4 Simple Changes That Instantly Make You a Better Person
Are you a good person? The answer to this question is almost guaranteed to be yes, and the people who say no are just so tiresome I will pretend they said yes as well, because dealing with that brand of Hot Topic self-loathing isn't in the cards for today. So, we all think we're good people, by and large. But could you be a better person? Now, here, if you say no, you're probably awful. and I won't listen to that, either. Go back to your wife, Kanye.
For much of us, there's wiggle room to be a better person. We can take stock of our lives, what we've done, and say, "Yes, I could have dropped my pants on the bus fewer times than I did," or whatever your personal bugaboo is. And that's good. You should want to be a better person, because why not? You have a finite amount of time in this world, and why not keep trying to do better and be better? And it doesn't even have to be hard. And just think: if everyone tried to be better, everything would be better. Is that ever going to happen? Fuck no, but you can try and make things a tiny bit better, because otherwise you're hanging with those miserable Hot Topic sad sacks again, and who can handle that?
What's the best way to be better? Learn better. That shit's tight. Socrates, noted brainiac and corrupter of boys, once said something along the lines of, "The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing." This more or less means you will never know everything, and being aware that you don't know everything is a good thing. No one likes a cocky know-it-all. So you start from a position of realizing you know jack, and that leaves a lot of room to learn new stuff. That makes you a wiser, more-rounded person, and that's alright.
While most of us can't wait to get the hell out of school and start a sweet life full of microwave burritos and lazy afternoon jack off sessions between episodes of Maury, some of us keep learning even beyond grad school, and it doesn't require a knit cap or thick-rimmed glasses. Self-directed learning can, in fact, be all kinds of awesome.
While school wants you to learn terrible things like how to make change with an abacus and what Robert Frost thought about farmhouses and cow shit, self-directed learning is all about you. For instance, you can learn the electric guitar, which is awesome. You can play it for friends and family at parties, or on the street for strangers, or in a band at clubs and make hundreds of people feel awesome. You could be Slash and play every Guns N' Roses song, and that is literally the best thing a person can do with a guitar. You can do that! I'm going to do that later! Let's do it together!
There's no downside to learning, unless you're just looking into more efficient ways to dispose of bodies that ensures no gang of kids in the woods will find your latest victim. And that's a good thing, too. So even your learned psychosis is kind of a good thing. Face it, learning is aces. Go learn shit.
Maybe this is my own personal handicap, but I can get in negative ruts sometimes that manifest themselves powerfully through the word no.
"Hey, Felix, you want to hit up this party?"
"Hey, Felix, you want to go to this art gallery where you can doodle cartoon characters on the boobs of giggling drunk ladies?"
"Hey, Felix, Susan Sarandon is at the door, and she says she's looking for the greatest motorboat enthusiast this side of Bangkok. What should I tell her?"
Why would I ever do that? Why would you? Sometimes saying no is a product of wallowing in one's own misery -- your boss kept you late at work, and then, on the way out, said you stink like the ballsack of a two-week-old dead hobo. That's mean. And it brings you down. So you want to sit and stew at home. Other times it's just a result of not wanting to leave your comfort zone. For instance, part of me would love to go skydiving, and part of me is deathly afraid of heights. That second part has won out every argument I've had on this topic, ever. Maybe one day I'll jump from a plane like a crazy man, but for now I'm saying no.
Not gonna feast on my soul today, gravity.
Saying yes takes more than just watching a mediocre Jim Carrey movie. It really involves a fundamental change in how you approach life. You say no to so many things, because you want to. Otherwise, you'd say yes. How do you convince yourself to do things you don't want to do? It's hard as shit. But if you have the motivation of wanting to be a better person, you even the playing field of your laziness a little bit.
At this point you ask yourself things like, "What's the harm in saying yes?" or "What has saying no ever got me?" And before you know it, you're calling yourself stupid for missing out on boobs and parachutes and boat trips to a wizard's castle. (Note: Say no to that last one; it's a trick.)
If you're the cynical type, you may still be wondering what the point behind this is, how it would make you a better person anyway, and it's your lucky day, Susie Cynical, because I'll tell you -- saying yes is being positive. It's letting go of negative habits, trying new stuff, meeting new people, and experiencing new tastes or points of view or hobbies or whatever-the-hell. It's not what you say yes to that matters, it's that you let go of the habit of not wanting to change things. That makes you dynamic and flexible and an assorted other words that could be used to describe a gymnast.
A human's capacity for intolerance and hate is probably the weirdest and most useless quality we have. If you can name a thing, you can probably find someone who hates it. But has hate ever really served you well in life? Probably not. To this day you can't get a definitive answer from philosophers or scientists as to why we even have the capacity to hate. Hate is the emotional equivalent of that cousin you only see at family reunions, who never went to college, who still lives at home and seems to grow more and more neck beard each and every time you see him. It's there, and it's gross, but you'd be better off without it.
