Building a Better You

Every morning before you go on with your daily routine, take a couple of minutes to give yourself a compliment
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Representational Image Dreamstime [Creative Commons]

“Make the most of yourself....for that is all there is of you.”

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Your task is to build a better world” “But, how? The world is such a large, vast place, so complicated. I am so small with all my weakness, there’s nothing I can do.” God smiled and replied “Just build a better you!” (Anonymous)

Well, if everyone of us becomes better, there can’t be any doubt about the whole world becoming better. Who has not gone through a lot of things like discrimination, failure, growing up with divorced parents, abuse, rejection, heartbreaks, disappointing people who care for you, low self-esteem, underachieving, living a stale and mediocre life, trying to change who I was to be accepted, betrayal, unfulfilled dreams, settling for less, dysfunctional relationships, severe family conflicts, trying to wear a smile over a miserable heart, etc? Others too go through such things. In truth, many of us have dealt with hardships that span the spectrum of pain, suffering, and hopelessness.

Yet, while some people overcome and go on to lead successful and productive lives, others become trapped and live lives full of frustration, regret, bitterness and jump from one failed relationship to the next.

Where does the reason for the difference lie? It must be in the response of how we decide to deal with the issues we face; whether we deal with them in a healthy and effective way, ignore them and mistakenly hope that they disappear, or we put all the blame on something or someone else.

However, there are many reasons why he/she lies dormant within you. Why wonder about unfulfilled potential in terms of being a part of a meaningful and functional relationship, being able to finally focus long enough to follow your dreams, or even getting past the resentment and bitterness trapped in your heart any longer?

We’ve all made mistakes throughout our lives that haven’t exactly put us in the best light - like bullying someone in school or telling what seemed like a little white lie. Chances, however, are you probably felt a little guilt and grew because of the situation.

Most of us are just average guys trying to become better in both our work and home life. We know that we’ll never be perfect, but we can be better and we should certainly give it a try. There are many ways that will help you make the most of yourself and grow as a better person. There’s, however, an important caveat to be made.

A one-size-fits-all formula for behaviour change is impossible. Every change is different - compare starting a flossing habit with breaking a heroin addiction with training for your first marathon. Trying to script a universal formula is a mistake. Non-the-less, some common denominator does exist, which we should benefit from.

Compliment Yourself: Every morning before you go on with your daily routine, take a couple of minutes to give yourself a compliment. Whether you compliment your outfit, haircut, or how you recently completed a task using your unique skill sets, giving yourself a little emotional boost will make you happy.

And, when you’re happy with yourself, that emotion can be contagious to those around you. Inspirational speaker Tony Robbins has a mantra he says aloud to himself most days to put him in a peak performance state.

Don’t Make Excuses: Blaming your spouse, boss, or clients is fruitless and won’t get you very far. Instead of pointing fingers and making excuses about why you aren’t happy or successful in your personal or professional life, own up your mistakes and learn from them. When you do this, you will become a better person. When I personally started living up to my mistakes and downfalls, my life turned itself around. I became happier and healthier, and my relationship with my wife improved. We are happier than ever.

Let Go of Anger: Letting go of anger is easier said than done. While anger is a perfectly normal emotion, you can’t let it fester. When this happens, you may make unwise decisions, and more important, it may affect your health. Research suggests pent up anger can cause digestive problems, difficulty sleeping, and even heart disease.

To help you let go of anger, Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD, suggests you write your feelings down, pray or meditate, or begin to manage your thoughts.

Practice Forgiveness: Joyce Marter, LCPC, suggests you forgive and let go of resentment. She notes, “If for no other reason than for yourself, forgive to untether yourself from the negative experiences of the past. Take time to meditate, and give thanks for the wisdom and knowledge gained from your suffering. Practice the mantra, ‘I forgive you and I release you.’”

