Self-ImprovementInspirational

A Beginner’s Guide To Being A Good Person

We’ve all made mistakes throughout our lives that haven’t exactly put us in the best light. Even to this day, reflecting on them leaves us feeling embarrassed and guilty as hell.

I’ve made many in my lifetime, from being mean to people to telling little white lies (that were sometimes really big lies and I’m just in denial). But there’s one that sticks out in the memory, and still haunts me to this day.

My friends and I were partaking in some form of underage drinking (sorry mum). None of us were really thrilled about the idea of going home to our parents house considering the shape we were in. So we called the one friend who had what we needed most: the parents who didn’t give a fuck if we were wasted or not.

Problem is, he said no.

The only other option we had was to walk two to three hours in the freezing Scottish cold to one of our intoxicated friend’s houses. Once there, we would have to creep around as if we were burglars, in fear of our lives, until we could escape in the morning before being caught.

Ah, the joys of youth. Brings a tear to the eye.

However, sneaking into my buddy’s house and tip-toeing around, while rocked on cheap vodka, wasn’t the worst part about the night. During this walk, I berated the friend who “let us down” and wouldn’t allow us to crash at his house. I really went to town on him. I said mean and stupid shit.

The worst part? I had accidentally pocket dialed him, and he heard the whole fucking thing.

Our friendship was never the same after that. Today, it doesn’t exist at all.

All of which is completely my fault. I talked shit behind my friends back and the worst part is he did absolutely nothing to deserve it.

Fast forward to today and I may still do dumb shit — just not nearly as much as I used to.

I’ve made great strides to never be like that again, to anyone or anything. It’s a shame they don’t teach you this stuff in school, because it’s taken me a lot of life to learn the following ways to be a good person.

**

You Have To Be Good To Yourself First

I’m always really hard on myself.

When I fuck up, I beat myself up about it. When my mind flirts with depression, I let it sink in for a while. When I make mistakes, I replay them over and over again. I let my emotions win, and that in turns makes me unhappy.

It took me a long time to figure this one out — you can’t be a good person to others until you’re a good person to yourself.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it too. How can you be in a position to be a better person around others if you aren’t happy with yourself?

The best change you can make is to really focus on improving your positive self-talk (aka that little voice telling you that you suck all the time). The theory goes like this; if you tell yourself you’re sad, you’ll act sad. If you tell yourself you’re angry, you’ll act all angry. So if you tell yourself you’re happy……?

Yup, you guessed it.

Give Other People A Voice

When I was younger, I talked a lot. I talked so much in fact, that every single report card from almost every single year of school always came with the same critique — “Stephen talks too much”.

Now being a talker isn’t the end of the world. But it kind of is if you’re the type of person who talks so much you don’t listen to anyone else. In conversations, I always tried to get the last word in, and I drowned out other people with my sexy Scottish man voice.

There’s nothing worse than having someone dominate a conversation. They assume everyone around them is entranced by their every word. The reality is that this annoys most people.

In recent years I’ve noticed I’m learning more, and gaining more and more perspective. The reason for this isn’t exactly rocket science: It’s because I started listening more. That’s it.

Not only do I gain more from conversations now, but I also have better ones. Allowing other people to give their opinion, in their own time, is the sign of someone who genuinely cares about others — and that’s a true sign of a good person.

“Giving everyone a voice is one of the greatest things you can do” — Jeet Banerjee, Lifehacker

Remember Your Manners

Most of us have manners ingrained in us from a young age. I have amazing parents to thank for my mannerisms and understanding of etiquette.

But for some reason, a lot of people forget to bring them into adulthood.

Good manners is another simple thing to implement that will immediately make you a better person. When someone does something for you, do you say thank you in return? Unless they are punching you in the face, I can’t see any reason for you not too.

Do you smile at people when they smile at you?

Do you wait for the other person to finish eating before you leave the table?

Do you put that goddamn smartphone in your pocket when you’re talking to someone?

Maybe you like living in a mannerless pit of filth when you’re in your own home. Fair enough. But manners are required outside of those closed doors. Next time you turn up to an event, or someone else’s house, don’t come empty handed. Clean up after yourself when you’re there. Respect other people’s things.

It’s all remarkably simple, isn’t it?

P.S. and if you want to listen to music while on public transportation please use your fucking headphones.

Do Something Nice, For Someone, Anyone!

I once saw somebody leave an ATM without taking their money. They ran past me as they were late for a train.

The nice thing to do would have been to run after them and return their money…

On the other hand, it was a £100, and I decided it was their loss.

In hindsight, it’s obvious that wasn’t the actions of a good person. Good people do nice things for other people.

And the best thing about being nice to other people, is that it’s easy.

Like, it’s really fucking easy. It just requires you to use your brain for something other than Instagram for two minutes, and be thoughtful. Maybe help that person off the train with their suitcase? Or offer to carry your partner’s bag because they’ve had enough of carrying it for the day?

You know what’s really nice? Surprising people. Phone them asking how they are. Invite them round for dinner. Send your mum flowers.

If you don’t like the small gestures method, maybe go bigger. Why don’t you donate some of your blood? Or adopt an animal? Or pay for a goat for someone in a third world country who would really appreciate a nice gesture.

Find A Role Model / Mentor

Growing up my role models were cool, but they weren’t always kind. They did some stupid shit and being young and dumb I followed their lead. But they were also a great bunch of people who helped me define my moral compass and learn what it means to be a good person.

Although most people rely on their parents to set a good example of what it means to be a good person, they can only do so much.

Once you leave the nest to ‘live your dreams’, you’re kinda on your own. When this happens many people let their standards drop, or disappear all together.

A great way to keep yourself focused on being a good person (and how to do it) is to find yourself a role model or mentor. Someone you aspire to become. Someone who you look at and think “fuck, they’re a really great human being — I want to be like them”.

Being able to emulate somebody gives you some guidance, values and actions to follow. Though remember that you are your own person. Learn from others, take note of their actions and qualities, but use them to improve your own existing characteristics.

If you do this a day will come when other people look up to you for guidance which is a huge part in leading not only a good life, but a damn meaningful one.

Don’t Be An Asshole

As the story told in the intro will tell you, I’ve had my moments of not being a very good person. I’ve talked shit about people. I’ve said nasty things to people. I’ve picked fights with people. I’ve told lies. I’ve intentionally done things to hurt people.

All in all, I’ve got a fair old list. But in the last few years of my life, I genuinely struggle to think of the times I’ve been an asshole.

It seems that with age really does come wisdom. It’s also come with a process of reflection, and making the changes required to stop being like that to anyone, in any situation.

Lets end on a simple notion. If you’re not a nice person, the likelihood is that you’re an asshole. And the world really does have enough assholes, in all senses of the word.

I’ve found a great method to stop you toeing the line of ‘assholedom’ is to simply stop and think about what you’re about to do or say, before to you do it. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if someone did or said that to me?”

Let your answer to that question help you to decide whether or not to pursue.

“You don’t shoot people for being assholes, or the human race would be extinct.” ― L.S. Hawker

**

The simple lesson school should have taught me is that no one can teach you how to be a good person. I was always waiting for the methods and advice on what to do, and how to do it.

Then life came along, and taught me that the thing about being a good person is that it’s in your control.

You have to decide. A good person, or an asshole. You have to be able to accept your past mistakes, reflect on them, and be able to act upon them.

If you can implement these steps right away, you will immediately make big strides to being a better you.

Stop fighting the good fight, and start fighting the great fight.

This article was brought to you by P.S. I Love You. Relationships Now.

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Founder, maker & general creative. Follow Stephen on Twitter or read more articles from Stephen on Thought Catalog.