Personal Development

12 Actions You Can Take to Become a Better Person and a Better Leader

Leadership has little to do with dominance and a great deal to do with understanding the problems and motivations of other people.
12 Actions You Can Take to Become a Better Person and a Better Leader
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Author of A Paperboy's Fable: The 11 Principles of Success
9 min read
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There are certain universal aspirations we’re all hoping to attain in our lifetime. We all want happiness, success, love and prosperity. Most of us believe that if we could just do things a little better, improve ourselves a little more, we would become a better person capable of achieving our dreams.

Sounds good, right? Who doesn’t want to be a better person? The truth is, none of us is perfect and we never will be. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on self-improvement -- we are all on a journey of becoming the person we want to be. Here are 12 concepts to help you along the way to becoming the best possible version of yourself.

1. See yourself for who you are.

Your journey to becoming a better person starts with understanding who you are at your core. This is about becoming more in tune with your deeper self, so you recognize what riles you up, what makes you happy or sad. How do you deal with your emotions? How do you react when life goes astray?

Take stock of your strengths but also of your weaknesses. What are your negative qualities? What areas do you excel in? What areas do you need to work on in your personal growth and development? When we truly understand ourselves, we can make a conscious effort to improve ourselves and communicate better with others.

Related: Being Boss Means Being Able to See Yourself as Others See You

2. Forgive and let go of anger.

When we forgive we let go of anger and hostility that eats away at our happiness and clouds our mind. Forgiving someone who has hurt you empowers you to let go of the pain from the past. It doesn’t mean you forget what happened; rather, it means you learn to release resentment and anger, which would otherwise be a burden on your mind and heart.

Releasing negative thoughts allows you to heal emotionally, gives you peace and helps you overcome depression, anxiety and rage that create conflicts within our relationships. Festering anger impacts your mental and physical health, with symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, a weakened immune system and heart disease.

Related: 8 Steps to Move Away From the Past You Need to Leave Behind

3. Accept responsibility.

Stop blaming others when things don’t go right. A key element in growing as an individual and becoming a better person is learning to accept personal responsibility for your actions, including your behaviors, emotions and failures -- everything you have control over.

We often put the blame on others, sometimes so subtly we hardly realize we’re doing it. We make excuses for ourselves and why something isn’t our fault.

You take control of your life when you accept that you alone are responsible for your actions. To take this a step further, ask yourself whether you’re taking responsibility for creating the life you want, for becoming the person you want to be. Or are you just letting life happen and then blaming the world for your failures?

Related: If You Want Greatness, Take Responsibility

4. Admit when you are wrong and apologize.

When we apologize we show empathy for the wronged person. We acknowledge our mistakes. When we truly try to make amends, we show humility and compassion for those we have hurt. This has the ability to disarm those we mistreated and to heal their emotional wounds, but it can also help us heal. It’s impossible to move beyond a mistake until we admit it to ourselves and to others.

Apologizing allows us to reconnect and move forward. When someone apologizes to us, it’s a chance to see them as imperfect yet vulnerable, and reminds us that we are all human and we all make mistakes.

Related: The Power of an Apt Apology

5. Be a good listener.

Listening to others, and really hearing them out with an open mind, is one of the best things you can do for another person and for yourself. It shows the speaker that you value their opinion. It allows you to develop closer connections to others and hear perspectives you might otherwise dismiss.

We should try to engage in active listening with all the people who surround us, not just those we want to impress. Being an effective listener can change your life for the better by fostering deeper relationships and exposing us to thoughts, ideas and worldviews beyond our own experiences.

Related: The 4 Levels of Listening: Why Every Good Entrepreneur Should Talk Less

6. Be polite.

Being polite is a small act of kindness we can do for everyone we come across. It is not a trivial thing. There is power behind saying “thank you” and “please,” giving someone a warm greeting or taking time to make small talk. These little things instill positive feelings in those around you, especially when you first meet. Different situations will call for different levels of politeness and formality.

Grabbing a coffee or a drink with a friend will be a more casual situation with more relaxed language than a formal dinner or a work meeting. But maintaining a certain level of politeness and civility is always appreciated because it shows thoughtfulness, consideration and kindness.

Related: Good Manners Are a Career and Business Necessity

7. Have respect for others (and yourself).

Being respectful of others is a golden rule if we want to become better people, and it also relates to basically every other point on this list. It goes beyond treating others with good manners and listening to them, although those are important elements of respect. Respect is also about acknowledging differences in a cordial way.

It’s important to be respectful of other people’s time, ideas, experiences and lifestyles. By showing respect, we acknowledge others and recognize the importance of treating others with integrity. It doesn’t mean you have to flatter them or agree with their opinions. You can respectfully disagree. But if you do this while treating the other person with dignity, you set the example of how you expect to be treated in return.

Related: Respect: The Cornerstone of Success

8. Set goals for yourself.

Goals give us focus and a way to measure our progress. Goals motivate us to stay on track. Start by writing your goals down. Those who write down their goals and dreams are more likely to actually achieve them.

What are your personal and professional goals? Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? And what kind of person do you want to be then? Frame these goals positively -- as something you will do rather than something you will stop doing.

Related: The 7-Step Formula for Goal Setting

9. Live with integrity.

Personal integrity is a cornerstone of who we are and what we stand for. Integrity is part of our moral foundation: the principles and ideas we value and hold dear. Integrity is your personal compass, and it will shape the kind of person you become over time.

Living with integrity means being true to your ideals. It means that your outward actions reflect your inner beliefs and values. It means making the choices that are necessary to live up to your standards. Make sure you take the time to understand what integrity means to you and how your decisions align with your values and vision for your life.

Related: The Importance of Integrity: Now More Than Ever

10. Recognize opportunities to grow and change.

Life is filled with unexpected twists and turns we can’t predict. We can’t help but be a little scared of change because the unknown is always a little frightening. That fear can hold us back and, without realizing it, you may be stunting your growth personally and professionally. Allowing yourself to grow and evolve over time is a necessary part of life and part of the journey you are on.

Don’t turn away from new opportunities or shirk your responsibilities. Be willing to take a chance and push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and you may be surprised at what you find. Always strive to keep learning new things -- education and experience are essential if you are to grow and become a well-rounded and better person.

Related: 5 Ways Personal Growth Makes Your Business Stronger

11. Be part of a community.

Community can be a geographical location where people live, play and work, but it can also be a virtual space where people connect through shared ideas, values, beliefs and needs. However you define community, it’s important that you find ways to be part of a larger group, and you may even be part of many different communities depending on your interests and background.

Community provides us with support, giving us a feeling of inclusion and connection to other like-minded people. But it also gives us a way to give back, to help others and to share our own wisdom and knowledge. This includes volunteering and working with others within your community, helping to enrich the lives of those around you.

Related: Why Building Community Is More Important Than Networking

12. Embrace the journey.

Remember, this is an ongoing journey. Our actions -- how we live, how we spend our time -- those things all add up. Recognize that not everything in life is linear. Sometimes we have to go backward to go forward. Along the way, we have to learn to appreciate what we have, to have gratitude for all life has given us.

Remember to have some fun, and allow fun (and happiness) to be sprinkled throughout your day. Life should not be dreary, so don’t let it be. Surprise yourself and others. Remember to show kindness and compassion to those around you. Try to be a role model to others and behave the way you want others to see you and remember you.

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