Being hateful and angry all the time is not going to benefit you at all. In fact, there's evidence it's physically harmful. The old cliche about calming down because you're getting stressed out wasn't just pulled out of some hippie's ass -- it's the real deal. The chronically angry can have stiffer arteries and weakened hearts. Do you want to have a heart attack because you get enraged by Justin Bieber? Or gays getting married? Or women who won't sleep with you just because you think it's your right? Man, fuck that.
"My greatest regret is not dying of autoerotic asphyxiation!"
The best thing you can do for yourself to be better; to be more well-liked; and, as it happens, to be healthier, is just roll with shit. Roll with it. Does gay marriage make your blood boil? First, ask yourself why. And not in some obtuse, bullshit sense where you start citing the sanctity of marriage or the biblical definition. Ask yourself why in the sense that, say, you just got shipwrecked on a deserted island shortly after a nuclear holocaust. Society is over; there's no chance of rescue; and of the six other people on the island with you, two are gay and want to get married before you all die of starvation. Do you still care? If so, congratulations, you are a complete and utter psychopath. If not, if you realize that shit has literally no effect on you whatsoever, then let it go Disney movie style. Stop caring. Stop hating. Kill your heart with tacos and beer like I do; it's a way better trade off.
I know my saying these things can't and won't affect someone's ingrained shitty beliefs; but just imagine if all or even any of the racists in the world took the time to ask themselves what the big deal is, and then just stopped. Wouldn't everything be just so much more peaceful for everyone? More relaxing? If you're spending your days right now getting riled up by black men dating white women or Asian guys in nice cars or Mexican day laborers, imagine how much more time you'd have to play Xbox or take up knitting if you just didn't give a shit like us normal people?
Do Something You've Never Done. Repeat.
Has my positivity left you quivering and damp yet? Well, strap in for the final round, I'm not done. Your quest to become a better person requires one final task -- do that which has never been done. Whoever you are right now is probably good and wonderful in a lot of ways. I would be proud to have a bath with you, I bet. But wouldn't I be more proud, and wouldn't you be, if the two of us did such a thing after taking on a brand new, bold challenge in life? And then our bath can be that next adventure. And tomorrow it will be something new entirely.
There's nothing wrong with living a Fred Flintstone life. You get up, grab the lunch pail, go to work 'til the bird screams, ride that dinosaur's back, come home, eat, shower, sleep, repeat. It is a foundation of stable routine that got the world where it is today, in fact. But there are enough of us in that routine that we can Jenga free pieces every so often and let them explore what else is out there. The man who lived his whole life making fenders in a car factory may surely have interesting stories to tell; but the man, who stopped after two years then went to Bali, then became a political activist, then went shark fishing, and then chased a tornado, has more to tell.
"Hop in, the water's fine. I'll poop your shoes in three days."
If hyper adventure isn't your style, it doesn't matter. You don't need to climb K2 to do new things. Suppose tomorrow you went to a retirement home and volunteered to play a game of cards with some veterans of the Korean war? Or you checked out amateur night at a comedy club and maybe tried your hand at a set? Or you find out there's a local Quidditch team and you try out, because you've had a homemade Harry Potter costume complete with broom in the closet for seven years, and you've never told anyone?
The world is better with you in it, and you are better out in the world. We just lose sight of that because the world wants to condition us to find out place. They ask you in highschool what you want to do for a living, for Christ's sake, what highschool kid knows that for real? They, the big mysterious them, want you to do a thing and pay taxes and own a home and just fit in. Because that's the easiest way to manage so many of us. If we all sit like eggs in cartons, it's more orderly. But you don't have to. No one is even making us. We're just so used to it. We look at these things I'm suggesting as adventures, vacations, and things you do during a mid life crisis or after a head trauma, because they're not normal. Piss on that, though, they're very normal. There are things humans can do, things other people do all the time, so why not you and me? Why do we swim naked under the moonlight and then shoot off fireworks? Why don't we try to ride an ostrich sometime? Why don't we head downtown and make dinner for the homeless, and then feed the ducks by the river and listen to some local theatre company do Shakespeare in the park? Who cares if it sucks, it's not what you did yesterday.
Basically, I want you to live a little. Because the one thing we forget to do in life is live. And you don't want to miss out on it, you really don't. Spend a few moments with a friend or loved one, who knows they don't have much time left, and you'll realize there's so much you'll want to have done when your time comes. The last thing any of us needs when we die is a heap of regrets over what might have been. So start filling that tub, I'm on my way over.