Be Honest and Direct: How would you feel if a loved one or business partner lied to you? Chances are you would see that as a violation of your trust. If you want to be a better person in either your personal or professional life, you should always tell the truth and state as clearly as possible what you are trying to convey. Learn to articulate your thoughts, feelings, and ideas in an open and honest manner.

Always Be Helpful: Helpfulness should be your creed. Whether giving up your seat to an elderly person on the subway, assisting a co-worker on a project, or carrying in the groceries when your spouse comes back from the store, being helpful is one of the easiest and most effective ways to practice becoming a better person. I find that the more I help others, the better I feel about myself and everyone around me.

Listen to Others: As Jeet Banerjee notes on Lifehack, “listening to people and giving everyone a voice is one of the greatest things you can do.” He adds that he “got to meet some of the most amazing people, close some of the biggest deals, and develop connections that will last me a lifetime all because I took time to listen to people. Being a good listener can change your life in a positive manner.”

Act Locally: It may not seem like a big deal, but supporting a local cause, donating clothes, or buying from local farmers’ markets or businesses are simple ways you can help your specific region. You may not be able to save the world, but you very well could make a difference in your neck of the woods. Get to know and care about your community.

Always Be Polite: How much effort does it take to say, “Thank you,” or to hold the elevator door open for someone? Not much at all. However, these acts of kindness can make someone’s day. I decided a few years ago that it doesn’t matter if someone is ultra-rude, condescending, or worse. The way someone else behaves is not going to determine my behaviour.

Be Yourself: Tiffany Mason has five excellent reasons on Lifehack why you should be yourself. These include being able to align yourself with your values and beliefs, establish your identity, build courage, create boundaries, and find focus and direction.

Be Open to Change: Whether trying a new restaurant, traveling to an unknown part of the world, or doing something that has always scared you, you should always be open to change. This allows you to grow because you experience something new. It helps you be high functioning and self-confident if you are not wary of change.

Be Respectful: How would you feel if you had just cleaned your home and someone came in and tracked mud everywhere? You’d probably be a little ticked that they hadn’t taken off their shoes. Take this mentality and apply it to everyday life. For example, don’t toss your trash or cigarette butts on the floor of public restrooms or sidewalks just because someone else will clean it up. Be respectful of others’ time, thoughts, ideas, lifestyles, feelings, work, and everything else. You don’t have to agree with any of it, but people have a right to their opinions and yours is not necessarily correct.

Don’t Show Up Empty-handed: Going to a party this weekend at your friend’s apartment? Make sure you don’t arrive empty-handed. Even if you’ve been assured that there will be plenty of food and drink, bring along a little something to show you appreciate being invited.

Educate Yourself: If you don’t understand why one country is invading another, take the time to educate yourself on the current event. Ask a person intimately connected with the event for his or her thoughts. Remember, we’re all interconnected, and being aware of different cultures, different people, and what their lives are like can make you a more well-rounded individual. This will also help you understand points of view different from your own.

Surprise People: How good does it feel to make someone smile? It feels pretty good, right? Surprise your loved ones or co-workers now and then, with a gift, a night out on the town, or by offering help when you know they could use it.

Cultivate gratitude: You’ve probably heard it a million times, but keeping a gratitude journal of what you’re thankful for can have a big effect on your mindset. Research has shown that incorporating gratitude into your daily life can help ward off stress, improve sleep, and cultivate more positive social relationships. Anna Hennings, a mental performance coach in sports psychology, recommends using the acronym GIFT to help you identify what you’re grateful for.

Greet everyone you meet: Whether you nod or smile to strangers passing by or say “good morning” to everyone who enters the office, make an effort to acknowledge those around you when you see them, says psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree. In doing so, you might find yourself feeling more present and connected to those around you, even if you don’t have a close relationship with them.

Try a digital detox: Unplugging for even a small amount of time can be beneficial to your well-being. The next time you find yourself with nothing to do, step away from your phone for a few hours. Instead, try going for a walk and connecting with your thoughts.

