Life is a journey of growth. As we travel life's path ,we evolve through many phases that shape our mindset and interactions with the world.
The changes that take place on this journey determine how happy and prosperous we become in our personal and professional lives.
Of course, becoming a better person happens naturally over time, as our values and beliefs develop with experience and age.
However, there are proven ways to become better, to improve the way we feel and the way others perceive us.
If you want to work on yourself and improve not just your own happiness but that of others around you, start with these 16 ways to become a better person.
1. Stop Making Excuses
We all makes excuses from time to time, but when this behavior becomes habitual it becomes a problem.
It's always easier to apportion blame for your shortcomings elsewhere – be that lack of effort, selfishness, or aggression – than accept that the problem lies with you.
The thing is, continually making excuses rather than taking responsibility really begins to get on the nerves of those around you.
People respect those who make themselves accountable. It's an admirable leadership quality.
But more than that, those who continually make excuses for things like laziness or not listening properly develop a habit of avoiding apology. Because there's an excuse, there's no need to own up and say sorry, right?
As a partner, friend, or work colleague, this personality trait is hugely frustrating and undesirable.
When you stop making excuses and realize that the buck stops with you, you will achieve more in life: you will grow as a person, your relationships will flourish, and you will become a more likeable person.
2. Be More Helpful
This is simple yet hugely powerful. Helping others not only spreads kindness in the world but will make you feel happier, too.
Everyone likes a helpful person, yet all too often we think about offering a hand but don't speak up. I mean, how many times have you thought; “Perhaps that person needs a hand”, and you almost offered but didn't follow through?
I do empathize with this because I know what it's like to lack confidence in speaking up, especially with people you don't know.
But try and make a change today. You'll see that it's win-win: You will bring some joy to someone else and at the same time improve your confidence and feel rewarded by the gift of giving.
Helpful people are valued, liked, and appreciated, and viewed as good people.
3. Be Polite
“Politeness costs nothing”, as my mother always says. It's so true, yet we see so much aggression and self-entitlement in society that seems to be eroding common courtesy.
Make sure you always do the following:
- Say excuse me when you squeeze past someone.
- Hold the door for the person following you outside.
- Give up your seat for an elderly person or mother with a baby on the train or bus.
- Say thank you whenever you're given something.
- Say “please may I” when you'd like to be given something.
Being polite is beneficial for everyone. It feels good when someone speaks nicely to you in a calm, soft, kind voice; and it feels good to share that politeness with someone too.
Politeness is kindness. It is mutually beneficial and has a mirror effect on our lives.
4. Be Honest
Be polite, yes, but be honest, too.
Liars get found out, eventually, and when they do people consider them untrustworthy.
Lies can get you in trouble. You can lose a friend, a job, and your self-respect, too.
Consider how you feel when you've been lied to. You don't want to others to feel that way, so be straight and treat people the way you want to be treated.
Sometimes it's tempting to lie when you feel the truth will offend or hurt someone's feelings. But if you learn to articulate your thoughts and feelings in a polite, gentle manner the blow can be softened.
Here's an example: If your wife has been putting on a lot of weight and you are concerned for her health, would you lie to her when she asks you, for the third time, “Do I look fat in this dress?”
Lying to her won't help address the weight issue, which may lead to illness and great unhappiness later down the line.
It's better to say something like: “The dress looks great, and you look beautiful. But honey, you have put on a fair bit of weight over the last year. I'm quite worried. I mean, I don't want you to develop diabetes or something serious. I'm putting a bit on too. I think we should rethink our diets and start exercising more”.
5. Let Go of Anger, Bitterness & Resentment
I've written a lot about coming to terms with the past and letting go and moving on. It's so important because not doing so stunts your progression in life.
Negativity manifests deeply and can impact your health and happiness. It can make you feel stressed, stop you sleeping properly, affect blood pressure and even make you depressed.
You can't change the past, but the past can dictate your future by limiting your potential to be present and enjoy the blessings in your life.
I do empathize. I hear from so many people who've lived through traumatic experiences: abuse, broken homes, addiction, PTSD, depression, the list goes on. But you can make a change.
Reach out and get the help you need. There are so many therapies available that can help, from yoga and meditation to mindfulness, trauma therapy, and counseling.
The past is a heavy burden to carry. You must let it go.
6. Practice Forgiveness
Forgiveness is the way to release yourself from past trauma and the mental suffering it creates.
