Every day we have a chance to be better human beings than we were yesterday. Yet, how does one become truly good to themselves and others? How do we recognize and define goodness? And, finally, what qualifies as a good deed?
This pondering is a life-long process, a journey of self-discovery, growth and self-improvement. Goodness begins with love and kindness; continues as compassion, generosity of spirit and consideration; and lives in the intentions behind our actions. As the best-selling author Sheryl Strayed explains, it’s an act of being and doing. Yet, as challenging and complicated as being good might feel, simple acts of kindness have the power to guide us in the right direction. In this article, we explore different paths to getting better at being good.
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou
Cultivate Your Algorithm
First, look within. Your attitude and line of thought ensure that you bring the best of you into everything you do, including being a good person. What you focus your mind on and how you see your life determines what you are going to manifest into the world. A brilliant metaphor here is a social media algorithm. What happens when you look at beautiful places around the world or read motivating posts on Instagram for 15 minutes? The platform will tune into your interest and start showing you what it thinks you want to see. Your mindset is your inner algorithm and it will keep you focused on what you encode in it.
Take It Step By Step
Here is a kind reminder: you don’t have to wait for the right moment or even see the whole staircase before you take the first step. Being good is not a sprint, it’s a lifestyle. Check in with those you care about on a regular basis. Help out an elderly neighbor with grocery shopping. Donate your time to people in need, or let someone go in front of you in line when they’re in a hurry. Bring your friends fresh cut flowers to cheer them up, or simply smile at a complete stranger on the street. Every small act of kindness can bring you closer to living a fulfilling life of purpose.
Use Magic Words
Paying mindful attention to the words you use shows your respect for others. Positive language and good manners cost nothing, but can make a tremendous difference to how you and those around you feel and view the world. Brighten up somebody’s day by giving them a compliment, it will improve their mood and, potentially, their self-esteem. Remember people’s names (say them out loud to retain them better) and details about their life such as their favorite ice-cream flavor or what they have been into lately – this kind of attention makes people feel seen. Engaging in the conversation and being a mindful listener demonstrates that you genuinely care about your interlocutor. Being good means showing sincere interest in others.
Express Gratitude and Appreciation
The time is always right to tell someone that you love and appreciate them. Be specific and speak from the heart. Is there something you are particularly grateful for in your relationship? Articulate it to discover how expressing gratitude deepens your connection. This is the simplest way to be good to people who matter most in your life – your spouse, your children, your friends, but also coworkers, mentors and the lovely waitress in your favorite brunch spot who always smiles when you greet her. Appreciate people around you and you’re halfway there in your journey to greatness.
Be Fully Present With Others
Give somebody the gift of your time and attention. Whenever someone you care about needs your help, advice, encouragement, or simply your company – be there for them fully, without distractions, present in the moment and willing to completely focus on the other person. You do not need to solve all their problems and be a superhero, simply seek to understand and support. Sometimes sitting with someone in silence is more than enough for them to feel better. That alone is a good deed.
Try On Somebody Else’s Shoes
Empathy and consideration are probably one of the most important milestones on your road to goodness. Being able to understand the reasons for somebody’s behavior will significantly shift the trajectory of your interactions with them. If emotional intelligence isn’t your strongest suit, it matters if you simply make an attempt to imagine yourself in the other person’s position. Reflect on who they are, what they’ve been through and how all that might have shaped them. You don’t need to feel it yourself, try to understand it on a logical level. Effort makes you a better person.
Understand (The Lack Of) Compassion
Speaking of empathy, it is tightly tied to compassion. Compassion is an inherent trait and needs certain conditions to be activated. For this reason, one of the challenges of being good is understanding that an uncompassionate person might be this way for reasons outside of their control. Their environment in the formative years, their upbringing, or a set of less fortunate events later in life might all contribute to somebody becoming reserved and distant. Being good is mustering even more compassion towards people who suffered a bit too much.
Be Patient To Forgive
Buddhists believe that you need to have a strong back and a soft front. A strong back will not let the uncompassionate people turn you into one of their own, and a soft front will help you understand why they keep trying. Yet, if someone manages to hurt you despite your strong back, be patient with yourself because, as much as being good means to forgive and let go, it takes time and willpower.
Find Harmony and Compromise
Being good requires admitting when we’re wrong, having difficult conversations, investing time and energy into grasping somebody else’s point of view with respect, as well as resolving conflicts and misunderstandings with the growth mindset. Being good means living in harmony with other people, finding compromise and a unique approach to their communication style and mindset.
Honesty is being truthful and fair, it’s integrity and trustworthiness. At times, it might feel complicated because what if telling the truth puts someone we care about in distress? Yet, when motivated by good intentions, honesty will always be the best policy as it makes you a reliable and caring person. Keep in mind that being honest involves actively living your own truth, too. When you are honest with yourself, when you feel connected and aligned with your core values, you manifest it to others.
Be Kind To Yourself
Being a good person means loving others, yet you first need to love yourself. There is no way around it. In order to be good, do good and spread love, you need to treat yourself with kindness, care and understanding. Your peace of mind, physical and mental wellbeing, and happiness are equally important in your journey to greatness. As Marcus Aurelius said, “He who lives in harmony with himself, lives in harmony with the universe”. Be good to yourself.
What Goes Around, Comes Around
When you are a good person, love comes back to you. What you give, you get. Listen to yourself, go inward, we believe people are naturally wired to be good if they have the courage to live according to their own rules. Be warm-hearted and make a difference in someone’s life, even if it’s the smallest act of kindness. One way or another, everything we do matters and has an impact in the world.
Nobody is 100% good or 100% bad. What matters is that you work on becoming better every day. It’s a never-ending process and if you want to be a genuinely good person, you should remain a work in progress in perpetuity, and remember that every single deed, big or small, has significant meaning.