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Category-1 is those who strategize things as they have the visualization to portray the future. So they organize things in advance in order to avoid any possible set back. I call these people as 'Organizers'.
Category-2 is those people who have the reactive methodology to handle things. That means whenever a situation arises they react accordingly. I call these people as 'Reactors'. Although there can be good Reactors but the majority of them are bad Reactors since most of the situations do not give them the luxury of taking a U-Turn for going back to neutral to start again.
Category-3 is Commoners. These people do not have control on their lives. They are the product of their circumstances. They automatically flow with the wind; no matter where the wind takes them to. Of course, the first category is the best one as they have a proactive approach to life. So coming back to the track to understand the concept of pro-activeness in more details. Here are some points:
I remember when I was studying in university, I didn’t like myself very much. I was rude, selfish, emotionally stingy, self-centered, judgmental, highly critical, very obnoxious, and arrogant. When I think back about it, a lot of that came from insecurity with myself – a lack of self-esteem. I didn’t like myself, and this projected in my behavior toward others. I was dissatisfied with things about me, and hence I was dissatisfied with things about other people. Subsequently, I decided to work on becoming a better person. I didn’t like who I was becoming and I wanted to change that. After all, it’s quite miserable to live a life of self-hate. They say misery loves company, but I think the company misery attracts is self-debilitating in nature. It only makes you more and more unhappy, and no sooner turns you into a wrenched sight. Not a pretty vision, me thinks.
Today, I’m a lot happier with who I am. I can’t say that I’m perfect or that I’ve achieved my ideal persona, because there’s still so much I’ve to work on. I also think that becoming a better person is an ongoing goal to be worked on, and there’s never a real end point to reach.
- Commit yourself to growth (Be Growth-oriented). The more you grow, the better you become. I committed myself to a lifetime of growth back in 2006 (when I discovered my purpose), and I’ve never looked back ever since.
- Work on your negative traits. Are there any traits you dislike about yourself? Some traits which I didn’t like about myself in the past include being self-centered, arrogance, selfishness, critical, harshness, hardness, etc. Identify them, then work on them one at a go. It can be challenging to try to overhaul your character at one go. On the other hand, if you work on addressing 1 negative trait at a time, it’s a lot more manageable and achievable.
- Identify your ideal persona. What’s your ideal self like? Picture him/her in your mind, then write down all the traits of your ideal persona. Then, start living true to your ideal self.
- Find a role model. Having a role model gives us a concrete image of who we want to become. I see role models in people like Ellen Degeneres (for her genuineness and compassion toward others), Tyra Banks (for not being afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and inspiring women to do the same), Ivanka Trump (for her beauty, intellect and grace – representing the modern day woman), Oprah (for being a power mover in the world of self-help), among others. Who is/are your role model(s), and what do you like about them?
- Be a role model. The best way to be a better person is to be a role model to others. How can you be an inspirational guide to others? Live by example. In being a role model, remember it’s not about making yourself into someone you’re not (see #57 on Be Individualistic). It’s about living true to your ideal self (see #3).
- Be a better child to your parents. You only have 2 parents in your life, so appreciate the time you have with them. If your relationship with your parents is non-ideal, it doesn’t mean that everything ends here. I used to have a very poor relationship with my parents, until I achieved resolution recently. Read: How I Found Peace in My Relationship with My Parents
- Be a better friend to your friends. I used to be disappointed at how some of my friends aren’t always there for me when I need them, then I realized that I should think about how I can be a better friend to my friends first before making such expectations of others. Likewise for you, think: How can you be a better friend to your friends? Read: How To Have More Best Friends in Life
- Be a better sibling, if you have siblings. I’ve several friends who are the only-child, and they frequently talk about how they wish they had a brother or sister. If you’re lucky enough to have brother(s) and sister(s), treasure them. Spend more time with them; Show them care and concern; Look out for them if you need to.
- Be a better partner, if you’re attached. If you’ve a girlfriend/wife or boyfriend/husband, think about how you can be a better partner to him/her. When you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to make demands and expectations about what your partner should do/be, but it’s difficult to take ownership for the things we aren’t doing/being ourselves. Commit yourself to being a better partner, and release your expectations of your partner. Both of you will be happier that way.
- Be a better parent, if you have children. Many parents have told me that having a child one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to them. If you have a child(ren), think about how you can be a better parent, without impeding on the child’s growth. Raising a child can be challenging especially as he/she enters adolescence years, but that’s also part of the joy of being a parent.
