How to be a better person
Information, suggestions, and inspiration compiled and edited by Jim Watson
One of the keys to a happy life is finding the balance between making a positive impact on our society and having a good time.
Possessions, titles, and salaries seem to have little to do with how satisfied we are with our lives - our happiness. Feeling loved, useful, and that we are making an impact in the lives of others provides a stronger sense of happiness. We strive to improve and minimize the negative influences in order to live more fulfilled, satisfying, happy, impactful, and fun lives.
Some things one can do to feel more satisfied, be happier, and be a better person:
You are immensely powerful. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, even if nothing up to this point in your life seems to affirm it—this is a fact. You can become your own hero and rescue yourself. You can rise above any situation and create a life that exceeds your best dreams. No matter what has happened before this moment, there are still infinite possibilities for a life of joy, connection, adventure, and meaning. In this instant you can choose to take the first step toward the life you imagine. You don’t have to make a vision board. You don’t need likes for yes or hearts for no. You simply have to choose. Here’s how:
Stop seeking validation from others.
One of the easiest ways to give away your power is by outsourcing your self-esteem and self-worth. You don’t need anyone else to declare you, your choices, or your life as acceptable. When you have your own approval you won’t crave anyone else’s applause. The ones who love you may not always agree with you, but they will always accept you freely. The ones who don’t shouldn’t be main characters in your story anyway.
Recognize your magnificence.
Own it and don’t apologize for it. As the astronomer Albert Durant Watson explained in 1918, “our bodies are made of star-stuff.” You are no less extraordinary than the galaxies. You are the singular opportunity for the world to see the way the divine light of God shines through you alone. When you acknowledge your magnificence you will gain courage and confidence about who you are and who you were created to be.
Realize that you alone are responsible for your happiness.
It’s up to you to create it. This also means no one can give it to you and no one can take it from you. Taking ownership for your life includes taking responsibility for your joy. Happiness starts with a decision to honor your sacred right to a joyful life. If you want to have a life full of delight and exhilaration, you will have to build it.
Give up the idea of playing it safe.
Being brave, compassionate, and authentic in ways that count rarely exist inside your comfort zone. Even with a clear destination in front of you, the path to a changed life is not an easy one. The journey will more than likely be terribly lonely, full of uncertainty, and more difficult than your wildest expectation. You can choose to be stagnant and safe or you can offer yourself as tribute and run toward the challenge. When you risk it all to gain it all the reward you find is that the view is worth the climb.
Know that anything worth having in your life requires cultivation and celebration.
Your talents, relationships, and aspirations all require your attention and gratitude. Just like a charming urban garden or a great contour, it takes time to build beautiful things. Your worthiness is intrinsic and irrevocable. You don’t have to earn it or work for it. A worthy life, on the other hand, will not happen without your effort.
Self-care. Self-care. Self-care.
Seriously, SELF CARE. You don’t merely deserve your attention, you require it. Your wellbeing demands your consideration and kindness. Be gentle with yourself. Silence every self-defeatist thought with an affirmation of your own magic and wonder. Give yourself the gift of your own relentless love. Let there be grace!
Never forget that you get to decide how you show up in this world.
You don’t have to be the person you were last year, last month, or last night. You don’t owe anyone anything that makes you miserable or fills you with dread. You are the architect of your life. Every instant holds in it the potential for you to radically change whatever no longer serves your purpose for being here. Infinite dreams have been actualized by nothing more than persistence and a belief in possibilities.
Be your own best friend, you two will be together for your entire life. You're all you've got - you're the only one you can count on.
Believe in yourself. Stop being scared to make a mistake. Doing something and getting it wrong is more productive than doing nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did. Take risks, stumble, fall, and then get up and try again. Appreciate that you are pushing yourself, learning, growing and improving. Significant achievements are almost invariably realized at the end of a long road of failures.
Be authentic, honest with yourself about what's right, what needs to be changed, what you want to achieve, and who you want to become.
Believe that you're ready for the next step. You have everything you need right now to take the next small, realistic step forward. Embrace the opportunities that come your way, and accept the challenges - they will help you grow.
Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's pets, music, keepsakes, hobbies, whatever.
Don't get hung up on nonessential numbers: age, weight, and height - let the doctor worry about them, not you.
You can't be everything to everyone. You can only be yourself. That means letting yourself off the hook a little. Don't beat yourself up for not meeting everyone's expectations. Sometimes your boss, your parents and your spouse expect too much. Don't blame yourself for not being perfect; just emphasize what you can accomplish.
Set boundaries. "No, I can't fit in that one extra meeting." "I can't volunteer this time with the PTA." Reserve some time to take a nap or a bubble bath or read a book. Give yourself time for good eating habits and exercise. People feel better about themselves when they're taking care of themselves in those ways, too.
