“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.Advertising
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.”
How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly
Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?
Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.
Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?
Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?
Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.
Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.
Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…
In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia. After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.
Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.
After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.
What can we learn from this historical lesson?
1. Focus on the Consequences
Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.
So was Moscow not an important target after all?
Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.
When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?
- Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
- Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
- Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?
The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.
This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.
2. Flip Defeat Into Victory
Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.
Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.
If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.
Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.
This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.
Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?
- Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
- Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
- Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
- Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.
Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.
3. Ask for Advice
Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.
Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.
A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.
Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.
4. Beware of Biased Advice
Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.
For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:
- Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
- Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
- Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
- Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
- Become more productive by getting a faster computer.
However, most purchases are unnecessary.
Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly. Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.
Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.
- Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
- Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
- Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
- Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
- You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.
There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.
Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.
It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.
You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.
Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.
Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.
Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.
Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.
Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.
More Tips on Thinking Clearly
Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com