- Be a better employee in your company (if you work for someone). Often times, I hear people complain about how their companies are not giving them enough benefits/wages/support/etc. While this may be true, think about how you can be a better employee instead. Check if there’s anything more you can do for your manager. See if there are any new projects you can take on. See how you can improve your
- current performance.
- Be a better manager/leader (if you’re managing others). Many people leave their jobs because they’re unhappy with their managers. How well you manage your employees can dramatically affect their motivation levels and their performance. Put their needs before yours and bring the best out of them.
- Be a better member of your community. What communities are you a part of? Say, interest groups? Recreational clubs? How can you be a more active part of the communities?
- Be a better human to others. How can you treat the fellow humans around you better? Start treating them this way.
- Be a better being in this world. How can you make the world a better place? Start doing that today.
- Be Able. Equip yourself with skills. Your skills are like the tools in your toolbox. The more skills you have, the more able you become.
- Learn something new. There are always new things to learn, no matter how much you already know. The more you learn, the better you become. Read: Skills Development
- Hone your current skills. With your current skills, strengthen them. You can never be too good at a skill – there’s always room to improve. Even the best people in their fields, such as Tiger Woods (Golf), Michael Jordan (Basketball), Beethoven (Pianist) never stopped honing their craft. Read: Leveling Up
- Be Accepting of differences – be it different people, different thinking, different lifestyles, different cultures. For they add variety and color into our lives. If everyone is the same, life will be bland – monotonous, even.
- Be Adaptable / Flexible / Versatile. Have your goals and plans, but be able to change them accordingly when the situation calls for it. Rigidity is a sign of weakness, while adaptability makes you so much more powerful.
- Be Adventurous.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Are you sticking to the same routines and hiding behind a safety net? Step out and do something you’ve never done before. It’ll broaden your mind and make you a better person.
- Travel. Traveling broadens perspectives and widens horizons. Since June 2011, I’ve been touring the world, starting with Europe and I’m gaining so many insights about different cultures that it’s amazing. The trip has definitely enriched my perspective on the world.
- Be Altruistic.
- Always have the best intentions for others. Go for the highest good in everything you do, every decision you make, every path you take, every thought you have.
- Volunteer (for a cause you believe in). Not everything has to be measured in money. At PE, I spend hours every day writing the best content and giving it away for free, without asking anything back in return from the readers. With volunteer work, you may be giving your labor for free, but this is time spent in good stead. Don’t underestimate the kind of difference you can make in others’ lives with just a few hours of work.
- Save the environment. Our world is being wasted away, day after day, with the harm the society at large is inflicting on it. What can you do to protect our home?
- Be Assertive. Stand up for your rights and things you believe in.
- Be Attentive. When someone is talking, give him/her your full attention. Don’t busy yourself with something else; that’s just rude and inconsiderate.
- Be Bold. Life is an adventure – don’t live it in fear. Boldly pursue your dreams. Boldly act on your instincts. Boldly create the life you’ve always wanted. Read: How To Overcome Fear and Pursue Your Dreams
- Be Candid. Be frank, be outspoken, be earnest. Say what’s on your mind – Don’t feel the need to censor your words because you’re afraid of what others think. Be true to yourself. (But not at the expense of others’ feelings, of course – See #39 on Be Empathetic.)
- Be Caring.
- Show concern. There’s no need to wait for a cry for help before showing your care and concern. You can do it right away, right now, to those around you. Even if there’s nothing wrong, it’ll warm the hearts of others to know that you cared.
- Call your friends. Are there any friends you’ve not contacted for a while? Call them today and check on how they’re doing. They may not show it, but they’ll be happy that you called – because it showed you cared.
- Be Coachable. There’s always something we can learn from everyone, no matter his/her age, background or area of expertise. Don’t close off on opportunities to learn just because you think you know enough. Open your mind and let every encounter be a learning lesson. The moment you close yourself off is the point where you stop learning.
- Find a mentor. A mentor guides you to become greater than you can be by yourself. You should only get a mentor if (a) the person has something to teach you (b) your personalities gel with each other. Back when I was working in P&G, I had informal mentors who often stepped in to make sure I was doing well. At the same time, they themselves had mentors who guided them. No matter how senior or experienced you may be, there’s always someone who has something to teach you.
