You want to be a better person, right? You must do or you wouldn’t be reading this article. It’s only natural to want to improve upon yourself and grow as an individual; it’s almost Darwinian, only you’re hoping to pack millions of years of evolution into a single lifetime.
Chances are, though, you’ve only made baby steps thus far and you’re reaching a point of utter frustration where nothing you try seems to work.
You see, the problem is that most of the advice given – by coaches, teachers, gurus, and, yes, websites like this – is kind of generic, surface level stuff that doesn’t address the core issues we all face. We’re told to be polite, practice forgiveness, be grateful for all we have, respect others, and refrain from negative self-talk, blah, blah, blah.
And sure, all of these things are noble endeavors that you will benefit from to some degree, but there’s rarely any mention of the underlying threads that tie them all together. No one speaks about the essential elements from which all self-improvement comes.
This article is going to attempt just that – to reveal the inescapable truths of being a better person and leading a better life. It may fail miserably and you may think it’s all a load of rubbish, but hopefully not.
Right then, let’s get this show on the road…
1. The Synergy Of Giving And Cooperation
Greed seems to be almost hardwired into the human mind, a legacy of our ancestral heritage where only the fittest survived. We tend to take whatever we can and hoard resources away like little squirrels hiding nuts ready for winter.
Yet we don’t have to face times of hardship like animals of the wild do. Sure, we may lose our jobs or struggle in some other way to make ends meet, but, for the most part, we don’t face the reality of starvation on an annual basis (we’re talking the developed world here).
It begs the question, then, as to why we, as members of the dominant species on this planet, are so wrapped up in our own wealth and wellbeing.
The answer, strangely, is that perhaps we are not as fixated on ourselves as it first appears – we just think we are.
Just look around you and ask yourself where all of your material possessions came from. Did you craft that coffee table with your own fair hands? Did you sew the clothes you’re wearing? Did you grow the grain that went into the bread you toasted this morning?
No, of course you didn’t. Someone else did.
As much as you may consciously want to accumulate financial and material wealth for your own benefit, you cannot escape the fact that virtually everything in your life is reliant upon other people. Money is just a mechanism to make the barter of goods and services more efficient.
This, then, is the clue to one of the key principles of becoming a better person: you benefit from others and they, in turn, benefit from you.
Society is pure synergy where 2 + 2 = 5, but the list of 2s is almost never-ending and the result is something hugely beneficial to everyone.
But wait, I know what you’re thinking….you’re thinking “but I can offer more than a 2, so surely I’ll lose out?”
Wrong! If, instead of 2 + 2, we have a situation where it is 3 + 1 = 5, the person in possession of the 3 may question whether it is in their best interests to share. After all, they will have to split the 5 and end up with less than the 3 they put in.
Wrong again! This is flawed logic because rather than having to split the 5 in half, each of the contributing parties gets to benefit from the whole 5.
Put it this way, if you want to build a house, you’ll need an architect, a structural engineer, a bricklayer, a roofer, a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber, and many more people besides.
Now, the architect and structural engineer may believe that their input is worth many times that of a lowly bricklayer, and salaries in the modern world would seem to agree. Yet, if each party wanted to live in the finished house, they would have to work together to do so.
The architect, as much as he may think of himself as the most essential cog in the machine, will end up with no roof over his head if he decides to withdraw his services simply because, in his eyes, others do not bring as much to the table.
Sure, he may be capable of putting up a tent, but who wants to live in a tent? No, he can only enjoy the comforts of a modern home if he works with all the other tradesmen to build it.
Or take a leaf out of the world of insects and look at the common purpose of the ant, the termite, and the honey bee. There are certainly those who have more important roles than others – the queen and her closest workers, for instance – but without every single member of the colony working together, there would be no colony to speak of.
So where is this garbled mess of analogies and rhetoric leading, you may be wondering. Well, it is to this: to be a better person, it is wise to focus more on what you can give to others than on what you can get in return.
Helping other people, in whatever capacity, is a sure-fire way to make sure that your contribution to the synergy equation is as large as possible. Remember, it doesn’t matter how much you give, you will receive a greater benefit back as the whole grows in size.
Yes, there is an ideological side to this argument and, of course, you can’t realistically give everything you have to others, but where you have resources that are going underutilized, you have an opportunity to offer them up for the good of everyone.
It doesn’t need to be a financial gift; in fact, money is rarely involved. It is about giving your time, your skills, your attention, and your love and care to others.
It needn’t be about self-sacrifice either; making yourself a priority when required is not selfish in the slightest. “Me time” is essential if you are to be a willing and able participant in the wider world.
2. It Is Not Enough To Want Something
There is hardly a single mind out there that isn’t filled, at least in part, with wants and desires. These dreams may sometimes be misguided or ill-conceived, but they are there nonetheless.
