How do you become a better person?
What does that even mean?
Who gets to decide? What are the standards? How do you know for certain you’re moving in the right direction?
The definition of better changes depending on the context.
You can improve in certain areas while you degrade in others. The classic example is someone who chases career status and money but fails in their relationships.
You can be virtuous in certain areas but lack in others. You see this in people who sacrifice their dreams for the people they love but feel a tinge of regret and resentment about it.
Either way, to become a better person, you need to figure out what that means to you. Each of us lives in our own reality, literally. I can only provide suggestions. It’s up to you to drink the water I lead you to.
So let’s start with the most obvious clue I can share when it comes to figuring out how to become a better person.
People act like they don’t know what they want. They know. You know. And you know you know.
I wrote an article about this called, You Know What to Do With Your Life, You’re Just Not Doing It. Here’s an excerpt:
I get lots of emails from people who’ve read my work and the number one comment I get time and time again:
“I don’t know what to do with my life.”
The funny thing about it? Often, they’ll mention what they want to do with their lives in the message they sent me, but they’re blind to it because of the ten-foot pile of rationalizations, excuses, and self-told lies that cover the answer they’ve been looking for.
Your rationalizations create blind spots. That’s where being honest with yourself comes in.
The simplest route to becoming a better person is being honest about what you want, going after it, and doing it without shame.
As long as you’re not hurting anyone in the process, or wasting your life in hedonism, doing whatever it is you want to do with your life is the best path to becoming a better person.
Why is this so? The closer you come to self-actualization, the less need you have to participate in the soul-sucking habits of the masses. Simply rising above that level by focusing on something worthwhile and ignoring b.s. makes you a better person by default.
Nothing creates the ‘spillover effect’ better than working on yourself and whatever mission you choose.
Think about it. Self-actualized people don’t get into arguments on Facebook, make nasty comments on Youtube, gossip constantly, complain all the time, fail to show up in their relationships, get into states of melancholy and laziness repeatedly, and a number of other unintended consequences that come with a lack of focus on one’s purpose.
Of course, reaching self-actualization is no easy task and can’t be covered in a single blog post. Here are some of my best resources on figuring out the self-actualization process:
The bottom line: people who don’t focus on improving themselves tend to be a net negative on their social networks and society. And the opposite is true for those who do work on themselves.
You can better yourself in many ways. Let me share my favorites. The ones I used to change my life.
Who are some of the best people in the world?
Why do we love kids so much?
They have one quality we all wish we could capture in a bottle and store for our own use.
They have an insatiable curiosity and desire to learn. I’m jealous of the way my 3-year-old looks at everything with amazement. Her innate desire to learn makes every day an adventure for her. You can see it in her eyes. You can feel it by just being around, observing, watching her experience constant dopamine hits via learning – hundreds of times a day.
Contrast this with the typical adult. The typical adult thinks they know absolutely everything. They work at the post office but can write a 5 paragraph essay on someone’s Facebook status about foreign policy.
The typical adult is jaded. Even if life isn’t working the way they want it to, they believe they have everything figured out. They’ve stopped learning. Their curiosity is dead.
Here’s a simple tell to figure out whether someone has any intellectual curiosity or humility. Ask them about a random subject. If they feel compelled to give an answer, even if they know nothing about the subject, they’re a typical jaded know-it-all adult. Don’t be this person.
If you don’t feel comfortable just saying “I don’t know,” then you don’t understand what learning is. If you don’t know how to learn, you can’t become a better person. Learning isn’t about finding the right answers. It’s about asking the right questions.
Curious people become better people because their curiosity drives them to be open-minded. They’re actually trying to learn from other people instead of having their mind made up.
You’ve been around this person. Their energy is infectious, just like that of a child. Become that person, and you will become better.
All it takes are a few little hobbies to do this:
Speaking of…the last item in that bullet list is one of the major keys to becoming a better person in general.
In the real city you, you walk, you know? You brush past people. People bump into you. In L.A. nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something. – Crash
We continue to grow further apart as society becomes more connected.
You can’t just be a human being with flaws anymore. You can’t have your own tastes. Everyone wants to ‘tow the line.’
Friendships, even marriages, are ruined by something as silly and trivial as politics. We’re playing team sports in a rigged game that no one is ever going to win. Why?
Because it’s how we ‘crash into each other.’ We’re afraid to actually touch each other — spiritually, emotionally, physically, all of it.
Simultaneously, no one wants to be themselves, nor do they want to accept other people for who they actually are.
We paint caricatures of people who disagree with us, photoshop the blemishes of those ‘on our team’, and curate media to create a perception of ‘yourself’ that…isn’t yourself.
You want to become a better person?
How about you just become a person?
There’s a saying in ebonics, “You aint’ gotta lie to kick it.”
You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not for people to like you and accept you. Quite the opposite. The rare individual who is both at ease with themselves and at ease with the way other people live is extremely attractive.
By not trying to be anything, you become everything. We all want people to love us so badly, yet this can’t happen until we love ourselves.
There’s also a way to get what you want, without necessarily ‘trying’ to get it. Let me explain.
As my writing got better, my thinking got better. Over time, I’ve learned a very important lesson. My ambitions aren’t the same as yours.
I’m a type A person. Not all people are. I want to make a dent in the universe. Not all people do.
I learned to stop trying to force my ambitions and dreams onto other people. Yes, everyone wants to figure out how to become a better person, but it’s on you to develop self-awareness and figure out what ‘better’ actually means to you.
Some people think making money makes them better people because they’ll use that money to contribute more to their families, communities, and society.
Some people think focusing on human relationships and spirituality makes them better people because materials don’t equal success, connections do.
You may want to better your body, your bank account, your mind, your heart, your soul. Whatever it is, don’t be ashamed for wanting what you want. Again, as long as it doesn’t hurt people, do it.
When you find out what makes you happy, and do it, you treat other people better as a consequence.
When you deny yourself the chance to improve in the areas you want to improve in, you create negative energy and move backward. Simple.
People move backward all the time because they don’t stay in their damn lane. B and C players want to be A players. People who should just work a job want to be Steve Jobs. Some scoff at money yet desperately want it. Others feign minimalism instead of embracing materialism like they really want to.
You have to live a life that’s congruent with what you actually want. I’m ambitious, but I’m not Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates ambitions. Those guys genuinely want to play that game. I don’t. And chasing after that would be a mistake.
I got into a very comfortable yet challenging groove when I realized I just wanted to be a relatively well-off writer and own some decent sized online businesses that give me the freedom to do what I want. I don’t have to go above that.
It’s okay to have a ceiling. You don’t need to be ‘limitless.’ That being said, I know for a fact you’re nowhere near your ceiling and it’s much higher than you probably think.
There’s a way to be practical about the type of person you want to become without being delusional.
Your ceiling is really high, but it isn’t infinite.
If you want to become a better person, improve on the aspects you want to improve on, constantly, until you’re dead, never having reached your ceiling but coming a hell of a lot closer than most people do.
If you did the following things on a consistent basis for like 6 months, all the sudden you’d become this much better person:
You’d be bursting with positivity. By doing things practically and routinely, you exceed the type of person you want to become tenfold over a long enough period of time.
This isn’t hard to understand. It’s just hard to do.
I Googled “How to Become a Better Person” and saw all of these elaborate 20 point checklists. Unnecessary. You know what it means to work on yourself, truly work on yourself, but you’re just not doing it.