Every single one of us has made mistakes in life that haven’t shown us in the best light. When we reflect on them, they make us shudder with embarrassment and guilt.
In my lifetime, I’ve made more than I can count. It’s part of growing up. But one, in particular, is etched in my memory. After some underage drinking, none of us were willing to go back to our own homes in fear of repercussions. So, in a panic, we called our friend who had the thing we needed so badly at that moment: parents who didn’t give a shit if we were drinking or not.
He point-blank refused.
His decision left us only one option; to walk, in the freezing Scottish cold, at god knows what time in the morning, along a motorway, in the pitch black, to one of the friend’s houses. Once we got there — and it’s a miracle we did — we would have to creep around like our lives depended on it, and pray we could escape again in the morning before being caught.
However, sneaking into my friend’s house and tip-toeing around like a burglar, wasted on cheap alcohol, wasn’t even the worst part. As we endured the walk home, I had gone to town on my friend, who had “let us down.” I said a lot of horrible and stupid shit about him.
The kicker? I had somehow called him in my pocket, and he heard every damn word.
In that moment, I destroyed our friendship. Today, it doesn’t exist at all.
I still think about that night. It was a rock-bottom moment for me. I make mistakes to this day, but they are more genuine now and don’t have poor intentions behind them.
I’ve made great strides to ensure I treat anyone or anything like that again. I only wish they taught you this stuff in school because I’ve had to learn the following ways to be a good person in life the hard way.
It Starts With Being a Good Person to Yourself
Throughout my life, I’ve always been tough on myself. If I make mistakes, I sit with them, and continuously rerun them in my mind, letting my emotions get the better of me, which in turn only makes me unhappier.
It’s taken me a long time to understand that, if you want to be a better person, it starts with being better to yourself.
Ask yourself this simple question. How can you attempt to become a better person around others if you aren’t happy with yourself?
To increase your self-happiness, you need to focus on improving your positive self-talk. You have to confront that little voice that tells you that you’re not good enough head-on.
It’s a simple theory; if you keep telling yourself you’re sad, you’ll be sad. If you keep telling yourself you’re angry, you’ll be angry. And so, if you keep telling yourself that you’re happy……?
Yup, you guessed it.
It Starts With Listening to Others
When I was younger, every single school report card always included the same note for improvement — “Unfortunately, Stephen talks too much.”
While talking a lot isn’t too big a problem, it does cause issues when you’re the person who talks so much that no one else gets heard. When I was in a conversation, I was always determined to get in the last word, and I used my sexy Scottish monotone voice to drown out the others.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize this is a huge character flaw. You gain nothing from dominating a conversation when you refuse to listen to the opinions of others, and no matter how much you think people want to listen to you, they likely don’t.
These days, I’m using conversations as a tool for learning and expanding my perspective. There’s no mad science behind this; it’s simply because I listen more than I speak now.
What’s more, giving people time to air their opinions is a sign of someone who actually cares about others. I understand now that this is a true sign of a good human being.
It Starts With One Small Thing
The simplest way to start becoming a better person is to start with really small gestures.
To do this, it only requires you to use your brain for something that isn’t self-centered for a few minutes a day, and become more observant. Take the pandemic for the example — it’s a perfect time to start. Is your neighbor shielding? Check in on them and offer them help. Could you donate money to a good cause? Could you give to charity, or support a small business in need?
The small gestures add up, and the compounding effects are huge. Not only do you start to develop a positive reputation, but it also boosts your self-confidence.
If the small things approach isn’t doing it for you, go for something bigger. Perhaps you could save a life by donating blood? Maybe you volunteer for a service in need? Or you could pay for a goat for someone in a third world country who would really appreciate a nice gesture.
Maybe there’s a reason school never taught me how to be a good person; it’s something you have to figure out yourself. The good news is that it’s all in your control.
It’s about choosing to be a better person. It’s about embracing the mistakes of your past, present, and future, learning to reflect upon them, and extracting the lessons.
By implementing these pointers, you can take steps to become a good person in life, starting today.