Use positive self-talk: It’s easy to get caught up in being overly harsh and critical of your perceived failings. This negative, unproductive self-talk can lower our overall motivation, explains Hennings. If you’re constantly telling yourself, you aren’t a good person, for example, it’s hard to find motivation to take steps toward self-improvement. Practice positive self-talk by stating a fact and following up with some optimism.

Practice random acts of kindness: Being kind to others can help give you a sense of purpose and make you feel less isolated. Try doing something nice for someone at random: like complimenting to a stranger, buying lunch for a colleague, sending a card to a friend, making a donation to someone in need.

Eat at least one meal mindfully: When you’re caught up in the middle of a hectic day, it’s tempting to rush through your meal without listening to your body. Mindful eating gives you a chance to check in with both your physical feelings and your emotions. Pick a meal, even if it’s just a sandwich, and take your time eating it.

Get enough sleep: Not feeling fully rested can make you feel grumpy and unproductive throughout the day. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Breathe consciously: Take a moment at the bus stop, in line at the grocery store, or before nodding off to sleep to focus on your breathing. Practicing even a few minutes a day of deep breathing has been shown to jumpstart our body’s relaxation response and regulate stress.

Clean for 30 minutes: The way you feel about your home can influence whether your time there is restorative or stressful. The next time you have a spare 30 minutes, set a timer and tackle some quick household chores that’ll add a little brightness to your day, like cleaning your bathroom mirror, hanging that picture you love but haven’t gotten around to displaying, clearing off your desk.

Forgive yourself and others: Holding on to regret, pain, and resentment hurts others. But it also hurts you. When you feel any of these emotions, it affects your mood and how you treat everyone, including yourself. “Harbouring unforgiveness breads negative thoughts,” says Catherine Jackson, a licensed clinical psychologist and neurotherapist. “Decide to let it go and make a plan to never go to bed angry.”

Engage in self-care: We often think of self-care as manicures and spa treatments (which are all great ways to destress). But according to Jackson, daily self-care goes way beyond pampering. “It’s also about eating well and getting enough nutrition to support your brain and body,” she explains. Similarly, make sure you’re exercising or mindfully moving your body, taking time to connect with others, and having some relaxation or down time for yourself. These don’t need to be time-consuming endeavours. Look for quick 10- or 20-minute pockets of time in your day where you can head outside for a walk or prepare yourself a bowl of fresh fruit. Be kind to yourself: Many of us have the habit of lingering on something that was said to us, replaying it often in our minds. Instead of taking things personally and being self-critical, Jackson recommends offering empathy and understanding to the other person, as well as ourselves. Think of all the ways you make a positive impact to those around you; these don’t have to be grand gestures. Maybe you held the door open for someone carrying some heavy bags. Or started brewing a fresh pot of coffee at work when you noticed it was getting low. If you find you’re still struggling to change your frame of mind, Jackson advises to think of it this way: “Tomorrow is a new day, so if you beat yourself up today about something, let yourself off the hook and start fresh tomorrow.”

Be your own best friend: Try to treat yourself the same way you would a loved one. Would you constantly talk down to your best friend if they had an “off” day and dropped the ball on something? Hopefully not. And you shouldn’t talk to yourself that way, either.

It’s normal to get caught up in trying to become the best version of yourself. But being a better person starts with treating yourself with the same loving kindness as you do others. This means not judging yourself harshly when you fall short of your goals and showing yourself patience and compassion on your bad days. Always keep in mind that there are many ways to become a better person, and those offered here are just a few. Find what feels most joyous and nurturing and try to build them into your daily life.

In building a better you, behavioural change is the process of moving yourself from who you are to who you want to be. Please remember that behaviour change is a process, not a switch. It’s like learning how to play an instrument, or speak a new language. Deciding today to learn the guitar doesn’t mean you’ll wake up to play a song tomorrow. Deciding today to change yourself doesn’t mean tomorrow you’ll wake up and be a different person. But the most important thing is to know that you can use techniques and practice and repetition to get better at changing yourself.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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