- Be Committed… to your goals and dreams. If you’ve set a goal, go all out and achieve it. If you’ve laid down a plan, stick to it all through the way. Don’t waver, for that’s not in you to do so.
- Be Compassionate / Kind. Always look out for opportunities where you can help others. Don’t get caught up in your own space – instead, look outwards and see if there’s anything you can do for others. Even the simplest things, like helping someone carry his/her belongings, is very much appreciated by others.
- Be Confident… in who you are and what you do. There’s no reason not to be. Read: How To Be The Most Confident Person in the World
- Be Conscientious / Meticulous. Are you attentive to everything you do? Such a quality is rare, but so precious. Conscientious people put their heart and soul to what they do; consequently they do a complete and thorough job in whatever they do. You’ll naturally be a valuable asset to whichever organization or team you’re a part of.
- Be Considerate / Thoughtful. Make a habit to consider others in your decisions and actions, for they affect other people. Make sure no one is negatively affected before you proceed with your plans.
- Practice the Golden Rule. It’s the ethic of reciprocity, which states “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself”. How do you want others to treat you? Shower others with this behavior, and you’ll attract more of the same.
- Practice the Silver Rule. Related to the Golden Rule, it states “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you”. It’s to make up for the shortcomings of the Golden Rule. How do you not want others to treat you? Make sure you don’t do this to others.
- Be Cooperative. Don’t be insular and seclusive. Be willing to work with others if they need your help. We do not exist in this world alone; Life is possible because we have each other.
- Be Courteous. Practice good etiquette. Always remember your “hi”s, “bye”s, “thank you”s and “welcome”s.
- Be Courageous / Overcome Fear. Is there anything you’re scared of? Don’t be. Fear is mental – It’s only what you perceive it to be. If you challenge that which you’re afraid of, you’ll realize there’s nothing to be scared of at all, because there is nothing to lose – We entered this world with nothing but our consciousness, we’ll leave the world with the same consciousness. Read: How to Overcome Fear and Pursue Your Dreams | How To Overcome Fear(Series)
- Be Curious.
- Have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. So you’ll always be learning new things.
- Ask questions – often. The more questions you ask, the more information you can uncover.
- Get feedback from others. Feedback is one of the fastest ways to identify areas of improvement, since others can see our blind spots. Day 17 of Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program is about asking for feedback from others around us so we can improve.
- Be Dependable. Be there for others when they need you. Always check if there’s anything you can do for your friends. If they call you, make time out for them. If they email you, take the time to respond. You never know when it’s someone in pain and reaching out for help. Read: How To Have More Best Friends in Life
- Be Discerning. Don’t blindly accept everything you hear or read; Always evaluate what you’re given with a discerning mind. This doesn’t mean you become skeptical; but rather you exercise your judgment appropriately.
- Be Emotionally Generous. Emotional stinginess means to be stingy with your emotions, while emotional generosity is to be generous. So, an emotionally stingy person is typically negative, unhappy, critical, judging, imposing; while an emotionally generous person is positive, happy, encouraging, supportive, etc. Be as giving with your emotions as possible. Encourage others. Be positive. Share happiness. Read: Are You Emotionally Generous?
- Compliment others (with genuine intent). Part of emotional generosity is to be generous with compliments (that’s genuine and not fake). Get into the habit of giving compliments. When you meet someone and if you recognize something nice about him/her, let him/her know. You’ll make his/her day.
- Be Empathetic. Empathy is the key to successful relationships. Learn to see things from others’ perspective. It’ll let you understand people better, resolve conflicts, and develop meaningful connections.
- Be Encouraging. No one likes a wet blanket. Be encouraging when your friends share their problems with you. Be supportive when they tell you about their goals.
- Be Enthusiastic. Life is too beautiful to live dread and boredom. Embrace every day with joy and love. Start every day on a fresh new start! Approach every situation with excitement! And bring this energy to everything you do and everyone you meet.
- Aim for Excellence.
- Take on more than you can handle. If you’re managing your responsibilities fine at the moment, challenge yourself by taking on more. If you’re always doing the same things, you’ll never develop anything. You’ll no sooner atrophy in your growth. Take on more work. Push your boundaries. Stretch yourself. This way you increase your capacity.
- Expect nothing less than the best. Hold yourself to the highest standard in whatever you do. Always aim for the highest goals, the best results, the grandest vision.
