for.

Every single client I had, definitely had a manual for their spouse, and definitely had manuals for their children, and had these ideas of, oh you need to follow this, this, this, this instruction, and then I get to be happy. For example, you may feel like, "My husband needs to remember my birthday, and send me flowers. Now, I'm not going to remind him when my birthday is, because he should know. He should also know that I love flowers because we've been together a long time, so I'm not going to tell him that, either. I'm just going to have it in my manual, over here, and then I'm just going to wait and see. When he doesn't follow the manual, I'm going to be really upset, and I'm going to blame him for how I feel.

I'm going to believe that if he would just followed this manual, then I would be happy, if he would remember my birthday, if he would send me flowers." It could be anything, "If he would remember to take out the trash, if he would ask about the kids, if he would be more interested in this, or whatever." The first thing that I always say to clients is, "Why don't you tell your husband what you want him to do?" Nine times out of ten, when you talk to people, you say, "Why do you think he didn't buy you flowers? Do you think it's because he doesn't like you? Do you think he doesn't care about your birthday? Do you think he wants to upset you? What do you think the real reason is he didn't buy you flowers?"

And nine times out of ten they say, "he just wasn't thinking about it, it just didn't occur to him." Then we make that mean that we don't matter. When you ask the husband, "Well, does she matter?" "Well, of course, she's the most important person to me in the world." The logic just doesn't line up. First, I'll say, if you want him to send you flowers, why don't you tell him, "I would love for you to send me flowers"? People will say, "Then it doesn't really count, because I want him to think about it." I say, "Okay, but you know that that's not what he typically does, that's not how his brain works, so why have you set it up for yourself where you're pretty much guaranteed that you're going to be disappointed."

That is really interesting and fascinating to notice. The second thing that I say is, "Why have a manual at all? Can you see how having a manual for how someone else behaves, in order for you to be happy, is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy for failure, because what's going to happen is, that person can't always follow your manual, because they have their own life to live, they have their own things that they want to do, and you aren't even telling them what's in it. You set yourself up for when they don't follow the manual, for you to be upset." Think about maybe your spouse, or your boyfriend, or your girlfriend, or someone in your life, that you really want to behave in a certain way.

You have this image of how you want them to be, and think about your manual, and everything you want them to do. Ask yourself, how do you think you would feel if they followed that manual perfectly? Now, that's the feeling you want. What I want to share with you, is that feeling you so desperately want, doesn't come from that other person behaving the way you want to. That feeling comes from the way you decide to think, and that's completely within your control. Now, I've worked with hundreds of clients on this, and when they give up their manuals, when they let them go, and they let the person just be who they want to be.

And if they want the person to send them flowers, they can request that of the person in their life, and the person may or may not send them flowers. The truth is, your happiness is not dependent on it. All of a sudden, this person actually starts enjoying being around you a lot more, because you've now let go of this manual that you want them to follow. I have to tell you, when someone tells me that they want me to behave a certain way so they can feel good, I feel pretty resentful, I don't want to behave that way for someone else, especially if it's not the way I want to behave. When I'm with someone who just lets me be who I am, and lets me live the way I want to live, and they take responsibility for their own feelings, then it really makes me want to do the things that I know will delight them.

That's another thing to think about when you create that manual. How big is your manual? Who is it for? Are you willing to let it go?

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