A better person is the person you are not now.
The person that’s kind and successful and get things done. Or maybe that’s not what ‘better person’ means to you. Maybe it means powerful and rich.
‘Better person’ is a vague statement. Even vaguer is the question: How to be a better person?
Still, it’s one that everyone wants an answer to.
You, obviously, since you’re reading this, but me too, and perhaps the dude sitting at the adjacent table at the coffee shop.
To be a better person is why we set goals and build habits. It’s why we push aside distractions and focus on what needs done (or we try at least).
You want to be the best version of yourself. You want to be the best you you can be who lives the best life you can live.
But what does that even mean? How can you be a better person?
Does ‘better person’ have a universal definition that applies to everyone?
What do ‘better people’ do? What do they eat? How do they walk?
There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered before you can just ‘be a better person’.
Being A Better Person Is the Goal. But It’s a Bad Goal.
No matter what your goal is, if you break it down to its core, you’ll find that accomplishing it will help you express your best self.
The habits we set and goals we aim for are how we achieve self-fulfillment.
Not having goals means that you don’t know how to become the better you. You don’t know what the better version of yourself should look like.
“Hold up, Layla. Are you implying I’m not good enough?”
No. I’m saying you’re human. #Perfectly_Imperfect.
As humans, we strive for continuous improvement, seeking perfection we will never reach. It’s the fun part of being human, don’t you think? To pursue a goal, you know you will never reach. It’s an endless game titled “Pursuit of Perfection: Better Human Edition.”
Our goal is to be a better person. And if you’ve read anything else I’ve written you should realize that this is a terrible goal.
It’s not specific. It’s lacking in detail. You’ll never know whether you’ve reached. It has 0 of the 5 elements of a SMART goal.
To walk the path leading to your better self, you need a clear idea of which direction to head.
We’ve found the first question we need answered:
What Does Be a Better Person Mean?
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to becoming a better person.
There are as many definitions of “better you” as there are people. You think being a better person means eliminating world hunger. I think being a better person means actually doing what I said I’d do.
A better person: the person you hope to be in the future AKA the person you are not now.
Albeit a straight-forward question, “What is a better person?” is not easy to answer.
Your interpretation depends on your beliefs, your values and your experiences. It also depends on where you are in life and your self-image.
You need to know how each of those aspects come together in your life to answer effectively.
Here are a few questions that will help you define the better you:
What are your values?
Values are the attributes of the person you want to be. They are what drive your actions.
If you find yourself in a difficult situation, your values are what will guide your next move.
Would you take a promotion knowing someone else is more deserving of it? Would you stand against your family to pursue a conscientious goal?
Your values are part of who you are and they’re don’t change easily.
If you value honesty, you will try to be honest most of the time. When you don’t, you feel untrue to yourself. Guilt weighs over your shoulders and you do what you can to fix the situation, vowing to do better next time.
To be your better self, you must stay true to your values. Keeping them front and center in everything you do.
Pinpoint your most important values by asking yourself these questions:
- What are your top 3 values?
- When do you feel untrue to yourself?
- What value do you think you need to hold dearer?
What are your priorities?
Your to-do list is too long. Your inbox is flooded. You try to fit everything in your schedule, but some tasks just don’t fit no matter which way you turn them.
Your priorities are a filter.
The things you choose to spend time on matter to you. The tasks that didn’t manage to make it into your busy day aren’t priorities whether you want to admit it or not.
You didn’t have time to call Grandma because she’s not a priority. You watched Netflix instead of going to the gym because your downtime is higher up on your priority hierarchy.
In your mind, your priorities may differ. Many people say their families are their #1 priority. But family events are the last item added to their schedule, that is if they are on the schedule at all. It’s easier to say no to a family member than it is to say it to your boss.
I have a YouTube video dedicated to getting your priorities straight. Check it out here.
These two questions will direct your efforts to become your best self. But there’s more to it.
What traits and qualities does your best-self have? What do they do that makes them so great?
I go into detail on how to determine your values, priorities and actions that will create your best self in my course You, Improved: Creating A Self-Image That Brings Your Dreams To Life. Check it out if you want to take the extra step.
Become The Better You
Knowing your better self is the easy part.
Becoming that person is where it gets tricky.
You’ve tried to change before. You’ve tried to crush bad habits and replace them with new ones. You tried and failed to wake up early, eat healthier, finish your to-do list daily, and accomplish what you said you would 3 months ago.
You know you can, you just don’t know how.
You need a roadmap to becoming a better person, and here it is in 5 simple steps.
1) Redesign Your Self-image
I’m sure you’ve heard the quote: You are your worse enemy.
As overused as it may be, it still rings true.
