Recently I was tasked with helping a group of really talented young performers develop their character (yep, we do consulting on performance, excellence, and living the dream as well as sell cookies.)
That’s a big job, and definitely not something to fully accomplish in the few hours I had. Hell, it takes most of us decades to understand even part of who we are.
The following video highlights the key points from the 2 hour fully immersive experience, or you can scroll down and read a slightly more in depth version (with illustrations, sweet!)
Here's the written version, for those of you who love to read:
What does it take to become a better human?
First, the ability to be self aware. This means you know who you are and can objectively assess your and others’ situation. Without the ability to engage in conscious self awareness, you are not able to assess what you are doing.
Self awareness is the fundamental quality of being a good human. All other qualities of goodness rest on this, including moral, mental, and physical strength. Without a knowledge of who you are, you have no base from which to operate, no foundation to build upon.
Self awareness is often confused with identity, but they are not the same. One is an actual ongoing assessment of who you are, the other merely labels connections or experiences.
You have a name you identify with as yourself, along with a family, a home, activities you participate in, and a workplace. None of those provide self awareness, although they may seem to provide identity.
Self awareness is a deeper understanding and curiosity about why you make the decisions and assessments you do.
By acknowledging the influence of both your genetics and your environment, you are able to make decisions that are clearly rooted in reality rather than subjective interpretation of events.
The best way to assess your own self awareness is to ask yourself what your core beliefs are, and why you hold those beliefs. If you can clearly state both, you are self aware. If you rest your answers on the idea “that’s just the way it is”, you are probably not self aware.
As an example, my own core beliefs are three fold:
Often, you will encounter those who are not self aware. This lack of self awareness leads quickly to a “Why me?” or victim mentality, and is repaired through offering a new perspective that includes exploring the frame of reference for all parties.
What is the “frame of reference”? It is the lens through which we see the world. We each have a slightly different lens, and one of the first “Aha” moments on the path to self awareness comes when we realize that no one else shares our unique perspective.
Let’s return to the elements of being a good human. The first was self awareness.
Second is the “send me” idea. Whenever you hear a call to action, from “Who wants to try this first?” to “Who will clean the toilets?”, step forward and say, “Send me.”
It’s not easy to do that. We tend, as humans, to value safety in the known over the unknown. We may believe that we are above certain jobs or that we don’t have time to do others, when really we are fearful of doing a bad job, or of being hurt, or made fun of.
If we want our society to be safe, clean, or any number of other “good” things, we need volunteers who will create those environments. High quality never happens by accident, and it is almost always due in part to volunteers doing more than their fair share.
As Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Hence, if you want to be a good human, you will always be looking for and acting upon those areas where you can contribute. Volunteerism is at the heart of this.
Volunteering for the unknown goes against our baser instincts of staying safe and staying alive, but is a necessary attribute of being a good human.
The third pattern that leads to being a good human is the will to develop yourself.
This is built on self awareness (how can you develop something of which you are not aware?) but requires more than mere awareness. You must be willing to do the work.
This work is moral, mental, and physical. Those are listed in order of descending importance and difficulty.
The moral development aspect comes from two places: The imagined and the real. The imagined offers the widest possible variety of experience as there is no limit to what you can imagine. The real offers a much narrow set, but with far more power.
Mental development is driven by a constant curiosity for the unknown, and requires developing that natural “Why?” inherent in most children.
Physical development is the easiest to understand and execute on. It is not essential, for one can be a good human and be completely physically paralyzed. Still, if the ability to physically improve is available it must be developed. While the domain of physical development can be endlessly fascinating, it is the least reliable indicator of being a good human.
These three ideas, self awareness, “send me”, and self development, are at the core of what it means to be a good human. They form a pyramid that, if built, will bring you the best possible life you can experience.
It is my fervent hope that you take the time and expend the effort to build it, and experience that exceptional life.
To life, my friends!
Too much reading...
How about dessert?