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Three Lessons for Being a Better Human

Three Lessons for Being a Better Person

One of the great benefits of consistent reflection is that it serves as a change log, allowing you to witness the evolution of the texture of your mind and character over time. Lately, I've been thinking about the lessons I've learned that I believe have made me a better person.

Lesson 1: Everything Has a Cost—What Price Are You Willing to Pay?

No matter how much we might wish otherwise, life doesn't offer the luxury of A/B testing. Every choice made comes at the cost of forsaking an alternative path—a journey never embarked upon. Thus, every action (or inaction) carries an opportunity cost.

I've learned the importance of saying 'no.' While it might close one door, it paradoxically opens up the capacity to focus on what truly matters. The psychology behind calendar management is a funny one. I often found myself agreeing to commitments months in advance, seduced by an empty calendar and a ‘yes man’ attitude. However, as the date approached, I'd berate myself, wishing I'd never committed. A recent strategy I've adopted is to consider if I'd agree to the commitment if it were happening tomorrow. Unless it's a resounding yes, I now opt not to commit, preserving my time for relationships, hobbies, and my primary mission.

Although I occasionally experience FOMO, I don't feel run down and believe I'm more present and effective when I do commit to something. Life, of course, continues to happen. Sometimes bringing unmissable plans that, like buses, all arrive at once. Ironically, now is one of those times, and thankfully, the plans have been well worth the energy.

Lesson 2: You Don't Need an Opinion on Everything

One thing I realised I had was strongly held opinions which I was willing to die on a hill for. Entrenched in a single minded stubbornness, happy to debate and conflict with others.

Then I did a bunch of reflection, as someone who created a journal would do, and I realised I was a fool. My opinions frequently concerned topics I had little interest in or knowledge about. Often, I was merely echoing someone else's thoughts that I had adopted as my own.

What did this mean? It showed that I was too preoccupied with defending my beliefs to listen, ask questions, or engage in critical thinking. I wasn't open to understanding others' perspectives or evaluating the validity of their (or my) arguments.

With age and reflection I have been able to see more of the shades of grey in between the black and white. I try to have the theory of mind, and even if I thoroughly disagree with someone, I have found it more helpful to ask questions to try and understand their perspective rather than trying to convince them of my way of thinking. Hopefully, I will be more pleasant to be around.

Ending my days by noting what I've learned and advising my future self has facilitated this self-awareness. Through consistent practice and persistence, I've seen improvement and I am generally less full of shit now these days.

Lesson 3: The Power of Identity

In 2017, I quit smoking and haven't touched a cigarette since, thanks to a cold turkey approach to nicotine. This success was largely due to how I perceived my identity: not as someone attempting to quit smoking but as a non-smoker, fundamentally opposed to smoking.

It wasn't until I observed significant transformations in friends who underwent similar identity shifts that I recognised the powerful impact of identity as a tool.

If you view yourself as a runner, you make decisions a runner would make. Running isn't a punishment; it's a reward. Faced with dietary choices or the option of a late-night partying, you're inclined to select options beneficial to your running because that's what runners do. Aligning actions with your identity simplifies making the right choices and resisting temptations.

By clarifying your main mission or goal for this season of life and integrating it into your identity, you'll find guidance through difficult decisions and maintain consistent action towards your goals. Aligning your actions with your virtues enhances the enjoyment of the process.

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