No person can hold you back as strongly as you can. You excel at making excuses to not do the work you know you should. You break promises to yourself and oppose any effort to move forward because the path looks tough.
But that’s not the worse part.
Your enemy (i.e., you) resists growth and change in spite of your knowledge that life will be better on the other side.
Because the person who works hard doesn’t feel like you.
You head down a track you’ve never treaded before and your behavior is different than what you’re used to. You feel lost. You want to turn back the safety of what you’ve always known.
Every time you try to make progress—to act for the better you and against the old you—your subconscious gets anxious. You feel uncomfortable. Your brain comes up with reasons not to do it. You think maybe I should do it later—later being never.
These thoughts weigh you down. It’s like trying to do something while wearing wet clothes. The clothes are heavy making an easy task is 50x harder.
What’s the solution?
How can you assassinate your old self to allow the birth of the new one?
You redraw the image you hold of yourself.
You update your brain’s software so what would’ve felt unfamiliar to your old self feels just right.
I have a 5-module course on how to do that. But I’ll give you a few tips here:
Rewrite your life’s story
We all have a story we tell ourselves about our lives.
You weren’t the most popular kid in school and that has permanently left a mark. Your parents couldn’t afford the good things in life and that’s why you’re broke and living in a rundown apartment.
I don’t mean to undermine the struggles you faced in life. We’ve all been through rough times in life.
But it’s time to change the narrative. Look at your life through a new lens.
Let your past empower you, instead of being an obstacle to your progress.
You had a traumatic childhood. Instead of playing victim, be the hero who thrived despite all odds.
You had everything stacked against you. Don’t use that as an excuse. Let it be proof that you can overcome anything.
Change your perspective & write your story in a way that empowers you.
Let Your Actions Be Your Guide
Something I talk about a lot in the You, Improved course is the role your actions play in shaping your self-image.
If you make small talk with someone and they asked, “What are you?”
You answer with “I’m a writer” or “I’m a software developer.” The first answer that pops in mind is your profession.
You define yourself with what you do the most. This doesn’t only apply to your job, though. If you quit one activity, you can say it doesn’t suit you. But quit many things and you’ll consider yourself a quitter. The next time you don’t want to follow through with something, you’ll justify it by saying, “It doesn’t matter. I’m a quitter anyway.”
Push yourself to act in accordance with the image of the better you. Let that become your new identity.
2) Make The Plan
What and how are the two questions of change.
You’ve answered the what when you contemplated what being a better person means. Now, let’s tackle the how.
You said a better person spends more time with their family.
How do you do that?
- Turn off your phone for an hour a day and sit in the living room with the family.
- Go out every Saturday to do a fun activity.
- Have dinner together every night and talk about your day.
You said a better person doesn’t waste time.
Well, how does that get done?
- Delete social media apps from your phone and replace them with the Medium
- Use a time tracker to find your lost time.
- Make a daily schedule each morning/night, so you don’t waste time thinking, “what should I do now?”
Make a list of actions to take to acquire every characteristic of the person you want to be.
Notice in the examples above, each action also has a time (an hour every day, Saturday, morning/night). When will you do these actions?
Without deciding on a time to do it, your chances of following through are slim. How easy is it to procrastinate if you never told yourself when to do it!
3) Build The Habits
Being a better person isn’t a one-time action.
It’s the person you become by repeatedly performing the actions your better self would.
An action done repeatedly is a habit.
So, in order to become a better person, you need to make the actions you detailed in #3 habits.
They should be part of your routine and, given enough time, part of who you are.
Building habits is a topic of its own. You have to decide on the habit, design a trigger, be consistent with the habit. Sticking to it is the hardest part.
My favorite method to stay consistent with your habits is using microhabits.
Mircohabits are smaller versions of your habits to ensure progress even when it’s hard to keep up.
You can learn more about Microhabits by watching this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YttaTAYXnlc
4) Crush Your Excuses
If there’s one thing that will halt your progress, it’s your excuses.
You don’t have to start today; you can start after your finals.
You can’t work when you’re tired, best to do it tomorrow first thing in the morning… shoot you woke up late. You’re just going to do it when you get back from work.
You don’t see these as excuses though. To you, those statements are inarguable facts.
Crush your excuses by recognizing them for what they are: a way to get out of the work you don’t want to do.
Understand why you make them and use the strategies in my How To Stop Making Excuses post to outsmart your brain and do what needs done.
5) Become The Better You
You know who your better self is, what needs done to become that self, and you know what habits to build to ensure you do.
Without action, it’s all for nothing. You will never become the person you want to be if you don’t do what they would do.
Start today. Design your better self and outline your plan. Remember that the action you take today determines how you are tomorrow.