I want to be a better person. You probably do too.
In fact, the number of Google searches for “be a better person” has been steadily increasing since 2004, and typically peaks around the holidays each year. Which makes sense, as so many people have self-improvement on their minds around the start of the year. (In fact, “be a better person” was the most popular New Year’s resolution for the first time ever in 2017 (according to a Marist poll).
But how can you take this big idea and make it doable? This is something my friend and colleague Kate Hanley thinks about on a daily basis.
Kate Hanley is the author of the book How to be a Better Person and host of the daily podcast of the same name. Here, she shares five simple but powerful ways to be a better person in 2020. Some you can do every day, and some are one-time events, but they all move the needle toward “better.”
5 Simple shifts that make you a better person—and help save the world
- Look People in the Eye: Something simple but powerful you can do every single day is to make it a point to look people in the eye. “Making eye contact is a tiny little thing that has a huge impact,” Hanley says. “It reminds you and person you’re looking at that we are all in this together. It helps you feel the connection we all share to each other that’s easy to ignore or forget about when you’re in your own little world.” You won’t always have time to volunteer or money to give, but you always have your attention and you can offer that to others.
- Start a Compost Bin: According to the EPA, one person who composts saves ½ pound of food waste from going to the landfill every day. For a family of four, that’s 2 pounds a day—over 700 pounds a year! Plus, compost enriches the soil so you’re not just reducing waste, you’re giving back to the Earth. “A cool thing about composting is it helps you be more aware of what you’re eating, too,” Hanley says. “You’ll be able to see at a glance how many fruits and vegetables you’re consuming, which will help you remember to prioritize the whole stuff and less of the packaged stuff.”
- Make Your Vacation a Staycation: One round-trip flight from the East Coast to the West Coast generates 20 percent of the greenhouse gasses that your car emits in a full year. For this reason, the biggest impact one individual can have on greenhouse gasses is to take fewer airplane trips. So how can you vacation without travel? Staycation! Give yourself days off at home and enjoy the sights in your area that you never have time to visit. It will be a vacation that you won’t need a vacation to recover from (and one you won’t need to save and/or go into debt for, either).
- Give More Positive Reviews: In today’s world of social media, it’s easier than it’s ever been to act on the impulse to complain about something, whether it’s a product you bought or service you’ve received. “Having a phone in your hand make it so enticing to really let ‘er rip when you’re angry,” Hanley says. Another reason it’s so tempting to fire off a negative review is that our brains are hard-wired to look for problems. It’s called the negativity bias, and it’s what helped us remember well which berries made us sick when we were living on the savannas. But now it makes us remember negative things more than positive ones. “If we want to be more peaceful in our lives and with other people, we have to push back against the negativity bias,” Hanley says. She suggests challenging yourself to leave more positive reviews—and that includes giving more positive feedback to your loved ones and colleagues. “It will help you remember to look for the experiences that go well. And what we focus on grows.”
- Admit Your Mis-Steps: Everyone makes mistakes. Even you. It’s what you do after the mistake that is an opportunity to be a better person. “Our first reaction is typically to hide something we did wrong, but owning up to a mistake is freeing because you no longer have to expend energy on trying to ignore it, or justifying your actions,” Hanley says. “On top of that, you’re going to create an opportunity for connection with the people affected by your mistake.” How do you do it? Hanley suggests saying something simple, like, “You know how I did or said that thing? I messed up. I’m sorry. I wish I would have handled that differently. I can’t promise it will lead to a big heart-to-heart,” Hanley says. “You might only get a nod or a shrug. It still matters. You’re still modeling the behavior you’d like to receive.” And that’s what being a better person is all about—being the change you wish to see.
Being a better person in 2020
This is a good time of the year to focus a bit more on who we want to be in the coming year. I believe strongly that it’s never too late to change, to adapt, to evolve … and to discover your own sense of a vibrant life.
Are you a “resolution” person? What are your resolutions for the coming year? Share here or drop me a note. And if you’re not making New Year’s resolutions, are you setting goals? Tell me more. I’m striving to follow Kate Hanley’s advice and resolving to make 2020 a year of being a better person.