You will often hear victims of abuse, or those who've lost loved ones to terrible crimes, speak of reaching a point of forgiveness for the perpetrator. They speak of the empowerment of forgiveness.
This is because hate ties you to the perpetrator and makes you a victim too.
The hate and the anger prevent healing and root you to the place in time that the event took place. This means you can't move on, you can't properly grieve, you can't enjoy the good memories.
Similarly, you must forgive yourself. At the end of the day you are human. You make mistakes. You aren't the same person you were yesterday let alone ten or twenty years ago.
Be sorry for your sins and forgive yourself. Make amends for the past by being kind and compassionate towards others in the present.
Allow yourself to be forgiven through acts of good, rather than punishing yourself for that which you cannot change.
Practicing forgiveness in yourself and others will make you a happier, better person.
7. Give Gratitude (Every Day)
I endeavor to do this every day because it's so powerful in fighting unhelpful thoughts.
Whenever you find yourself feeling despondent at what you don't have, at your lack of (perceived) success, or at the privilege of others, take a moment to be grateful for the blessings in your life, no matter how small.
This could be your kid(s), your partner, a friend(s), the fact that you have good food to eat, heating in the winter, a garden, a job. These things are blessings to behold.
But wait…There's something people often miss when they consider gratitude: freedom, and the opportunity it brings.
I always think about those in prison, those struggling with illness, those living under oppressive regimes. Such people would most likely swap your life for theirs in a heartbeat simply because, despite maybe not having much, you have the freedom to create opportunity.
That freedom can help you pursue your dreams, partake in your hobbies, find a partner, meet new people, get a better job, or simply walk in the park among nature.
A state of gratitude brings with it contentment, which brings feelings of happiness and the ability to live more in the present moment.
8. Compliment Yourself
We spend way too much time focussing on our perceived flaws and failures. Even the most genetically gifted among us will find the smallest blemish to criticize, and even the most talented will spend time ruing what they can't do well.
Don't get caught up in negative self-talk. Instead, focus on the positive things and compliment yourself on a daily basis.
Remark that you look good in your work outfit. Congratulate yourself for passing that exam. Smile at your new haircut in the mirror. Give yourself a wink at the fact that you have a new romantic interest. Say out loud;”I am a beautiful, capable person”.
Positive self-talk creates higher self-esteem and confidence, and this is infectious. Others will pick up on this positive energy and, as a result, your life performance will improve, your happiness will escalate, and opportunities will open up.
This is part of the law of attraction.
9. Listen More
Some of us find it very easy to talk. I am one of those people.
I am pretty good at giving advice because I've been on so many sides of the fence in my life. Indeed, growing up, friends would often seek my advice on personal circumstances.
So I got used to sharing my thoughts and having other people listen and value my advice. But as I got older the dynamic changed; because through life experience those around me became more sure of themselves had more to say and share.
This is where conversations can become a battle of opinions – two people just waiting to jump in at the next break in a sentence to share their next thought.
Over time I learned to listen more. I also learned to pose questions rather than giving advice, which in turn allows people to explore their own minds through those questions. You'll notice I do this when I write posts on this website. I often directly ask you a question, so that you might pause for thought.
No one wants to be spoken at and dominated in a conversation. We all know someone who rabbits on in a monologue and never seems to listen. indeed, some people have a horrible habit of twisting every conversation around to make it about them.
Part of becoming a better person is knowing when to listen more and speak less. Strike a balance between sharing your experiences and opinions and encouraging others to speak and share theirs, while you listen and try to understand.
10. Be Respectful to Others
Do to others as I would that they should do to me – Plato
Right down to the simplest things like dropping litter, making noise in the street late at night, parking your car in an illegal spot, or walking into someone's house with your shoes on, consider the feelings of others in all your actions.
Society is set up to promote individualism: your education, your career, your success, your money, your family. It's all me, me, me.
But we are living this experience together, in our communities, on this planet. Small acts of respect in our daily interactions help create a caring culture of kindness.
Be a better person by being respectful of other people's property, time, thoughts, and feelings.
11. Always Bring a Gift
We all know a person that always brings a gift with them. Whenever they come over to your house they bring flowers, chocolates, a nice candle, or a toy for your kid.
Such people are always remembered for not just their generosity but for their thoughtfulness.
They enjoy the gift of giving and they don't expect anything in return. It is the sign of a good-hearted person.
Gifts don't need to cost a lot, either, it really is the thought that counts. It shows the recipient that you appreciate them and value their friendship.
