Want To Become A Better Person?

In the People Development field, many hours are spent on people wanting to gain skills, strategies and knowledge in order to enable them to get what they want.  The desire to learn is endemic as a report by NIACE showed a conservative estimate of some £55 Billion spent on life-long learning in the UK alone.   People are motivated for many different reasons to learn, either for jobs, hobbies or creating a business for example.  This is all good, and commendable, except when people commit to learning to become a better person.

Wanting to become a better person starts you off on the wrong foot.    At the core of who we are, is a human being. The real spirit of humanness is love, kindness, abundance and prosperity.  What we may have to do is to unearth and get in touch with the person which already exists. It is hidden amongst the layers of limiting and/or destructive beliefs, learned behaviours and ego thinking.

When  I hear someone say they want to become a better person I understand they really mean they want to like themselves better. After all, if they didn’t, it simply wouldn’t occur to them to attempt to become a better person.   This does not mean people with egotistical big personalities like themselves. Often a big inflated ego is in place precisely because they don’t like themselves deeply within. Then the ego comes to the fore to compensate and attempts to show themselves and the world they are great people really.

Simply wanting to become a better person doesn’t always work

  • The person doesn’t like themselves
  • They are judging themselves negatively
  • They want to live up to other people’s expectations
  • The starting point is often away motivated and negative
  • They think I am not OK as I am
  • They think they are not good enough

The whole premise of wanting to become a better person means they are in the completely wrong paradigm. Whatever they do will always filter through that paradigm.  The result is often needing to do and change more and more. Whatever they do or change, they never feel different about themselves.    The only way to make lasting meaningful change is to change the paradigm first.

The rot starts early

My 4-year-old grandson was with us at the weekend. Since having to share his life with his baby sister, he has almost literally grown horns.  He is exceptionally tuned into whenever anyone is praising and cooing over the baby.  At those times he starts acting up. Saying inappropriate things and taking destructive action.  Knowing that intrinsically his whole little world has changed and that he is no longer top dog,  he is obviously feeling insecure and perhaps even angry that things have changed, despite all the assurances to the contrary from the family that he is loved and important.  And so it is with many children, where they are acting badly because they don’t really understand their emotions and they don’t have the rational ability to manage their emotions.

A most common reaction to “naughty” behaviour to a child is to label them as naughty.  This is often when the rot starts because most children will accept the label as the truth.  How many carers will say in response to inappropriate behaviour from a child, “You are naughty”, and how many times does a child internalise that and believe at the core of them that there is something wrong with them?  When actually their behaviour stemmed from confusing and unidentified feelings within.  Many I believe.  In response to my Grandson, I told him that the behaviour had to stop otherwise there would be consequences, but that I knew he was really a good boy who didn’t understand why he felt he had to do those things.

Our experiences can perpetuate the negative self-image

My son was always a spirited lad, brought up without his dad around, and surrounded by nurturing females in the form of me and his sisters.  At school, he was able to get the attention of many male friends because of acting the goat and being the class clown. Clearly a sign of his insecurity around males.    He also had the audacity to shout out answers in class when he should have been putting his hand up.   Was his behaviour inappropriate in class?  Yes.  Was he a bad child?  No.

After a couple of meetings with teachers where I promised to talk to him, (and did extensively), I thought things had calmed down.  He always loved school, even counting the days down until he went back when he was on school holidays.  But this particular year he stopped wanting to go, like any mother I gently coaxed him and at times pushed him to go, but I was unduly worried.  That was until one day I found him sobbing on the armchair, saying he didn’t want to go on.

He didn’t mean he didn’t want to go to school, he meant life had got so bad in this 8-year-old boys experience that he wanted to end things altogether.   Alarmed, I immediately sought some help from the GP.  What he told the GP basically was that he hated school and didn’t want to go back.  He also confirmed he was only happy at home.  When asked why he hated school, he really couldn’t articulate an answer.  The GP suggested I contact the school and start a dialogue with his teachers, with a view to getting some help there.

The book

What I found astounded me.  The Head Teacher informed me that my son’s behaviour was unacceptable, and they knew it was because they were keeping a record of all his bad behaviour.  Without my knowledge, they had literally been keeping a book which he had to carry from lesson to lesson.  Whenever he did anything inappropriate, the teacher made an entry in the book and signed it.  Every evening Dan had to take the book back to the Head Teacher who would inevitably read him the riot act for all of his misdemeanours.  One entry was that his crime was digging up a worm in the school garden!

Luckily I managed to persuade the Head Teacher, with a letter to the local education authority as reinforcement, to call in an educational psychologist.  The psychologist was equally appalled at the daily reinforcement that my son was a bad person and asked the Head instead to keep a book about all the good things my son did during the day, to get it signed and to take it to the Head for praise.  With some initial resistance, she reluctantly agreed.

We all carry a book

The results were transformational.  Within a week, Dan had reconnected with his zest for school.  Over the weeks and months, his confidence returned.  He came home with certificates about being good at this that and the other, and credit to the Head Teacher for being open, she agreed that praise and positive reinforcement was definitely better than her original idea of “discipline”.

And so it is for many of us, we have a book of good deeds and bad deeds and every day we sign it and reinforce it by our beliefs, experiences and encounters.  When we come from a belief that we need to become a better person, we have simply signed the negative behaviour entries on the book and have read ourselves the riot act often and emphatically.

The alternative

We can always learn something about ourselves that we might like to do better.  We can always find ways to like ourselves more.  Mostly this is not because we need to become a better person, it is because we need to get in touch with our true selves.  This is a very different proposition:

Getting in touch with our True Self means

  • Understanding the principle of I’m OK, and You’re OK
  • Dispensing with limiting beliefs
  • Discarding a poor self-image
  • Accepting ourselves warts and all
  • Being our own best friend
  • Learning to love ourselves
  • Changing behaviours
  • Routing out unhelpful thinking habits
  • Learning from our emotions
  • Forgiving ourselves for times when we don’t cut it
  • Practising appropriate remorse, and ditching inappropriate guilt
  • Celebrating our successes
  • Accepting that it is a journey and everyone is on the journey
  • Discovering our true desires, and believing we can have them
  • Getting in touch with our intrinsic humility, gratitude, appreciation, joy and love

The beauty of this approach is that we come from a positive and affirming place which develops from a belief in our own positive self-concept and an understanding of our true nature.  So if you hear someone wish to be a better person, understand what they truly wish is to be connected to their True Selves.

I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

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