According to a recent Marist poll, more Americans than ever resolved to be a better person this new year. But what makes someone a good person, exactly? Kate Hanley, the author of How to Be a Better Person, believes it’s in the way someone acts every day. From words of encouragement to asking meaningful questions and making eye contact, Hanley gave us seven basic ways anyone can become a better version of themselves almost immediately. Scroll on to see if you’ve already mastered the items on her list.
1. Write down your personal mission statement. It might feel like going back to the basics, but being a good person means you know what your north star is. “If you don’t know what’s important to you, how will you know that the things you’re spending time on really matter?” Hanley asks. To live your life in the happiest and healthiest way, work to craft a personal mission statement that captures the things you care about the most. “This will be a tool that you can use to inspire you and motivate you to keep going on your most important work. I suggest writing down a list of 5-10 values that matter to you, then weaving them together to form a few sentences or short paragraphs that can guide how you make decisions and spend your time,” she shares.
2. Ask more questions. Hanley reminds us that it’s tempting to try to guess what someone is thinking, but by doing so, we almost never capture the other person’s thought process. “To make sure that you’re connecting with the people you love, continually remind yourself to ask more questions,” she says. Not sure what to ask? She suggests trying something like, “What do you think of that?” or “How are you feeling?,” telling us that the key is actually tuning in to their responses. “This can be harder than it seems,” she explains. “To truly listen, be silent, take a breath, even count to 10 if you need to. The payoff is fewer miscommunications and more understanding — a win-win!”
3. Bless those who bug you. “We all have people in our lives who — for better or worse — drive us crazy,” Hanley says. “It might be your significant other, a coworker, or other drivers on the road; whoever it is, know that they likely aren’t trying to annoy you, but could be triggering something or bumping up against a belief you have about the way the world should work that isn’t true.” According to Hanley, observing what bugs you can be a super valuable exercise. “Your irritation reveals something important about you that you might not have admitted,” she elaborates. “To help cool your frustration and keep you from stewing over their words or actions, silently thank them and bless them for raising your awareness of something in yourself that needs healing.”
4. Choose just one cause you can contribute to. The world can seem so overwhelming that it can cause a sort of paralysis; despite having good intentions, you might not be able to pinpoint where you can make a true difference. However, Hanley says that helping out is a key way to better yourself and your surroundings. “To up your impact without overextending yourself, drill down on the one cause that you feel the strongest about, and then devote whatever resources you have for giving back to that particular cause,” she advises.
5. Learn how to be an empty cup. It might seem strange to focus on being empty when you want to feel fulfilled, but Hanley tells us there’s a superpower in thinking of yourself as a vessel with lots of empty space. “You might think you already know everything you need to know about a certain subject, whether that’s history, yourself, or how to do your job,” she says. “But there’s always more insight, understanding, and skillfulness to be had — you just need a little mental space to let it in.” To be an empty cup, embrace humility. “Imagine your mind as a mug with more room for tea to flow in, and when you hear the words, ‘Yeah, I already knew that,’ come out of your mouth, remind yourself to let in the new point of view,” she offers. “This trick will help you keep developing over your lifetime, and your future self will thank you.”
6. Make peace with your chores. “Doing the dishes isn’t the most pleasurable way you could think of to spend time, and the same goes for laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning toilets,” Hanley admits. “But chores are an inescapable part of life, and resisting them only adds to your own daily suffering.” To have more fun and be a happier human, try to make them as fun as you can. “Listen to music while you clean, make laundry folding a family affair, turn doing the dishes into a meditative practice. And what you truly can’t stand, outsource ‘em. The relief you feel will be worth the money!”
7. Use eye contact to be more empathetic. Eye contact makes a major difference in all types of situations, helping you show that you’re focused on the person you’re trying to connect with. Hanley suggests practicing eye contact whenever you can. “When you have a conversation with someone, look them in the eye,” she advises. “Heck, even when you pass people walking down the sidewalk, or wave another driver to go first at the four-way stop, or pay for your groceries — make eye contact. If you don’t, you might risk forgetting that the person you’re engaging with is a similar, fellow human being. We might not have as many divides in our culture if we could all do this more. When you look someone in the eye, you can open the gates of empathy.”
What do you do each day to be a good person? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.
Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.
(Featured photo via Getty)