- Live your life to the fullest. Because why should you settle for a life that’s anything less? Read: 101 Ways To Live Your Life To The Fullest
- Be Fair.
- Don’t bad mouth other people. Don’t speak ill of people behind their back, because it’s unfair to them and doesn’t give them a chance to defend themselves. Let the person know if you don’t like something he/she did, or otherwise make peace with it within yourself.
- Don’t discriminate. Give equal treatment to everyone, regardless of race, language, religion, nationality, gender, age, social status, financial status.
- Don’t judge. Don’t make conclusions about others’ character of their life based on 1-2 things you see about them. Always give others the benefit of the doubt.
- Uphold justice. If you see unfairness being exacted, step in to right the wrong. This includes intervening when someone is being bullied, or standing up for someone when he/she is being unfairly judged.
- Have Faith. Don’t put too much pressure on an event or a person to give you the results you seek. Do your best within your capacity, and have faith that everything will fall into place.
- Be Filial. Our parents have dedicated half of their lives to having us and raising us. Now that we’re grown up, it’s our turn to repay them for the life they have given us. If your relationship with your parents is not the ideal state you envision, be sure to read How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Parents (Series)
- Be a Follower. Aristotle said it best with this quote: “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” Are you a good follower? Are you able to take directions from others? Are you willing to take directions from others? Before you think about becoming a leader (see #60), you’ve to learn to be a good follower first.
- Be Forgiving.
- Let go of your anger. Is there anything or anyone you’re angry with? Perhaps it’s time to give it/him/her and let things go.
- Bury the hatchet with someone. Beyond embracing forgiveness inside you, reach out to the person you had grievances with in the past. This is not going to be easy, but it’ll bring you a huge step forward in your growth. When I was younger, I had some conflicts with schoolmates here and there, due to misunderstandings. After I started PE, I decided I had to live by example if I was to pursue my purpose to help others how to achieve their highest potential. So, I reconnected with old schoolmates whom I had conflicts with. It was much easier than I thought – most of them reciprocated in kind, and after that we stayed connected as friends. Read: Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program, Day 24 – Right a Past Wrong
- Be Friendly / Approachable. We are all humans, here to connect with one another. If you see someone you don’t know, take the first step to know him/her. With people you know, keep yourself accessible so they can approach you whenever they need help. Read: 10 Tips To Make New Friends
- Be Generous. Find joy in giving. Remember life is not a zero sum game. By giving, you get to gain even more. By giving, you open the channel to receive new things in life. When people experience the beauty of giving, they’d want to give back too, so what goes around, comes around.
- Share the good things in your life. What are you happy for? What do you have that others don’t have? What are you proud of? Don’t keep them to yourself – Share them with others. Happiness isn’t a zero sum equation.
- Donate. Get in the habit of donating things you don’t need anymore. For example, old clothes, textbooks, books, toys, and the like. All my unwanted clothes are always donated to others. Sometimes I take the nice, unworn pieces and give them to my friends who can better appreciate them.
- Be Gentle. Our society has brought out a very “hard” side in all of us – one where we’re abrasive, one where we’re hard, one where we’re demanding. Bring out the gentle side in you for a change. It’ll make you a warmer person to be around.
- Be Grateful. For the good things you have, because not everyone gets to have them. For the bad things you have as well, because they strengthen your character and make you appreciate everything so much more. Day 14 of 30DLBL is all about gratitude.
- Write a thank you note to a friend. I think a lot of times, we take our friends for granted. We forget about what they’ve done for us and are doing for us, as well as the value of our connection. Write a thank you letter/note/email to a friend and let him/her know how much you appreciate him/her. He/she will be very happy to receive your letter.
- Be Hardworking / Diligent. Without hard work, we can’t wish to get far in life. I’ve seen people who like to take the easy way out, and this is not what I promote at PE. There are no “quick tips” or “hacks” that will give you instantaneous results – at the end, it boils down to sheer, hard work.
- Be Helpful. Offer your help even if people don’t ask for it. There’s always something you can do for others.
- Be Honest. To lie is to shrink into a lesser self; To tell the truth would be take a step up in your growth. (Unless there’s a higher value at stake, such as protecting someone’s well-being.) One of my values is truth – To discover the truth via personal experience and constantly challenging what’s around me, and to be truthful in everything I do and say. I don’t achieve this 100% of the time, but I do my best to uphold it every moment of the day. Read: How To Deal With Dishonest People
- Be Humble. People who are arrogant tend to suffer from an inferiority complex, which is why they feel the need to parade their accomplishments. Learn to be humble. There’s no need to talk about what you’ve achieved – if they’re really good, the results will speak for themselves.
