“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Everywhere we turn, there seems to be a demand that we be better than everyone else. If you want a promotion, be better than your co-workers, if you want first chair in the band be better than the other members of your section, and if you want to win first prize in the county fair pie contest, your apple pie should taste better than the other pies. To me, life doesn’t seem like it should be a contest, though. It seems like life should be this ongoing journey of trying to be better than I was, not necessarily better than you are. Hemingway wrote lots of good things, but I think his recognition of what nobility really is just might be my favorite: true nobility is being superior to your former self.
It’s the beginning of a new year, and my former self will be just around the corner every single day. Will I see any difference? What will separate the me of 2016 from the me of 2015? As a keeper of journals, I know that the me of today is a whole lot different than the me of ten years ago, but were those changes ever really intentional, or did they just happen? While 45% of people will intentionally be making resolutions to lose weight and make a difference in the world, what if you decided that you’d just like to be a better version of…YOU! Could this year be your year to simply be better?
Could I be a better daughter, wife, mother, sister, niece, friend, photographer, and writer? Could I be a better human? We each wear a lot of titles, and each of those titles provides an opportunity to do something better than we’ve done before. I might not win the prize for best mother, but maybe I can be better by not trying to fix things for my kids right away. Maybe I can be a better friend by extending an invitation for coffee or paying attention to opportunities to lend a helping hand without being asked. What about you?
In writing you want to answer six questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How? With that in mind, let’s figure out this idea of being better people.
Who: You, Me, Him, Her, We, They….you get the picture
What: Be better people. It’s not enough to want to be better people, we have to be willing to jump into the action.
When: Today. Ok, let’s broaden that a little. Over the next 365 days. See, I’m letting you spread out this becoming better deal.
Where: Where you are and where you want to be. Every day in your current life, you can be better. If you have somewhere else you want to be one day, you begin here…where you are.
Why: “Why should I want to be a better person?” you might ask. You think you’re good enough doing what you’re doing, being who you are, and there are plenty of times I would tell you that being good enough really is enough. But to stop evolving into a better person would mean that you and I stop where we are, and that just isn’t ok with me. Outside of what we want for ourselves, however altruistic that might be, the world is full of people who care about what we can do for them. So, if I want to be of more value than the next guy, there’s a chance that I need to be better than I am today. That’s two “why’s”!
How: This is the rest of the story. The ‘how’ of becoming a better person is going to be different for each person and each situation, but the beginning for each one of us is this: We become better people by deciding that we have more to learn and more to offer to be valuable members of society.
In a job, being better might be about money, but when I talk about our spending the next year becoming better people I’m talking about looking in the mirror and knowing that girl or that guy has made an effort to not just settle for how she or he has been.
Are there folks I need to forgive? I could be a better forgiver.
Are there people I need to help? I could be a better helper.
Are there papers I need to write? I could be a better writer.
Are there apologies I need to offer? I could be a better apologizer.
I don’t have to wait for someone else to be the better person, and I don’t have to be the best. You don’t either. You–the boss, the parent, the coach, the friend–you can join me in figuring out over these next 360 some-odd days what it means to be better than we are. I have no interest in being superior to you, and I don’t really care if you believe you are superior to me. I want to be superior to my former self–the self of last year, last week, and yesterday–if there is a place I can be better. At the end of the year, I hope you and I can look back and say “2016 was the year I became a better person.” Let’s be superior to who we were yesterday.