How does one become better? How do you become a better person? How do you change yourself?
Is it even possible? You are a person derived from previous experiences and your own DNA. Those experiences and that DNA cannot be changed. So how do you do it?
Does it have to come from without? Does it have to come from external forces?
You think you’re changed when you distance yourself from your mistakes but if you simply return to your worse self eventually, have you really changed at all? Is it a misstep or the continuation of a failing pattern of behavior? Another nail in the coffin of the very idea that you can change…bad habits, attitude, personality…
We change, but do we?
We strive to be better but fall back into old habits, worse ways. Why?
Our brains are so powerful, yet with little agency it seems, pre-programmed from genes and early experiences before we know true choices and free will.
In the midst of this, how do we change?
First, I believe, we must remember. Remember the need, the problem, the issue, the core failing within us which we are attempting to rectify.
As time passes, it is easy to forget, to become complacent which is the danger. Complacency begets false confidence begets the old failures/actions of the past.
It’s why A.A. states “One day at a time.” You have to constantly remind yourself of why you want to change, the reasons, your past mistakes. One reason AA works is because they accept they are always recovering. Once you think you’re cured, you’ve lost. Though I’m not speaking specifically about alcoholism, there are lessons from AA to learn from if you want to become a better person. If you want to try to stop returning to difficult behaviors that affect your life. Stopping anything that’s become a pattern is difficult. Your brain becomes wired a certain way and it may always be that way. That’s why you must consciously be mindful about yourself, about what you want to change and why. Once your conscious self forgets, your brains pre-wiring takes over and the behavior repeats.
I’m no expert on this shit, I’m just some guy trying to be a better version of himself, thinking and writing about it. I’ve found keeping a journal is absolutely crucial, even if you don’t write daily. Keeping a regular accounting of yourself is important to remind yourself of your goals, your progress toward being a better you, and your feelings about the process. Even if its just a checklist you check off every day, it helps. Tracking progress is a good strategy towards achieving goals in any situation, be it work, school or life. If you want to a better you, write down some goals, how you want to change. Figure out what steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Then, start keeping track. It will help and the most progress you make, the better you’ll feel about yourself and honestly, that’s the most important thing.
What have I changed? Small things. I’ve begun flossing 5-6 days a week. How? I simply added the habit to brushing teeth. Every night after I brush my teeth, I floss, then I use mouthwash. It’s become routine. It’s my most successful change so far. How else? I’ve begun meditating almost daily. Only for five minutes a time but still, it improves my mood, calms me down and when I do it in the morning, gets me ready for the day. I’ve also begun exercising every day, even if its just some push-ups and sit-ups. It’s easy to start small and establishing a habit is difficult but that’s what you have to do if you want to change something. Establish a habit, a routine. I jot down notes in my journal daily, keeping track. When I mess up, I write down what may have triggered me, what messed me up, and what I can do differently next time to succeed. It’s all small things but every change starts out small. Not only are all these things positive but the simple act of improving my day-to-day life severely improves my mood. I can feel good about life and the decisions I make because I’m thinking mindfully about those choices and things I can do to make myself a better person. It’s selfish, really. Being better makes myself feel better. It’s why we always make those new years resolutions, right? But they rarely pan out. We forget, we lose track, we lose motivation. You need constant vigilance. You need to remember every day what you’re working towards and why. One day at a time. Habit becomes routine, routine becomes simply who you are as a person. It has helped me enjoy life more.