“Make the most of yourself… for that is all there is of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We’re all on a journey of self-growth, evolution, and change, and most of us are trying to make a conscious effort to be better human beings with every passing day. We have all made mistakes, learned lessons for good, and realized why we shouldn’t repeat those mistakes.
Being a better human being doesn’t necessarily mean improving a particular skill or doing a good deed for once – it is a more elaborate process of imbibing certain qualities in ourselves that would make us feel better from within. To put it briefly, we all want to be a better person tomorrow than we are today.
There have been many times that after conversing with certain people, I wished for certain qualities that they possessed. There’s the friend who never gets angry, no matter how adverse the situation may get – every time I see him, I wish I could be as calm as he is. There’s the 72-year-old man I met on a trek who I was in awe of – he walked more efficiently and energetically than people who were half his age. He made me realize that hardships are just a matter of the mind, and if we really dream of achieving something, we have to create our own path.
It is not possible to push aside all bad habits in one go, but it is never too late to start. Here are 17 little things that you can do to be a better person.Advertising
1. Let Go
“This is mine” – we are always scared of losing things and people and that makes us hold on too tightly. This is the time when you should learn to let go – realize the fact that nothing lasts forever. Believe in the moment and know that this is the best that is happening to you. Learn to let go of all the anger, pessimism, resentment, and bitterness – everything that evokes sadness and worry within you.
2. Stop Procrastinating
No one has seen the future, and no one knows what tomorrow might bring. Therefore, stop procrastinating and do what you want to do right now! You might be planning for some luxury trip that will happen in 7-8 months, but who knows how things will be then? If everything is fine today, pack your bags and leave. We often assume that the right time will come, but in reality, the right time never comes unless we make it.
3. Think Before You Act
Consider the consequences of every action that you take. It is a normal human tendency to plunge into something and then regret it if the results aren’t in your favor. Now it’s time to think before you act, because your actions showcase your personality. Every action has a ripple effect that can extend far beyond the immediate effects. For example, if you throw a plastic bag out your car window, not only will that cause damage to the environment but it’ll also teach your children to act in the same way.
4. Accept Your Faults
There are several times when we feel hesitant to accept our faults, even when we know that we are wrong. This is one of the worst habits and it needs to be changed. We learn from all our mistakes, and our worth never goes down if we are wrong. In fact, accepting your fault will raise you up in other people’s eyes, as they will know that you have the guts to admit your faults. Only those who can accept their faults can learn to rectify them effectively.
5. Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
We all have our own comfort zones – like being around the people we love, doing the things we know we are good at, and going to the places that we’ve been before. But, have you ever thought how exciting life can be once you step out of that comfort bubble? Have you ever imagined going for a volunteer trip abroad with a group of people from all across the world and living with people who perhaps aren’t as fortunate as you are? I assure you that life will take a massive turn once you step out of your comfort zone, and you will be thrilled to never look back again.Advertising
6. Be Fearless
It is actually the fear of the unknown that stops us from doing things. Once you successfully overcome the fear, you shall be able to take up a lot more challenges in life, pushing your level of achievement higher. My mentor once told me: “People would keep sticking to the known monotonous path rather than taking the unknown adventurous path because there’s a fear of getting lost! But unless you take that unknown path, you never get to realize how beautiful life is behind that monotonous veil.”
I only understood how true those words were when I decided to quit my 10-to-7 job to pursue my dreams of solo traveling.
7. Be The Partner You Wish To Have
We usually have a checklist of qualities that we want in our partners, like honesty, dependability, understanding, love, compassion, etc. But we give less time to thinking whether we possess those particular qualities or not ourselves. Rather than looking for those qualities in someone else, you should try to make yourself better by imbibing those qualities. Once you know that you’ve become the partner you wish to have, you will eventually come across the right person for you.
8. Be More Empathetic and Compassionate
Most of the times we fail to understand other people’s problems and turn a blind eye to them. You should realize that unless and until you put yourself in that person’s shoes, you can never feel their problem.
Being an urbanite who has always been endowed with the necessities and occasional luxuries of life, I could never understand how difficult life can be for those living in the interior rural areas of a developing country like India. I only realized how grave the problems were when I joined a program to work in tribal schools in Rajasthan (India) and had a face-off with harsh reality. People don’t have bathrooms and other basic necessities that are required to have a healthy life. That’s when I learned that crying about not having the latest iPhone is totally not worthwhile when thousands of people out there can’t even have two square meals a day. Learn to be more empathetic and do whatever little you can for those who need your help. From my personal experience, I can tell you that you will grow many times as a human being once you help those who can’t help themselves.Advertising
9. Learn To Be More Forgiving
If someone accepts their fault, try to forgive them. You should know that even you have made mistakes before and you will make mistakes in future – how would you feel if someone else refused you forgiveness? By forgiving someone, not only do you improve your relationship with that person but you also create a space to heal the damage that was caused and let go of the grievances and judgments that had cluttered your mind.