- Be Independent. Learn to manage your life. Learn to tackle your problems by yourself, without imposing on others. Feel free to approach others if you need help, but you should never expect them to solve your problems for you.
- Be Individualistic. Always be you – don’t try to be anyone else. Read: Finding Your Inner Self
- Have Integrity. Set your moral and ethical principles and stick to them. Never compromise on them no matter what.
- Be Intuitive. Follow your gut instinct. Let your intuition guide you. You’ll never go wrong with it. The more you follow your gut, the stronger your connection with your intuition will be.
- Be a Leader. A leader is someone who is able to bring the best out of others, who is able to inspire others to be bigger than who they are, who is able to energize people into action, who is able to lead a way with a common vision. Contrary to what many think, leadership doesn’t begin when you lead a group of people; it begins in our everyday life, with how we conduct ourselves and how we live our lives. Are you a leader of your life? Read: You Are the CEO of Your Life
- Be a Listener. The ability to listen is quite underrated in our society today. Many people are good at talking, but not listening. For today, make a point to listen to what others around you are saying. Ask questions. Clarify their answers. You may discover new things you didn’t know before. If you own a copy of Personal Excellence Book (Volume 2), be sure to check out 13 Tips To Be a Better Listenerarticle on how you can be a better listener.
- Embrace Love. Be a beacon of love. Start by loving everyone around you. Show love to your friends, family, partner, colleagues, bosses, clients, teachers, etc – whether explicitly or implicitly.
- Love unconditionally. The highest form of love is unconditional love, where you love others without expecting anything in return.
- Be Loyal / Faithful. To the people that you care for, to the values that you stand for, to the things that you believe in. In the article Discover Your Values in Personal Excellence Book (Volume 1), I share in detail about values: the importance of values, my values and how you can create your own.
- Be Kind.
- Don’t criticize. It’s easy to pinpoint faults in others, but really, it’s not in our place to do so. Not only that, it doesn’t make others feel good about themselves.
- Be Magnanimous. For every thing that people do you wrong, be ready to forgive and forget.
- Accept criticism. If someone offers criticism, accept it. Accepting isn’t the same as agreeing. You don’t have to agree with the criticism, but at least give yourself the opportunity to consider it. Every criticism is an opportunity to improve, to become better. Read: 8 Helpful Ways To Deal With Critical People
- Ignore malicious attacks. If someone flames you, take the higher route – ignore the person. You can defend yourself on areas where your values are infringed, but overall, keep a hands-off approach. It’s not worth it to engage in such discussions, because the flamer will only keep attacking, with no desire to achieve a resolution.
- Be Meditative. Those who meditate will know that meditation cultivates an inner peace within you. It makes you calmer and connects you with your inner self. Read: 10 Reasons You Should Meditate | How To Meditate in 5 Simple Steps
- Be Merciful. Instead of punishment, think forgiveness. Forceful actions – Pain, suffering, death, etc don’t bring closure to issues.
- Be Moral. Do what’s right over what’s wrong. The question of “what’s right” can be subjective depending on your upbringing, but universal values include equality of humans, gender equality, freedom of speech, freedom of choice, etc.
- Go the non-cruel path. I commit myself to a vegan lifestyle because I didn’t want to harm animals. While you don’t have to turn vegetarian/vegan for this purpose, think about how you can follow a lifestyle that inflicts less pain to other living beings.
- Be Mindful / Present. Don’t live in the past or future, but focus on the present moment. For this is where you’re living at now. Meditating helps you to be present (see #66).
- Be Nurturing. There’s always ability in everyone. How can you nurture it out of each person?
- Recognize the strengths in others. Our society today has eased into a state where we keep looking at what we lack or don’t have, as opposed to what we already have. The former is a scarcity mindset, while the latter is one of abundance. Rather than think about what’s missing in someone (be in character trait, knowledge, ability, etc), focus on his/her strengths. What does she/he have? What is he/she good at? What do you like about him/her? Focus on these vs. what you don’t like.
- Be Open-Minded. Be ready to accept different beliefs, attitudes, personalities, cultures, practices, rituals, lifestyles, habits, races, nationalities, diets, etc, for everyone is different. No one thing is right; it’s just a matter of what works best for the individual.