Expand your comfort zone (what you feel comfortable doing). The more you get out in the world and do what you feel uncomfortable doing, the less inhibited you become, thereby allowing you to live a richer and fuller life.
Start concentrating on the things you can control. Wasting time, talent and emotional energy on things that are beyond your control is a recipe for frustration, misery and stagnation. Invest energy in the things you can control, and act on them now.
Avoid making comparisons to others. Someone will always be prettier, smarter, and younger; but they will never be you; stop trying to compete; don't worry about what others are doing better than you.
Stop holding grudges. Don't live your life with hate. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. "I'm not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness." Forgive, let go, find peace, liberate yourself! Forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.
Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, the museum, or another city, but not to where the guilt is. Guilt is self-imposed (as is embarrassment and offense) and it has no positive value. Learn, let go, and move on.
Take care of yourself
Cherish your health. Take care of your body with smart eating habits, exercise, no smoking, and adequate sleep. If it is good, preserve it. If its unstable, improve it. If its beyond what you can improve, get help.
Stay active - get outside and do stuff
Read a book you love
Live simple: buy less, use less, keep less. Purge all the closets, drawers, and the garage. Get rid of the stuff that is seldom used.
Find ways to cope with stress and hardships. Sometimes life's a bitch. Things will come our way that we have not prepared for - death of loved ones, accidents, illnesses, financial loss. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with you your entire life - is yourself. Believe that 'this too shall pass'.
Let go of anger and resentment. Free your mind from hatred. Learn to forgive. Address the root causes, learn from them, and then move forward.
Set goals and objectives
From Dale Carnegie
Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.
Follow your purpose. A purpose is what you enjoy doing that you never get tired of. Write a list of purposes and choose the one that speaks to you the most.
List some meaningful goals that you want for your life. Figure out your strengths and exploit them. Break each goal up into smaller sub-goals and then break those sub-goals into individual tasks and action steps. Every night, plan the next day in advance. Create a daily "to-do list" with those tasks that you need to do to accomplish your goal.
Find meaning or passion. Happy people usually have a sense of purpose or something they love to do. It could be some type of volunteering, gardening, or art. For some people, it might be their work; it has a lot of meaning to them and can be an outlet. For others, it may be helping those less fortunate, learning a new skill, or embracing creativity.
Strive to make things better - improve what you can. But, stop trying to make things perfect. The world doesn't reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done. Sometimes it's better to accept and appreciate the world as it is, and people as they are, rather than to trying to make everything and everyone conform to an impossible ideal. Learn to like and value things when they are less than perfect.
Put money low on the list. Happiness is about respect, not riches. Research has confirmed: money doesn't buy happiness.
Let go or avoid that which you can't control.
But, based on research, feeling happy can make us less creative and, in some cases, less able to connect with other people. Adversity (not very happy times) may have a positive influence on creative thoughts.
Keep a gratitude journal and regularly write down what you are glad about - from minor (nice weather) to major (events, promotions).
List all the people and things that make you glad. Thank the people that have been good to you or have helped you.
Make a gratitude visit to a friend
Every morning before you start your day, appreciate what you have.
Build positive surroundings
Be around happy people. Nurture relationships and spend time with the right people - the people you enjoy, who love and appreciate you, and who encourage you to improve in healthy ways. They are the ones who make you feel more alive. Choose friends who show love and respect - who reciprocate kindness and commitment.
Cherish your family and friends. Tell the people you love that you love them. Spend time with them - develop relationships - much enjoyment comes from other people, not just with those we love, but those we work with, play with, and even stand next to in line with.
Stop spending time with people who suck the happiness out of you, who bring you down to their level. It may better to be alone than to be in bad company. If you only spend time with people who are sad and miserable, don't expect your world view to improve. Don't write off your unhappy friends, but broaden your horizons. If you're having a bad day, sometimes a funny, cheerful friend can help you smile. Negative thinking begets negative thinking.
Learn from the pros: find the successful people in your field and ask them what they do to be successful. Most successful people are more that willing to share their knowledge if you just ask them.
Live in the present
From Dalai Lama's Rules for Living
Live in the moment. This could be the single most important piece of advice you ever heed to. Do not forget nor dwell on the past, but do forgive it. Be aware of the future but do no fear or worry about it. Focus on the present moment, and that moment alone. Living in any other moment will only bring you anguish. The past cannot be changed and the future cannot be controlled. If you live in the now, you will be much happier since the past and future cannot weigh down on you.
Unhappy often stare into the past, thinking about regrets and failures and the things they've lost, or they try to look into the future, anticipating potential problems and expecting the worst.
Dwelling on failures and regrets serve no healthy purpose. If you learned from your mistakes, then they had value - but now its time to say goodbye, let them go. They have no further benefit. Regret and shame come from dwelling in the past. You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.
Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. We all make mistakes and regret things in our past. But you am not your mistakes; you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
Think less about how great things will be in the future.
Learn to be in the here and now and experience life as it's happening. The more you become aware of being in the present, the more it becomes a part of your daily life.
Happier people manage to tune out the background noise and focus on what's going on right now, whether it's a boardroom meeting or an evening out with friends. If the moment is bad, it passes soon enough, replaced by another and another.
Each day, try to meet a goal of helping at least one person that day. It can be giving directions, letting someone move ahead of you in line, holding open the door, or numerous other acts - the opportunities are boundless.
Empathize with the joys and sorrows of others. Be kind, civil, and considerate - think of the other person more often. Everyone is struggling with some issues; we are each trying our best to cope. Being kind to others helps us feel generous, capable, connected, and more satisfied.
Children appeared happier when they gave away a treat than when they received a treat. Performing acts that involve some kind of personal sacrifice made the kids happier. Other studies have suggested adults are happier giving to others than to themselves.
Volunteer and spend some of your time only serving others. The value of the time invested will be repaid.
Forgive: We relive pain over and over and have a hard time letting go. Forgiveness is the remedy. It doesn't mean erasing the past, or forgetting what happened. It means letting go of the resentment and pain, and instead choosing to learn from the incident and move on with life.
Work at it
From Elizabeth Gilbert
Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.
Consciously choose happiness. Bad things happen to everyone. Some events - a death in the family, financial difficulties - are genuinely terrible. It's hard to find any good in them. Not every worrisome event is so devastating, though. You can choose to dwell on the negatives or seek out the positives.
Avoid catastrophic thinking, in which one negative thought leads to another and another, setting off a chain reaction of negativity that can send you spiraling into helplessness and fear.
Watch your own self-talk, the thoughts you feed yourself inside your head. Become your own internal coach. How can I look at this in a more positive light? What are the good things I can take from this situation?
Keep a "happy journal" and fill it each day with things that make you smile or feel good about yourself.
We can cultivate positive emotions and behaviors; traits like empathy and happiness are skills we can consciously develop over time.
You create your own life. You are not a victim. You are 100% responsible for the life you have right now. If you are unhappy, you have the power to change your attitude and actions to begin making your life better. Remember, whether you think life sucks or you think life is great, either way, you're probly right.
You make yourself feel the way you feel. Nobody can "make" you feel anything. You are the one that "chooses" to feel good or bad about a particular event or action that occurs.
Fake it until you make it. If you want to be more confident, happy, or positive, then "pretend" that you already are this way. Eventually, after practicing this long enough, you'll realize that you're no longer "pretending". Smile (even when you aren't happy).
Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. If there is something in the world you want, ask for it - or at least ask how to get it.
Evaluate situations and take decisive action. Making progress involves risk. Stop thinking you're not ready. Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won't feel totally comfortable at first.
Savor the everyday moments
Keep learning. Read, visit museums, work puzzles, take classes on things you find interesting (painting, drawing, photography); anything to exercise the neurons.
Cherish life's joys. Savor everyday moments. Enjoy the simple things, momentary pleasures (the night sky, music, sunsets).
Lighten up. When appropriate, be a bit less serious. Smile, even if you're not in the mood.
Laugh often, long, and loud. Laugh until you grasp for breath.
Its a relatively long journey, slow down and enjoy it.
Its a relatively short journey, embrace and enjoy it.
A few conclusions from numerous scientific research and survey studies.
The components of happiness
1. Pleasure (but least important)
2. Engagement (and anticipation)
Happy people are
• More helpful
• Less hostile
• More productive
• In better physical health
• Surrounded by more friends
• More successful
• Able to live longer and healthier lives
What doesn't make us happy (even if we think it does)
• Minor and major life events
Things that can make us happy
• Bright colors
• High self-esteem
• Outgoing, social, extrovert
• Remembering peak events
• Nature: trees, water, mountains
• Being around happy people
• Having close friends and family
• Having meaningful conversations
• Significant connections with people
• Watching TV
Just for today only
A few resolutions from Dear Abby, Pauline Phillips
Just for today: I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow.
Just for today: I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away.
Just for today: I will be agreeable, kind, and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others.
Just for today: I will face reality. I will correct those things that I can correct and accept those I cannot. I will refrain from improving anybody but myself.
Just for today: I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.
Just for today: I will improve my health. I will eat healthy — if only just for today. I will take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.
Just for today: I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.
Brielle Daraja, Thought Catalog
Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, Marc and Angel: Practical Tips for Productive Living
Dalai Lama: Rules for Living
Dr. Renee Orcutt, an Oklahoma City psychologist
Catherine A. Sanderson: The Science of Happiness
Jason Marsh, Lauren Klein, Jeremy Adam Smith