10. Listen To Others
Everyone has the right to share their thoughts and opinions, and it is necessary for you to be a good listener. Being a good listener will nurture your emotional intelligence, help you to see the world through other people’s eyes, and develop the idea of how different people have different thoughts in varying circumstances. Just like you want your loved ones to listen to whatever you have to say, others have the same expectation from you. Give that space to people – listen to them calmly.
11. Practice Acts Of Kindness
Give without expecting something in return. Share, love, and smile. You never know, your act of kindness can influence those around you and make this world a better place to live. As they say, “Charity begins at home” – start by giving away old clothes and books that you no longer need or use. Take time out to visit an orphanage in your area and shower the little ones with the warmth they deserve. Feed those street dogs who’ve shivered all night in the cold. Keep a bowl of water on your window sill for the sparrows to drink. Start today and in a day or two, you’ll feel happier than you are now.
12. Appreciate Beauty
Everything is beautiful, and you should know how to appreciate beauty. The morning sun rays, the glittering dew drops, the aroma of the tea that your partner has made for you, the grin on the traffic officer’s face, the smile of the office guard – each of the things you come across every single day has something unique that you miss out on if you fail to take notice. Try not to miss those little things that make life beautiful – go slow and take a moment out of your busy schedule to appreciate them all. Be more creative in your own way so that you can bring even more beauty into this world, and share bits of joy every day.
13. Be Open To Change
Nothing is permanent, and everything will eventually change. If you cannot accept change, you will tend to make things difficult for yourself. Days will be taken over by the darkness of night, and the flow of good and bad will keep happening. Being open minded is one of the best qualities a human being can possess. Knowing that nothing is constant, you should learn to be open to change.Advertising
Meditation not only helps to rejuvenate your mind and body but also relaxes all your senses and makes you a calmer person. It gives you the ability to focus on your priorities and enhances your concentration. It will help you to get rid of your anger and anxiety. A peaceful mind is the storehouse of creative ideas. It might be difficult to hone your meditation skills in one go, but as you’ll slowly learn to gather all your thoughts and focus on your breathing, you will definitely feel lighter and happier.
15. Live More In The Real World Than The Virtual World
In this 21st Century, most of us spend more time with our phones, iPads, laptops, and computers than we do with our loved ones. Quit the habit of sticking to your gadgets and step out of the virtual world. Rather than messaging that friend you always promised to meet but never worked out the details, go and give her a hug. Keep your phone off while having dinner with your family. Go out for a cup of coffee with that colleague that you always interact with over email. Be in one place in the real world rather than being in 5 places in the virtual world! You’ll realize that life is more beautiful when you see a smile on someone’s face and not just the emoticon on the screen.
16. Express Gratitude
Wake up and express gratitude for being alive. Say “Thank You” to everyone who deserves it – to your family who has always taken care of you, your friends who shared your sorrows and joys, the driver who drops you off at work, the office boy who serves you tea, the sweeper who keeps society clean, and every other person whose work often goes unnoticed. Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a parcel and not sending it! Break the ice and show that you are grateful.
17. Compliment Yourself
No one can love you until and unless you love yourself. Believe that you are the purest soul on Earth and you are absolutely unique and beautiful. Look at yourself in the mirror and compliment yourself. Compliment yourself for the amazing food that you can cook, for the good work that you’ve done, for the nice letter you wrote, for the smiles you have spread, for the care that you’ve given, for the hardships you have battled, and for so much more. You deserve to be praised – and you should be the first one to applaud for yourself.
Every day brings a new opportunity to set aside the unwanted habits and start afresh. I’m sure you want to see yourself happy and you want others around you to be happy as well – so start with these little steps and see how it changes your life, bit by bit. Don’t aim to be someone else, rather try to be a better version of who you are.
To put it in Madonna’s words, “No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change and become a better version of yourself.”
Published on June 30, 2020
What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good)
Many conversations are being held nowadays regarding unconscious bias, but what does it really mean and how can it affect your life and the people around you? With many types of biases, it can get quite confusing. In this article, we’ll touch on cognitive bias, and then zero in on unconscious bias. Both types of biases have an immediate impact on your life because they relate to how you and others think about yourself and other people.
If you want to protect your relationships and make good decisions about other people, you need to know what these biases mean. Once we have clarity about that, we can explore in more depth unconscious bias and how to address it.
Table of Contents
Let’s start with cognitive bias, a predictable pattern of mental errors that result in us misperceiving reality and, as a result, deviating away from the most likely way of reaching our goals.
These mental blind spots impact all areas of our life, from health to relationships and even shopping, as a study recently revealed. In other words, from the perspective of what is best for us as individuals, falling for a cognitive bias always harms us by lowering our probability of getting what we want.
Cognitive biases have to do with judgment, not mood. Ironically, cognitive biases — such as the optimism bias and overconfidence effect — more often lead to positive moods. Of course, the consequence of falling into cognitive biases, once discovered, usually leaves us in a bad mood due to the disastrous results of these dangerous judgment errors.