- Be Optimistic / Positive. For life is too short to be negative.
- Don’t complain. Complaining generates all this negative energy that makes you no different than an energy vampire. While it’s okay to vent every once in a while, be conscious of the times when you do that. Cut down on the time you spend complaining and think about what you can do about the situation instead.
- Smile. How often do you smile a day? Smiling is something we don’t do enough. Whether you’re out on the streets or at work, it’s more common to see people with stoic expressions and hard frowns than smiles. The next time you see someone, even a stranger, smile at him/her. You’ll be surprised how many people will return the smile. Even if they don’t, trust that they have been warmed by your smile.
- Laugh. As they say, laughter is the best medicine. Learn to laugh at the jokes people make, at the obstacles you’re facing, at the mistakes you’re making, and at the mystery that is life.
- Be Organized. The state of your life now reflects how organized you are. If everything is constantly in a mess, it suggests you’re probably disorganized in how you manage yourself. In being organized, you create structure, stability and predictability – which frees up your resources to pursue new goals. Creating a life handbookwill help to organize your life.
- Be Patient. Do you get edgy when something/someone is late? Time is fluid; it’s a construct created to help us organize our schedules. Learn to be present and live in the moment instead. Impatience breeds anxiety; Patience brings calmness.
- Be Peaceful. Where you have a choice, go for peace over violence. The latter solves nothing, but creates more pain. The former is the start to a healing journey.
- Be Persistent. No matter what you do, never give up. You will achieve whatever you set out to do, as long as you have the will to do it. My story of how I pursued my passion and turned it into a successful business is an example of that. The only time when giving up is the way to go when your priorities change and you realize the goal you were pursuing isn’t what you want anymore. Read: Quitting to Win
- Be Prudent. Be bold and daring, but at the same time exercise caution. A touch of practicality never hurt anyone; it helps you to be more ready for what’s ahead.
- Be Purposeful. Pursue a cause that’s higher and larger than you. When you do that, you’ll naturally grow into someone who’s bigger than who you are today. Pursuing my purpose to help others grow has made me embark on journeys and make decisions which I wouldn’t have pursued if I was just living my life for myself. Read: Discover Your Life Purpose in 30 Minutes
- Be Reasonable. Know your rights, but don’t overstep your boundaries. Act within good reason – You’ll be the best judge to that.
- Be Repentant. Has there been anything you did that you’re not too proud of? Repent and process it; don’t leave it inside your system, because it’s like rotting flesh – it’ll create an invisible stench and affect you subconsciously in your daily actions. Read: Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program, Day 24: Right a Past Wrong
- Be Resilient / Be Strong. Are you facing any obstacles that are making you waver in your goals? You have the strength inside you to do whatever you want – you just have to draw from it. Read: How To Start When You Have Nothing
- Be Respectful. Treat everyone with utmost respect, because every living being deserves that.
- Take Responsibility.
- Live up to your responsibilities. What responsibilities do you have? Are you living up to all your responsibilities? Shrinking away from your tasks is an act of avoidance. Stepping up to them makes you a better person.
- Don’t self-victimize. It’s easy to say “Why me?” when bad things happen. But it does nothing to build your character – in fact it makes you weaker over time, because you’re not taking ownership for your problems. Believe it or not, everyone faces these problems too – it’s not exclusive to you. Rather than wallow in self-pity, accept your problems as part and parcel of life and address them. The more responsible you are, the more control you have over your life. Read: You Always Have A Choice
- Be Self-Loving.
- Be Kind to yourself. Do you often beat yourself up? Stop doing that. You, above all else, deserve kindness and respect from yourself.
- Love yourself. For when you love yourself, you will automatically start loving others too.
- Be Self-Reflective. I make a habit to reflect on everything that happens to me, because that’s when I can draw lessons on what I can do better in the future. Self-reflection can take place via a private journal, an online diary, or conversations with others. Asking yourself the right questions is paramount in the self-reflection process. Read: 101 Important Questions To Ask Yourself
- Be Sensitive… to others’ needs and feelings. Always check to make sure you’re not neglecting anyone.
- Don’t Impose. Imposing means to force your opinion on others. It’s okay to offer your opinion, but if others are not taking it, then there’s no need to repeat it over and over again. Keep it to yourself.