Being a “giving person” will make you a happier person. You are sharing your wealth, however small, with others and bringing light to their lives.
12. Educate Yourself (Become More Worldly)
The word ‘education’ is synonymous with school, and many of us see education as something we leave behind once college is finished.
However, the reality is that a Post Graduate Degree or Masters doesn't make you well-educated or worldly but rather gives you a solid understanding in a particular subject.
Education is on-going. It is part of our personal development along the pathway to becoming a better person.
A better understanding of the world helps us better understand others. It helps us overcome a reliance on stereotypes to make judgements, and helps us better understand the human condition that we all suffer from.
You can educate yourself through reading books, watching documentaries, traveling, or simply by asking questions of family, friends, and new people you meet. Be inquisitive and develop a truth-seeking mindset.
Worldly, interesting people attract like-minded people. You will become an asset to others because of your knowledge, and an appealing person to be around.
Humans are social beings. We love to talk, so make sure you have plenty to say and share.
13. Be Open to Change
Change is nature's delight – Marcus Aurelius
It's easy to get stuck in familiar life routines because it feels secure: living in the same area we grew up in, keeping the same job – even though we don't really like it anymore – mixing in the same friendship circle (even though we've grown out of it).
But personal growth comes through exploration. Change brings new experiences that teach us new things about ourselves and others, which links in to the point above about education.
Change brings with it opportunity and excitement, it re-energizes the soul and makes us feel like we're moving on to bigger and better things. This is important for us humans because we are innovators; we are always creating and progressing.
So try something new. Book a holiday to a country you've never been to before, take up a new hobby, turn off the TV and go running instead, or make that career change you've been thinking about for years.
Become a better version of yourself through change.
14. Be the Change You Want to See in the World
Actions speak louder than words, which is why you should inspire through action and show others what it means to be a good person.
Telling people how to live their lives is usually wasted energy. This is because no one likes being told what to do.
However, leading by example and showing people how to create a better, happier, kinder world will create a ripple effect of inspiration.
If people are inspired by your actions they will be attracted to you. They will be motivated to follow your lead. Remember that positivity is contagious.
15. Don’t Always Make It About the Money
Money does make the world go round, unfortunately. But so does love and kindness.
Yes, by all means pursue a lucrative career, be frugal where necessary, and feel good about buying yourself a treat now and again.
But don't make money your whole life. You can't take it with you, and it sure doesn't make you happy – though it's true that it can open a lot of doors!
Just be sure you give an abundance of your time to friends and family. Money can't buy time and you'll never get back the moment you're living now.
Find a point of contentment where you feel that having less than you have now wouldn't make you an unhappier person. It's important to do so because when happiness is dependent on money it is temporary and fragile.
You don't have to make a buck out of everything, either. Give away old stuff to charity shops, share vegetables you've grown with neighbors, give away your kid's old (but nearly-new) clothes to someone having a baby.
Sharing is caring, and sometimes, even when there's a few bucks to be made, giving is far more rewarding.
16. Be Yourself
I left this until last because it's the icing on the cake to achieving all of the above and becoming a better person.
While life is a continual journey of discovery and it takes time to understand “you”, we also know when we aren't being true to ourselves.
We know when we are acting out of character trying to fit in with others or appease a particular narrative that we are expected to align with.
It's important not to do this.
We must align ourselves with our core values and create personal boundaries that reflect the things we believe in and stand for. This helps us focus on what's important to us and gives us direction in life.
You may have heard the saying; “If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything”.
There's a lot of truth in that, and it's the reason so many people stray down negative paths and are swayed towards behaviors that don't reflect their true selves.
We are of course different people at different points in our lives, but being true to yourself at the time will help others identify with you and respect you, even if they are not entirely on the same page.
This is because humans have a good radar for those playing a role, those acting out of character, or being fake, one might say.
You may know someone who acts “over the top”. Perhaps someone who is always making a joke out of everything – even when it is inappropriate – or perhaps someone who is overly nice to people but seems to gossip a lot behind people's backs.
“Faking it” isn't an attractive quality because it makes a person seem untrustworthy and possibly unstable. We humans are drawn to stable, warm, confident people that we can trust.
So establish who you are. Be clear on your values and set out your boundaries. These will naturally evolve over time, and that's fine; just try and be yourself in this moment.
I know this isn't easy because so many of us don't really know who we are, and we're not entirely happy with who we think we are either. But that's for another post…