The problem with this is obvious: you can’t just want something and expect it to fall into your lap. There is no genie in a bottle waiting to grant you three wishes.
If you want something, you have to get off your backside and work for it. But how many of us do? Of all the desires and aspirations that exist in people’s minds right now, how many do you think will be acted upon?
And act you must if you are to turn a dream into a reality.
This problem can be equated to the modern healthcare system we enjoy. You have an ailment and you go to your doctor in the hope that they will prescribe a pill to cure you.
If they do, there is a good chance that you will take the pill and get better. If you go to the doctor and they, instead, prescribe exercise, stretches, changes to your diet or lifestyle, there is a chance that you will try for a short time before giving up.
Here’s the thing: there is no magic pill for personal growth; if there were, we’d all be successful at it.
To be a better person, you must be willing to put in the hard graft. You may have to adopt practices which are mentally or physically demanding, give up things you currently enjoy, and persevere until the desired change has taken place (and beyond).
Whether it’s learning a new language, losing weight, or climbing the career ladder, you will need to take concerted and continuous action to get where you want to be.
There are rarely any shortcuts available – even financial wealth has its limitations if you aren’t prepared to work hard for something.
Oh, and another thing, remember the whole synergy thing we spoke about above? That only works when action is taken. You may wish someone well or say nice things, but the “you” that everyone else sees is primarily built up of the way you act and the things you do.
If you want that “you” to be better, then the only sensible thing to do is take action, because your actions speak louder than your words and your thoughts are all but silent.
Without meaning any great offense, putting someone “in your thoughts and prayers” is not really going to cut it IF there is something more practical that you can do.
Has someone you care about fallen ill? Don’t just wish them a speedy recovery, go round there, cheer their spirits, take a home cooked meal for them to eat, offer to do their chores for them…do something. This will mean a million times more to them than receiving your best wishes.
Too many of us hide behind our well meaning thoughts and words to avoid the things that make a real difference. Yes, changing the way you think about and speak to others can make you a better person, but they are just a drop in the ocean compared to the potential good you can do through action.
Perhaps the reason why so many of us give up on change is because we neglect to take into account how long it might take. When progress is not immediately evident, it can be all too easy to fall back into complacency.
If you wish to develop as an individual and become a better person, you have to accept that it will take time. You need to embrace this fact and learn to see the journey, rather than the end goal, as your main achievement.
Every single second that you are working towards a goal is a second that you should recognize as worthwhile. Something may take a week, a month, a year, or an entire lifetime to complete, but this shouldn’t deter you from trying.
What’s more, you’re going to suffer setbacks along the way, so be prepared for them too. Whether you want to change a behavior, improve your life chances, or find happiness and contentment, there will be hurdles to overcome – not least in your mind.
Having the willingness and determination to press on despite the challenges you face is necessary if you are to achieve what you desire.
Being a better person doesn’t necessarily require massive upheaval, but even the smallest of changes will take some time to become habitual. Just don’t go putting a time limit on these things because you can’t always predict how long they may take.
4. Accept That Change Is Scary
To be a better person and to move along the path of self-growth takes courage, because change is a scary thing.
Changing yourself is especially terrifying because you are so accustomed to who you are now, that becoming someone new is like being reborn into a different world.
Improving yourself, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually, is a leap into the unknown, one in which the future is unpredictable and the outcome uncertain.
But, hey, so is just about everything in life. As much as you might like to try, predicting even a day ahead is pretty difficult and as you move further out into the future, it becomes nigh on impossible.
But there’s a difference, you might be thinking, because most of the time things happen to you. Becoming a better person, on the other hand, requires you to make things happen and that involves responsibility.
Correct! You are responsible for the changes you make in your own life and the impact this might have on others. Until you are willing to accept this responsibility, you will be frozen by the fear of the new, the novel, and the things that may go wrong.
But remember this: misery is safe, happiness is scary.
You are reading this article, presumably, because you want to become a better person, and to do that you will need to accept that change, while frightening, is never as scary as stagnation.
The reason we don’t fear stagnation is because we rarely ever think about what it means. When you sit down and contemplate a life where nothing changes, where everything is as it is now, you realize that this is not really life at all.
Life is change, life is growth, life is adapting to new and different circumstances. Whether it happens to you or you make it happen, change is inevitable; wouldn’t you rather have some say and control over it?
In summary, then: to be a better person you should try giving more of yourself to others, following through on your desires by taking action and sticking to it, giving yourself time to adapt to the change, and overcoming your fears of what it might mean to grow and develop.
What do you think? Do you agree with these 4 inescapable truths? Do they provide the foundation for being a better person as has been suggested? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.