- Don’t give unwanted advice. One biggest problems people face in relationships is when the other party tries to dispense advice that’s not needed. Many times, people converse as a way of sharing. Check if the other party is looking for advice first before you try to offer your 2 cents. It may help prevent unnecessary conflicts.
- Dedicate yourself to Service. It’s said that service to others is the highest thing one can ever do in life. Think about how you can contribute to others and to this world. And dedicate yourself to it.
- Be Sharp. Develop your observation skills. Sharp people are always the first to catch on to something; because of that they’re ahead of everyone else in their thinking too.
- Be Sincere / Genuine. Speak from the heart, always. Don’t say something unless you mean it. One of my core values is authenticity – I only say things that I mean, and never say things if I don’t believe in them.
- Be Spontaneous. Be uninhibited! Allow yourself to act freely, without restrictions. Not everything has to adhere to a plan all the time. Allow yourself to just go with the flow.
- Be Sympathetic. If others are sharing their problems with you, be sympathetic. Don’t jab in with insensitive remarks. Don’t dismiss their feelings and thoughts. Get yourself into the same state as them and express your sympathy, so they know they’re not alone in the situation.
- Be Tactful. There’s no need to be rude or abrasive. Be polite to your fellow humans – everyone has feelings, even if sometimes it may not seem that way.
- Be a Teacher. You don’t have to be a formal teacher in name – The
- very act of sharing knowledge to someone is already teaching in itself. By teaching others, we become better. What are things you’re good in? Share the knowledge with other people. Start by doing it informally, and soon formally teaching others will be second-nature to you.
- Be Trusting. Always give others the benefit of the doubt. No matter what you think, the baseline intention of people is always good. No one deliberately does something to harm others. When they do, it usually comes from a place of lack, but not out of sheer malicious intent.
- Be Trustworthy. Always honor your commitments and uphold your promises. If you make an agreement with someone, be sure to stick through to it.
- Be Unattached. For all things are transient in life. This doesn’t mean
- you become jaded and an emotionless being. What this means is you relish in every moment of your life, every situation you’re in, every person you’re with, as it is, without clinging on to it when it has passed. For we live in the present, not the past or future.
- Be Understanding. Learn to comprehend things from others’ perspective. A common understanding is needed for relationships to be build on.
- Be Vigilant. While the world is a safe place by and large, keep a watch out for possible dangers, especially when you’re in a foreign place. Keep a look out for suspicious people. Stay clear of potentially dangerous spots. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Be Visionary. Set the highest goals and the biggest dreams you can imagine. Then set off and bring your vision to life. Be sure to create your vision board too at the same time. In Day 5 of 30DLBL, you get to create your vision board. I’ve also created a video on Creating Your Vision Board.
The vision board of one of our past 30DLBL participants, Theresa
- Be Vulnerable. Through PE, I’ve learned that sharing our vulnerabilities is what gives us the greatest strength as humans. In the past few years, I’ve opened up about some of my deepest vulnerabilities, including my relationship with my parents, my past heartbreak, my disappointments, among others.
- Be Wise. Being wise means “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion”. Practice good judgment by exposing yourself to different contexts; considering different perspectives; gathering as much information as you can; weighing out different possibilities. The more experience you gain, the more you learn, and the wiser you’ll become.
Acute stress is defined by the fact that it's immediate and short term. In most cases, once the stressor has been removed, your body and mind return to a normal state.
Its these types of chronic stress situations that are the most dangerous. They keep your body's defenses activated and heightened longer than is generally healthy, and unfortunately more and more of us are living under constant conditions that create stress. Add to this the fact that "coping with stress" isn't exactly a topic you learn in school and you have a recipe for a lot of very unhappy people.
I spoke with Roger S. Gil, MAMFT, about some of the less productive ways people cope with stress, and he highlighted that trying to escape without dealing with the actual stressor is more common than you may think. "Overeating, displaced anger, denial, defensiveness, etc. All are signs of avoidance and coping strategies that are meant to protect the ego from the discomfort caused by the stressor…and none of them do anything about the stressor," he explained. "Withdrawing (i.e. checking out mentally) from the situation at hand is something I see A LOT of in my work with couples. For example a husband may withdraw into his own little world when his wife complains about something. Instead of hearing her concerns, he pulls away and encourages her to nag him some more…which causes more withdrawal."
