6 actions that will make you a better personJanuary 13, 2023 - Updated February 16, 2023
Each day presents a new opportunity to grow. Deciding on becoming a better person begins with self-reflection. It requires commitment. It may even involve exploration beyond your comfort zone. As individuals, what we perceive and understand is limited to our own knowledge and experiences, making it easy to feel complacent. At the end of the day, being a better person is about change. While it may be difficult, it is also extremely rewarding. If you feel ready to begin your journey of self-improvement, here are some helpful guidelines.
1.Practice self-awareness through reflection
Before you can work on self-improvement, it’s important to understand the person you are at this moment, and self-reflection is a great start. Self-reflection includes contemplating and reviewing your choices, thoughts, and actions in order to increase self-awareness. This helps you better understand your feelings, identify good and bad patterns in your behavior, and evaluate your ability to handle various challenges. Some areas in your life that may also be worth reflecting on are relationships, the core values that drive your actions (which can help identify potential cognitive dissonance), life-changing experiences, and any issues that may be occurring in your life. Self-reflection can be uncomfortable and revealing but is an important exercise in self-growth.
Here are 10 questions to guide your self-assessment:
- How am I feeling right now?
- Am I happy with who I am?
- What is most important in my life right now?
- What do I like most about myself?
- Do I give others the respect they deserve?
- Do I give myself the respect I deserve?
- Do I make assumptions about others? Why?
- Is there trauma I’ve experienced that is affecting me?
- How is my attitude daily?
- What do I want from myself?
Daily journaling, meditating, and recording streams of consciousness are also effective habits in increasing self-awareness. You may also find therapeutic benefits in these practices.
2.Set goals for self-improvement
Self-improvement isn’t a quick process – it takes time and energy to become more self-aware and dedicate yourself to making a change. Once you’ve taken the steps to accomplish this, you may notice certain behaviors begin to draw your attention. Perhaps you are carrying anger or guilt that impacts your worldview from an event that occurred some time ago. Or, you might have uncovered the reality that you give so much of your time and energy to others, but don’t spare any time or consideration for your own well-being. So, now what?
First, be proud of acknowledging your flaws. Nobody is perfect, but everybody can try to be better.
Next, it’s time to set goals. Consider what it is you want from yourself, and plan specific actions to take and make it happen. Self-improvement is a journey, so keeping track of long-term and short-term goals will motivate you to commit. Visualizing the change you want to make and how you will feel once it’s implemented is also a good motivation strategy. SMART goals are best for making sure your goals will work best for you. Setting a SMART goal is ensuring that it is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. For example, a SMART goal for self-improvement might look like this:
- I want to let the people I care about know I care about them by practicing better listening skills, including not interrupting, and considering their perspective through empathy. In a month, I will check in with my loved ones to ensure they feel heard and validated after they speak with me.
- To improve my mood and energy over the next year, I will go to the gym for 30-minute cardio sessions 5 times a week, then examine what more I was able to accomplish daily due to this change and how it made me feel.
Getting defensive after making a mistake or being incorrect is a natural protective response that may be hard to overcome, let alone realize we’re doing it at all. At some point or another, everyone has denied responsibility for their actions, blamed it on someone else, or jumped to a combative and defensive position when proved to be in the wrong.
Accepting responsibility requires maturity and the ability to forgive oneself. By accepting responsibility for an action and acknowledging your fault, you can learn from your mistake and make better decisions in the future. There is no shame in making mistakes – but doing so and refusing to properly address it negatively impacts self-esteem and can have a negative effect on your relationships. A good strategy for taking responsibility is to identify what information you lacked before you made a conclusion, admitting this gap in knowledge, and acknowledge how having this information will advise your future endeavors. Remember to be sincere in your apologies, do your best to make things right, and know there is grace in being able to apologize when you are at fault. Accepting responsibility also makes it easier to be forgiven by those who may have been wronged.
Specifically, be honest with yourself. Cognitive dissonance is when your actions do not align with your beliefs or values, which causes mental discomfort and distress. If you find you are unhappy with the decisions you make or things you’re doing, this might be the reason why. Therefore, it’s important to not only be honest with others, but to be honest with yourself. Experiencing this state of mind isn’t always a bad thing, because it can remind us to stay true to our values. But cognitive dissonance is a strong indicator that you’re not doing what is best for your mental health. It helps to evaluate your habits and attitudes, then ask yourself if these behaviors align with your beliefs.
5.Expand your horizons
One of the best things you can do to improve yourself is to be open to outside perspectives and experiences. Some of the best ways to do this can be to explore volunteer opportunities, doing something or going somewhere you wouldn’t normally, benefitting from therapy, or even just reaching for a self-help book. These are especially great if you feel like you’re stagnating or need something different from your routine, or maybe are struggling with being self-aware. The world is full of learning opportunities, so start taking advantage of them! You’ll find that not only do you become a more well-informed, compassionate person, but you will feel more fulfilled and satisfied with your life.
6.Take care of yourself
Just as we exercise patience and understanding toward others, you must do so toward yourself. It’s difficult to face our flaws, and sometimes we set impossible expectations and standards for our behavior. Remember to be kind to yourself and know that practicing self-awareness and improvement is healthy and will benefit every aspect of your life. Here are some things you can do to be gentler with yourself:
- Practice positive self-talk and affirmations:
“I am capable.”
“I understand I have flaws, but I still deserve love and happiness.”
“I am in control of my thoughts, feelings, and emotions.”
- Treat yourself to something you enjoy just for the sake of it.
- Be proud of your decision to actively focus on growing as a person.
If you haven’t read it, an incredible self-improvement book is The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Brandon. This work focuses on and explains the importance of self-esteem, and specifically outlines actions to take to be a happier, more confident person.
Atomic Habits by James Clear is a great guide for forming healthy habits and breaking bad ones. With an outline of practical strategies rooted in scientific research and proven evidence about human behavior, Atomic Habits is a fantastic self-improvement book to help reach your goals.
Trauma is another very difficult aspect of self-improvement that requires our attention. No book can be a replacement for therapy or psychiatric evaluation – however, How to do the Work by Nicole LePera will give you the tools you need to begin to heal. She takes a holistic approach to wellness, considering the importance of mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.