Life is a constant exercise in self-improvement. And while some of that focus lands squarely on becoming more educated or rising in the ranks of the workplace, sometimes we forget to improve how we treat ourselves and those around us. In the rush to achieve, the idea of being “better” can become lost to ambition and selfishness. The journey to improving your soul and your compassion toward yourself and others begins here.
Part 1 of 3: Getting Started
- Become more self-aware. The first step toward becoming a better person is learning to notice your current behavior, whether it is how you react to stress, how you cope with loss, how you manage your anger, or how you treat the people you love. The only way to make an improvement in any of these departments is to first take note of your current behavior, then reflect on how it can be improved, and finally, make the necessary changes. Remember that the change cannot happen until you know what is wrong in the first place.
- Set goals for yourself. If it helps, write them down on a piece of paper, or better yet, start a journal. This will open up your introspective side, and allow you to better understand yourself from an objective standpoint.
- Here are some questions to get you started: Is there a particular relationship with a loved one that you would like to improve? Would you like to become more philanthropic? Do you want to do more for the environment? Do you want to learn how to be a better spouse or partner?
- Find a role model. Role models are a great source of inspiration, and their stories can make us feel strong when times get tough.
- Your role model might be your favorite singer, artist, politician, television personality, philosopher, religious figure, and so on. Your role model may be from thousands of years ago, or someone from now.
- Once you have found a role model, read one of his or her books or biographies. Learning about this person's educational background, family life, and personal struggles will prepare you for the road ahead.
- Choose somebody whose story you can relate to, like a rags-to-riches entrepreneur, a great author or a person who sailed around the world solo. Find experiences others have had that resonate with your hopes and dreams.
Part 2 of 3: Exercising Compassion
- Learn to love yourself. Before you can learn to love others, you will have to learn to love yourself. This isn't the sort of vain, self-absorbed love; it's the love that accepts you for the person you are, that delves deep to unearth the skills and values that truly make up who you are and embraces these. Even if you don't believe in the value of self-love, start telling yourself that you are a kind, compassionate person and most of all, that you're worthy. Coupled with virtuous and kind actions, this will help you to be more self-accepting and understanding.
- Learn to stop criticizing yourself. Take time to appreciate your talents and best features, whether they are physical or internal. The more hostile you are toward yourself, the more hostile you are likely to be toward others.
- Learn to control anger and jealousy. These emotions are a natural part of life, but if you constantly feel angry or jealous toward others, you are going to have a difficult time finding happiness.
- Rather than constantly comparing yourself to people who you think are better off than you, take some time to acknowledge the fact that there are countless people in the world who are worse off than you. What's more, there are people out there who have less than you, but who are even more appreciative!
- To let go of anger, forgive the people who have wronged you in the past. Holding anger and resentment toward someone else punishes you, not the other person. It's a fairly sobering thought to realize that you haven't moved on while they have. Give yourself the gift that frees your heart by forgiving.
- It might help to talk to the person you are angry with, let them know what they did wrong, and tell them that you forgive them. If you would rather not talk to the person, then write everything down in a letter and keep it to yourself.
- Remember that forgiveness is not absolution. The bad thing still happened; what you're doing is lifting the burden that weighs you down and lets you heal.
- Practice empathy. This is about standing in the other person's shoes and realizing what place this person is coming from (pain, fear, loss, etc.). Remember that everybody has his or her own struggles and insecurities; understanding this will help you be more sensitive toward other peoples' feelings, learn to bond with others, and feel less isolated. And practicing empathy will help you to treat others as you would like to be treated.
- This skill will come in handy when trying to improve your personal relationships with friends, family members, and lovers.
- Show people that you care. Did you know that some people are actually too shy to be nice? Don't be afraid to tell somebody that you love them or care deeply for them.
- Do this genuinely. Don't tell people what they want to hear just to make them happy, or to get something in return. Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to communicating with loved ones.
- Be appreciative. Stop spending a lot of your time obsessing over the things you wish you had. Instead, count and appreciate the things you do have. You might be surprised if you actually focus on what is already good and helpful in your life. Chasing dreams can sometimes lose you the sight of what's already before you.
- Try to look beyond material objects; consider the people and events in your life that have been most rewarding.
- Practice gratitude. Those who do feel grateful tend to experience less stress, feel more optimistic and have more energy.
- Give to others. Not everybody can afford to donate thousands of dollars to their favorite charity, but that doesn't mean you can't make small contributions to help those in need.
- Volunteer. Instead of spending your weekends in front of the TV, volunteer at your local homeless shelter or SPCA.
- Practice random acts of kindness every day. This could be as small an act as helping an elderly person carry groceries to their car, or giving somebody the right of way when driving. The more you do this, the more you will realize how gratifying it feels to help others, which will ultimately help you overcome selfishness.
Part 3 of 3: Choosing the Right Path
- Explore your talents. Everybody has a skill or interest that they excel in and genuinely enjoy. If you don't think you have a talent, you probably just haven't found it yet.
- Be patient, but not lazy. You can't be good at everything, so don't give up just because you have failed once or twice. Instead, be proactive and try new things until you find something you love and are good at.
- Enroll in a class you're interested in, or pick up a new instrument or sport. Choose things that sound appealing to you; this way you are more likely to stick with it.
- Do what you love. No matter how much money you make, you will not be happy if you spend your entire life doing something you hate. While not all of us are lucky enough to make a career out of our favorite hobby, it's important to at least devote your weekends or evenings to doing what you enjoy.
- If you are chronically unhappy with your job, take some time to seriously consider changing your career.
- Devote your free time to your favorite hobby or sport. While it might be tempting to spend this time in front of the television or computer screen, it's important to do the things you love if you want to have a fulfilling life.
- Practice self-control. Life must be a balance between work and play. If you constantly indulge in pleasures like partying or eating sweets, you will eventually become bored with life and nothing will satisfy you. Instead, indulge in these things periodically so that you will truly appreciate them.
- Thank people who help you along the way. Not only is it courteous to thank others, it will help you become more appreciative and to learn see the capacity for good in other people.
By following all these tips to making yourself a better person, the next thing you know is that you are already into being a better person. You may have a hard time getting yourself work for the better but remember this, practice makes everything perfect and into place. Try it and see for yourself that you are being a better citizen to this world and to the society you're into.