These behavioral changes cut both ways though: the AIS notes that stress reactions can also lead to isolation, loneliness, and severe depression as well. If you've been suddenly feeling alone, forgetful, overly defensive, disorganized, uninterested in your everyday life, overwhelmed by what's going on around you to the point where you need to lie about them, and having difficulty communicating with others, it's possible that chronic, poorly managed stress may be part of the problem.
Previously mentioned app CalmDown for Mac is a utility designed just for situations like this: it encourages you to take a deep breath (or a few) so you can step back from the stressor for a moment, gather your thoughts, and push through the fog of frustration and anger that often come with stressors.
I also spoke with Roger Gil about dealing with stressful situations and he reinforced the point: "Stressors like these can produce physical responses at first; so if you're heart is racing, you're short of breath, or you feel your muscles tightening somewhere in your body, know that you're feeling a physiological stress response. In those cases, channeling your awareness of your body can sometimes distract a person away from the area of the body having the stress response." Recognizing that you're having a physical reaction will help you calm down and deal with the situation the way you really want to, as opposed to letting it stew in your mind only to come up with what you wanted to say 15 minutes after you should have said it.
In that vein, Dr. DeGroat explains that figuring out what you wanted to say a few minutes after you said it is very common, and often a result of being unprepared for the stressful situation you're presented with. Aside from making sure to be ready for those situations in advance if you can be, he suggests acknowledging that you're stressed in the situation and telling the person or people you're dealing with that you'll get back to them later. Photo by Sasha Wolff.
If you have additional time to relax and some space to be alone, Dr. DeGroat suggests progressive muscle relaxation to defuse some of the natural tension that comes with being stressed. "Systematically tense and relax muscle groups, beginning at your toes and working your way all to the top of your head. [This] serves as a distraction from current stressors and can help reduce physical tension that often accompanies stress."
Another tip Dr. DeGroat offers is to identify whether level of stress and your response to it is realistic or unrealistic when you're in the middle of it. If it's realistic, as in anyone would respond the same way and there's something you can do about it (like your computer froze or you just dropped something,) then address the situation and move on. If the response is unrealistic and others may not respond the same way (traffic isn't moving fast enough or security lines at the airport are too slow,) then address yourself: calm down, step back, and try to relax.
The first step to addressing yourself is to challenge the way you're thinking about the stressor. "Challenging these automatic thoughts that often hijack our minds and promote stress has been shown in research to be a great way to help break the patterns of thinking & behaving that are counterproductive/harmful," Roger Gil explained. "Once the 'mental battle' is won, the IRL battle is more easily handled."
Granted, none of these measures have to be practiced only in the context of chronic stress, but it is more likely that if your boss is getting on your nerves again today or the rent is due and you're worried about being able to afford groceries, you're more likely to take a few minutes and address how you feel so you can approach the issues in a clear manner than you are if you're stuck in a meeting and asked to speak on a topic you weren't ready for.
In some cases, it may simply be better to remove yourself from chronic stressors if you're having difficulty adapting to them or minimizing them. After all, if your job is wearing you down and there's no improving it, it may be time to look for a new job. If your relationship is so stressful it's destructive for everyone in it, it may be time to break it off, and if your apartment is run down and your landlord won't fix it, it's time to move out. There are plenty of good reasons to learn to cope with stress, but there are other equally good reasons to remove the stress from your life when you can.
To that end, there's no real way to live a completely stress-free life. Remember, there are positive stressors as well as negative ones, and the positive ones are usually good experiences that we enjoy or seek out. The same applies for negative stressors: they're bound to happen eventually and avoiding them is a futile effort. The key is in knowing how to deal with them, and how to minimize their effect on you.
There's no magic formula for dealing with stress, but employing coping mechanisms that give you distance, helps you get through the moment, and at best minimizes the overall impact the stressor has on you are a good way to stay healthy, happy, and productive. Photo by Jacob Bøtter.
"It is how we approach it that can cause us problems, or allow us to grow. The more control we can find within a situation, or over ourselves, the more likely we will grow from the situation," Dr. DeGroat explained, "The more we are able to identify and act upon the control and choice we have in situations, the less debilitating the stress will be."
This is just a short introduction, but unsurprisingly, entire books have been written on the topic of stress, its medical and psychological implications, and how you can deal with it in healthy ways. While we hope we've given you some insight into how your body reacts to stressors and how you can manage them in the moment and on the long term, we know that this is by no means an exhaustive study into the topic. What are some of your most successful ways of dealing with stressful situations, both short and long-term? Share your suggestions in the comments