Unconscious bias is different from cognitive bias. Also known as implicit bias, it refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, and so on. Despite cognitive biases sometimes leading to discriminatory thinking and feeling patterns, these are two separate and distinct concepts.
Cognitive biases are common across humankind and relate to the particular wiring of our brains, while unconscious bias relates to perceptions between different groups and are specific for the society in which we live. For example, I bet you don’t care or even think about whether someone is a noble or a commoner, yet that distinction was fundamentally important a few centuries ago across Europe. To take another example, most people in the US don’t have strong feelings about Sunni vs. Shiite Muslims, yet this distinction is incredibly meaningful in many parts of the world.
Unconscious Bias and Discriminatory Behavior
Organizations often bring me in as a speaker on diversity and inclusion to address potential unconscious discriminatory behavior. When I share in speeches that black Americans suffer from police harassment and violence at a much higher rate than white people, some participants (usually white) occasionally try to defend the police by claiming that black people are more violent and likely to break the law than whites. They thus attribute police harassment to the internal characteristics of black people (implying that it is deserved), and not to the external context of police behavior.
In reality – as I point out in my response to these folks – research shows that black people are harassed and harmed by police at a much higher rate for the same kind of activity. A white person walking by a cop, for example, is statistically much less likely to be stopped and frisked than a black one.
At the other end of things, a white person resisting arrest is much less likely to be violently beaten than a black one. In other words, statistics show that the higher rate of harassment and violence against black Americans by police is due to the prejudice of the police officers, at least to a large extent.
However, I am careful to clarify that this discrimination is not necessarily intentional. Sometimes, it indeed is deliberate, with white police officers consciously believing that black Americans deserve much more scrutiny than whites. At other times, the discriminatory behavior results from unconscious, implicit thought processes that the police officer would not consciously endorse.
After becoming aware that unconscious bias does exist, the next step would be learning how to recognize it in order to reduce it. I’ve outlined three crucial points to keep in mind below while further exploring the unconscious prejudice discussed above.
How to Reduce Unconscious Bias
Remember these three important points if you want to work on reducing your unconscious bias.
1. Unconscious Bias is a Systemic Issue
When we understand that unconscious bias is ultimately a systemic issue, we understand that internal cultures need to be checked and addressed first.
Interestingly, research shows that many black police officers have an unconscious prejudice against other black people, perceiving them in a more negative light than white people when evaluating potential suspects. This unconscious bias carried by many — not all — black police officers helps show that such prejudices come – at least to a significant extent – from internal cultures within police departments, rather than pre-existing racist attitudes present before someone joins a police department.
Such cultures are perpetuated by internal norms, policies, and training procedures, and any police department wishing to address unconscious bias needs to address internal culture first and foremost, rather than attributing racism to individual officers.
In other words, instead of saying it’s a few bad apples in a barrel of overall good ones, the key is recognizing that unconscious bias is a systemic issue, and the structure and joints of the barrel needs to be fixed.
2. There Is No Shame in Unconscious Bias
Another crucial thing that needs to be highlighted is that there is no shame or blame in unconscious bias as it’s not stemming from any fault in the individual. This no-shame approach decreases the fight, freeze, or flight defensive response among reluctant audiences, helping them hear and accept the issue.
Unconscious bias is prevalent and often doesn’t match our conscious values. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs and prejudices stemming from our tendency to categorize people into social groups. This developed naturally as a way for our ancestors to quickly size up a possible threat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate well in modern life.
3. It Takes a Sustained Effort to Prevent and Protect Against Unconscious Bias
After being presented with additional statistics and discussion of unconscious bias, the issue is generally settled. Still, from their subsequent behavior it’s clear that some of these audience members don’t immediately internalize this evidence. It’s much more comforting for their gut reactions to believe that police officers are right and anyone targeted by police deserves it; in turn, they are highly reluctant to accept the need to focus more efforts and energy on protecting black Americans from police violence due to the structural challenges facing these groups.
The issue of unconscious bias doesn’t match their intuitions, so they reject this concept, despite extensive and strong evidence for its pervasive role in policing. It takes a series of subsequent follow-up conversations and interventions to move the needle. A single training is almost never sufficient, both in my experience and according to research.
The examples and points raised illustrate broader patterns you need to follow to recognize unconscious bias. Only by doing so will you be able to determine if, and what type of, intervention is needed to address it.
Unfortunately, our gut reactions lead us to make poor judgment choices when we simply follow our intuitions. Unconscious biases are systemic and need to be addressed in order to make the best decisions.
We need to learn about the kind of problems that result from unconscious bias. Then, you need to develop the right mental habits to help you make the best choices. A one-time training is insufficient for doing so. It takes a long-term commitment and constant discipline and efforts to overcome unconscious bias, so get started now.
More Tips on Overcoming Unconscious Bias
- How Cognitive Bias Influences Our Decision Making
- Should We Trust Our Gut Feeling When Making Decisions?
- 3 Cognitive Biases That Affect Our Decisions Every Day
Featured photo credit: M.T ElGassier via unsplash.com