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9 Suggestions for Self-Improvement

Having good character is essential.

Key points

  • Developing good character involves patience and practice.
  • Some of the pillars of self-improvement include a win-win perspective and open-mindedness.
  • Civility, kindness, and continual self-improvement are also important.

Good character is essential for a good life. Consider these nine pillars of self-improvement.

1. A win-win perspective. Seek ways to align your self-interest with the interest of others to achieve a mutually beneficial result. This approach depends on and often fosters cooperation, mutual benefit, supportive long-term relationships, and a high level of trust. Invest time to understand what constitutes a win for the other person. Careful listening and asking questions are important skills for achieving a win-win relationship.

2. Open-mindedness. Be willing to consider new or different ideas, opinions, and conclusions from those you currently hold. If you come across a better idea or opinion, be positive about modifying your position on any subject. This willingness to change does not mean being fickle. Recognize you're not perfect and we all currently hold some incorrect views. Remaining open-minded is the best way to learn and improve. There is simply no downside to being open-minded.

3. Tolerance. Recognize that in many ways everyone is unique. We look, speak, celebrate, love, think, act, and live differently from each other. Aspire to genuinely accept the peaceful behaviors, beliefs, and customs of others that differ from your own even if you don't personally agree with them. Resolve to at least tolerate the rights of others to live however they choose so long as it doesn't involve violence.

4. Kindness. Aspire to be caring, generous, and helpful toward others in need even when you aren't required to do so and there's nothing tangible to gain. Seek to inspire people to act kindly toward others just because it's the right thing to do and for the sake of creating a peaceful life for yourself and others. You will feel good in the process.

5. Civility. Maintain a polite and courteous demeanor of friendship, goodwill, and respect toward others. Avoid acting rudely, hostilely, or referring to others pejoratively. Think of setting an example for others even when they act in uncivilized ways. Disagree in a calm and thoughtful manner and agree to disagree when you've been disagreeing for some time and have reached a dead end. Disagree without being disagreeable. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Focus more on being curious than on being correct.

6. High character. Your character is comprised of your core values, motivations, and other aspects described above. It's the quality of doing the right thing for the right reasons. Integrity, honesty, loyalty, responsibility, accountability, compassion, gratitude, fairness, patience, fortitude, and others that promote good behavior encompass this concept. The traditional four virtues present in both ancient philosophy and in many of the world’s most enduring moral traditions include practical wisdom, courage, justice, temperance, and balance. Use these principles as the core of your aspiring to high moral character. Striving to improve your character and acting accordingly is arguably the most basic, comprehensive, and important aspirational value.

7. A high level of trust with others. Act in ways that inspire others to believe in your integrity and underlying high character. Also encourage them to honor their word and do what they promise to produce high levels of trust. All positive human relationships rely on trust. Your best relationships are the ones where you have earned a high level of trust. Use opportunities to build trust with others. To help build trust, act trustworthy and be a good role model.

8. Make a commitment to truth, facts, and rational thought. Inform your understanding of what is objectively true about human nature and the world. Maintain this commitment even when the reality endangers your current beliefs. Avoid clinging to an opinion merely to prove you are right. Instead, pursue the limits of human knowledge wherever it leads.

9. Have a goal of consistent self-improvement. Recognize no person is perfect. We all make mistakes that we can enthusiastically learn from. Foster and maintain a commitment to excellence in important all areas. Seek out opportunities to improve. Recognize learning is a lifelong process. As part of being an excellent human, attempt to inspire others to bring the best version of themselves forward.

More from Michael R Edelstein Ph.D.
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