100 Ways To Improve Ourselves (and Inspire Others) - Timothy Baril
by Timothy Baril Life is an adventure in which we never stop growing. Well, we shouldn’t, but unfortunately, a lot of people do stop growing, or at least slow down considerably. Many of us get the wrong idea that the only time we really develop is in our school years, and the first short period of becoming ‘grown up’ in our early twenties. We spend almost the first two decades of life sheltered and forced to sit in front of chalkboards and TVs, taking in all sorts of information about the world and people, but getting little chance to see life itself in action. Once we hit some arbitrary age of majority, 18 or 21, we are finally rubber stamped with adult status and think the hard part is over. Enough hitting the books, it’s time to go put that stuff we learned into practice. These are the fun years of early adulthood. The glory days when we’ll do things that we’ll turn into stories we tell over and over again until we’re old and gray. College/university, our first jobs, our first forays into identity and sexuality. We drink too much, dream big, break the rules and for the first time we really get to enjoy life on our terms. It’s a time when we make mistakes and not only forgive ourselves for them, but relish those blunders and laugh along with our friends over them. What’s all this mess really about? Real Learning. It’s the experimentation and collection of real hands-on data that throws half of what we were spoon-fed in school out the window, verifies the other half, and provides us with knowledge that is actually useful. It’s the first time we shake hands with ‘reality’. And it’s a good period. For those of us who make the most of it, we really flesh out as people and start to gain our own strength and wisdom. But after a few years, it’s time for ‘careers’ and ‘families’. Time to ‘get serious’. We settle into routines which quickly develop into dry ruts. We don’t try so many new things any more. We don’t challenge ourselves to see what we’re made of because we’re too busy being frightened of losing the jobs we so desperately need in order to maintain respect from our peers, for our status, for putting food on the table for our loved ones, for paying all the gigantic bills we’ve accumulated. Life becomes the ‘daily grind’. “Sorry, too busy with my head down getting the routine done. Don’t have time to think about what I’m doing or why.” Learning slows down, even stops. We’re not creating the catalysts for real improvement because not enough changes in our lives. Sure, having a family presents challenges and spurs growth. But it’s not enough. We’re missing out on so many opportunities that could not only benefit ourselves, but which we could also reinvest in our marriage and children. There’s no limit to how strong and wise we can become, and no limit to how beneficial that is for everyone. But, sadly, because we don’t stop to think about what’s going on, we’re missing out. For many people, the years are now going to start drifting by. And the older we get, the faster time flies. Where did those last five years go? How did I gain ten kilos? When did my kids start being old enough to date? Since when did hair start growing HERE? What do you mean I need to start wearing diapers again? I thought I was done with those forever! We’re blindsided. Because we put ourselves on autopilot and stopped being in charge of how we’re living. The danger in doing that is that being on autopilot means we’re only going forward at the same level, the same speed, the same direction. We’re not growing. Without course corrections, we’re at the mercy of the winds and without realizing it, we may have plotted ourselves on course to crash and we won’t realize it until tragedy happens. Until the divorce hits. Until the heart attack. Until our kids have not only stopped loving us, but now won’t even speak to us. Until we realize there’s not a single delicious drop of coffee left in the whole house and now how the hell are we going to make our desperately needed morning caffeine in order to keep from becoming a total brain-dead zombie for the next four hours. What are we going to do now? What if we filter the empty packaging? Is chewing on yesterday’s grinds too desperate? If only we’d been more proactive, this murder-inducing coffee shortage never would have happened. “If I show up on the evening news tonight for whatever reason, it’s not my fault. The lack of coffee made me do it!” Autopilot means we’re not working towards our potential. We’re not being the best example we can be to our peers and families. When people see us on autopilot, not getting around to reducing our cholesterol, not getting around to painting the house, not getting around to learning how to communicate emotionally with our spouse, then they learn to be the same way. Human-monkey see, human-monkey do. That’s how culture happens. Culture is defined as the decisions we all generally make in our group. And right now, a lot of us are encouraging a culture of living on autopilot, cruising along well below our potential, and missing out on all kinds of benefits. How long until we all have a collective heart attack? How long until we’re all pulling yesterday’s coffee out of the trash, giving it a cursory rinse in the sink and then running it through the coffee machine again, hoping the grounds haven’t absorbed the myriad of week old decomposing flavours from the garbage? Look in the mirror. Wouldn’t it be great to feel less shitty sometimes? Wouldn’t it be nice like to look younger? To feel more energetic? To feel happier? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a better relationship with our spouse, our kids, our friends, our coworkers? Wouldn’t it be awesome if people looked at us with happy wonder in their eyes and said “You’re my hero (heroine).” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go through life feeling like a sex god/dess, be a bastion of wisdom for others to call on, and feel like an appreciated pillar of society? You can. We all can. Because who we are is a result of the decisions we make. Who we are can always be improved. It’s up to us. We have the power. Not the power of Grayskull, but the power of choice. No one else can force us to become anything. It doesn’t matter how boring or bad we’ve been in the past, the past doesn’t determine our future. The future is an open book and we’re the authors. We can write ourselves to become as great as we want. Our identity is a matter of our own choices. Self improvement isn’t as difficult as it might feel sometimes. Step 1 – Want to improve. Step 2 – Believe improvement is possible for ourself. Step 3 – Take action. Learn about the choices we make, and learn if better choices are possible. Step 4 – Make better decisions based on our research. Step 5 – Celebrate, review and move on. This is an ongoing process that never stops, and the more we invest into it, the greater the results. It’s the same thing we did become adults for the first time and it’s a process we should consciously focus on for a lifetime. The rewards are a better us, and a better society. So, to help, here’s a list of 100 ways to improve. No need to tackle them all at once. Bookmark the list for future reference. Pick out the ones that seem easiest and the most practical to take care of first. As these become good habits, pick new things out of the list and try those too. Don’t forget to ‘sharpen the saw’ by going back periodically to check that we’re still making the improvements we tried earlier. That’s the course correction we need to stay on track even when life tries to push us off course. For an excellent book to help us improve our life and see things in a better way, read [amazon text=Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of High Effective People&asin=B00GOZV3TM]. It’s brilliant. [amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00GOZV3TM] 100 Ways To Improve Ourselves (and Inspire Others) Get enough sleep. Sleep flushes toxins from our brain and dreams are the result of processing information into long term memory. Drink a lot of water. Hydration helps the body work more effectively. This also helps with maintaining a healthy weight. Eat vegetables. Lots and lots. We can eat as many as we want. But we have to get a variety for best results. Read. Everything we can. But seek out authors who produce wiser words. Reading is exercise for the brain. Do math. Numeracy helps prevent the brain from manipulation, which means all those ads we see do us less harm. Smile often. When the brain registers a smile on our face, it actually releases chemicals that improve our mood. Touch others. Shake hands, hug, put an arm around someone’s shoulder. Touch reinforces trust. Don’t be shy. Get active. Regularly. We may have to start out small if we’re in bad shape, but we should always be challenging ourselves. Regular exercise is the single best way to maintain good health. It reduces illness, prevents injury while allowing more activity, keeps us looking younger, makes us feel happier, reduces stress, increases sex drive and more. Physical activity is a foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Put the toilet seat down. They’ve done the math. If the number of men in a house is equal or less than the number of women, we should be putting it down for math reason alone. And because men should strive to be gentlemen, we should be putting it down all the time anyway. Wash our hands. Clean up after ourselves. Made a mess cooking? Clean up the kitchen. Dropped something on the ground? Clean it up. Shaved? Rinse out the sink. Stop being selfish. Selfish behaviour creates all of our social ills. That’s not to say that we should ignore our own needs, but everything we do should be done with the understanding that every little action we take affects everyone around us. Positive actions create a positive society. Believe in ourselves. Believe in others. Become fashionable. We can choose any look we like, we can change it daily, but putting effort into our appearance affects our self confidence, affects the way others treat us, and makes us attractive to our mates. Girls: learn to love skirts and heels. Guys: wear jackets and suits sometimes on regular days. Looking good is not just for weddings and funerals. Get our hair done by a professional, and learn to style it. Put enthusiasm into everything. There’s no award for being ‘too cool’ to get into something. Everyone’s a lot happier when they aren’t holding back. Say no to guns. It’s an instrument specifically designed to kill humans. They do not help humanity in any way, but they sure cause a lot of problems. Drink less alcohol. It’s full of sugar, it’s a poison and drinking too much is unhealthy. Never drink and drive. One drink is too many. Take a cab or call someone. Challenge a fear. Very few fears are innate, like being afraid of spiders and snakes. Almost all are learned. The only way to stop being afraid of anything is to challenge that fear. The rewards are incredible empowering. Learn a second language. While English is a great international language, being able to speak something else opens up new opportunities, allows us to enjoy all kinds of new people and art and entertainment. Whether we’re travelling or connecting with new people in our area, nothing puts a smile on someone’s face like hearing their...
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