You may know I recently published a book about what dancing does for people. Thinner, Fitter, Happier: Dancing Will Change Your Life!  is my pride and joy. I’m ecstatic over how it turned out. I love everything about it: its gorgeous front and back covers, and every single word in between.

Nevertheless, I’ve been feeling a bit bummed because the person I most wanted to like the book as much as I do has read less than half of it…and may never finish. While I know this individual is not much of a reader, I really thought the book’s topic would be sufficiently compelling to warrant completion. I’ve been anticipating delighted responses to certain passages, and I feel let down.

But here’s the thing: I’ve got no business being bummed…or let down. It’s not anyone else’s job to make me feel wonderful about my book. The sole responsibility for feeling great about that – or any aspect of my life – lies with me.

As I learned many years ago at the Option Institute in Great Barrington Massachusetts, expecting other people to make us feel good about our accomplishments or personal characteristics – or fulfill our wishes for us – is self-destructive and futile. We need to take care of those things ourselves. Anything anyone else does or says that happens to amplify our positive feelings, or speed attainment of our goals, is icing on the cake.

Relying on, or trying to force other people to make us feel a certain way never works in the long run. If we can’t feel happy, capable, worthy, fulfilled, beautiful, sexy, etc., etc., on our own, our demands for endless validation or reassurance will soon frustrate and exhaust our friends and partners.

Which brings me to the this post’s title. Only if you want to was a mantra at Option. It was shorthand for the Institutes’ main message: trying to coerce others into meeting our needs is relationship poison.

If your partner doesn’t want to go to the movies with you, don’t insist. Take responsibility for your own amusement and go by yourself.

If your best friend is introverted and would prefer to skip your cocktail party, be absolutely fine with that. Let her be who she is and how she is without judging her.

Will I be nagging that person who hasn’t finished my book to do so? Nope. Not a peep. When tempted to prod or cajole, I shall remind myself that the loving, accepting, and non-demanding attitude I must demand of myself is this: Read more only If you want to.