“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.”
Last Updated on March 30, 2020
How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential
You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”
There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.
Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.
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The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory
In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost. Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.
Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.
Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.
Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth
If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.
However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.
In a 2013 study, scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.
A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain
How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?
First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.
My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. 
A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.
The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.
How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity
Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.
So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.
1. Performing Arts
One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.
Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.
One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.
A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.
2. Visual Art
Art teacher Betty Edwards wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.
Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.
Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.
3. Zone Out
If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.
I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.
Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.
Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.
4. Practice Mindfulness
The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.
Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly
You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.
Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.
Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.
So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.
The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.
Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”
More Tips on Boosting Creativity
- What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It
- How to Train Your Brain to Be Creative
- 30 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Creativity
Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com
|||^||The Guardian: Despite what you’ve been told, you aren’t ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’|
|||^||Psychology Today: Left brain, right brain? Wrong|
|||^||PLOS: An evaluation of the left-brain vs. right-brain hypothesis with resting state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging|
|||^||The Guardian: Despite what you’ve been told, you aren’t ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’|
|||^||NPR: The truth about the left brain / right brain relationship|
|||^||Psychology Today: How improvisation changes the brain|
|||^||Play Your Way Sane: Advantages Of Improvisation|
|||^||Claremont Graduate University, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi|
|||^||APA Psy Net: Finding flow|
|||^||Drawright: Betty Edwards|
|||^||Play You Way Sane: 8 Fun Mindfulness Exercises|