“I always wanted to be someone better the next day than I was the day before.” ~Sidney Poitier
I felt I was living a dream life. I had a great husband, a lovely child, a nice house and cars.
I studied in one of the best colleges in my country and went on to do my MBA from another best in the country. While attending b-school I met my husband, and we both went on to get mind-boggling jobs.
Going on lots of vacations, eating at posh places, and focusing on next big house were my ideas of a good life.
I never questioned the wisdom of blindly zooming through the day. I could never see beauty in mountains, trees, flowers, the sea, or the sky. I was focused on earning a living, and racing through life.
One day my husband developed a lump near his neck, and we ignored it thinking it was a silly little thing. But the lump adamantly stayed there.
After two months of inaction we rushed to the doctor. We were asked to undergo a series of blood tests, x-rays, and scans to ascertain the cause. But none of them could prove what caused the lump. Doctors hinted at tuberculosis or lymphoma (cancer of lymph nodes), and we were asked to undergo biopsy.
The word cancer brought about stress like we’ve never experienced before. It was our life at stake. I prayed hard that it would be tuberculosis, the lesser evil of the two.
I prayed that if I passed this test I’d be a reformed person. I promised I would change myself. I would value this life more than I ever did.
The biopsy proved it was TB, frightening but still curable, and not as intimidating as cancer. The treatment went on for almost a year, and my husband recovered. But I changed over that year.
Never did I take life for granted. I started enjoying the beauty around me. I appreciated each day we lived. I developed empathy for people who had less than me. I started being kind, less arrogant, gentler, and more positive in life.
I read self-help books to improve myself. But changing one’s self from negative to positive is one of the most difficult tasks to undertake.
I regretted my ruthless ways and wished to atone. I always thought the world revolved round me.
I began to observe people who had made positive changes in their lives. Almost all of them changed after a life threatening experience or a negative experience.
Do we all need bad experiences to change for better? Can we all try to change for better each day just because? Can we do one thing today that was better than yesterday?
It could be thanking a colleague for help given. It could be observing the flower outside your window and appreciating that it took months to bloom to give you a beautiful sight. It could be looking at the rain and appreciating the water it gives us rather than cursing it for the shoes it spoils.
I worked harder than ever at being a better person each day. Every night I would ask myself a few questions:
Am I any better today than I was yesterday?
Were there any negative experiences today from which I could learn?
Did I accomplish something today?
By setting aside some time daily to reflect on my behaviors, I have created an opportunity for myself to grow. I developed a list to help me be a better person today than yesterday. If you’d like to start being the best version of yourself now, ask yourself:
1. Did I pay attention to the people around me?
I try to reflect on whether I talked or listened more today. Did I genuinely show interest in what other people were saying? Did I give them the attention they deserved when they spoke? When I listened more, I made more friends. When I was interested in people, I could make a positive difference in their day, which in turn made me more content.
2. Am I stuck on a bad yesterday?
I can’t be a better person today if I am stuck on my bad yesterday. Dwelling on a bad yesterday makes my today bad as well. This results in two bad days—a bad yesterday and a bad today, and a bad today would be a bad yesterday the next day (complicated).
I try to forget and forgive nasty remarks made by a friend, boss, neighbor, or my husband. I stopped regretting mistakes; I needed to move on. I stopped thinking about time wasted in past since thinking about it now wastes time today. I let go of past resentments.
3. Did I work on my character today?
More than anything else that matters in life, it’s your own character that counts. I keep trying to improve my character through good thoughts and more importantly, good deeds. Our character determines how we will respond to situations and circumstances of life.
4. Did I work on my habits?
I try hard to get rid of my bad habits and develop good ones. None of us are born with fixed habits. They are developed and cultivated with practice. It is easy to get hooked on bad habits, but difficult to get rid of them.
I was a very impatient person, and a slave to the clock. Everything had to happen on time, but with a six-year-old child, this slavery to time is extremely stressful.
My child wouldn’t think about whether I’d be late to work and would take ages to get dressed while I was waiting for him. This would bring about a round of threatening or fights to hurry him.
Over last one year I gave up wearing my watch to slow down a bit. I decided I didn’t need it. It really wouldn’t be a big deal if I was five minutes late, but yelling and screaming at my child would induce a guilt/unhappiness that lasted for hours, and it would start his day poorly as well.
Now every time I look at my wrist out of habit to check the time, having no watch reminds me to slow down. It is now a constant reminder throughout the day to slow down and appreciate what I have.
Working on little habits like this can make a big difference in our lives.
5. Did I allow anger to consume me today?
It’s inevitable we’ll feel angry from time to time, but we don’t have to let it control us. Working through my anger with people, life, and my circumstances was the toughest in the list to do—but also the most beneficial. Deep breaths worked for me. This post may be helpful you.
6. Did I exercise today?
This one is an instant mood booster, which allows us to be better for the people around us. I realized that sometimes I might be too tied up for an hour workout. So I break it into parts and look for opportunities to walk a little, since every step counts. Every time I talk on the phone I walk. So now my daily chat with my sister for ten minutes provides me with ten minutes of walking.
We all deserve to be the best versions of ourselves; it not only reduces our own suffering, but also allows us to make a positive impact on the people around us.
Cars, phones, computers, technology are all becoming better each day. Shouldn’t we?
In business we follow the principle of “continuous improvement.” It’s time we replicate the same in our lives.
Each day is a new opportunity to grow. Each day we can be better than yesterday.
Be the best version of you image via Shutterstock