Being a better you

Today’s individuals are, in many ways, better than we’ve ever been. We’re more understanding, more accepting, more flexible, and more principled, as well as less selfish, less entitled, less power-hungry, and less misogynistic. But we still want to be better, stronger, faster than before.

Here are seven ways – none of which includes replacing body parts with bionics – to become better people in the 21st century:

1. Learn respect.
The premise is simple. Other people—of any gender—matter as much as you. Their rights are equal to yours. Their yeses and nos carry the same weight—always. And they deserve to be treated at all times with civility. Learn a respectful code of conduct, let it guide you in all your relationships, and you will instantly be a better person. 

2. Practice respect.
Learning a skill is worthless if you don’t practice and ultimately master it. Bring respect to every situation. Put it first – above desire, above need, above anger, vengeance, and vindication. Think of respect as a muscle you flex whenever strength is called for, a muscle you must keep in shape through consistent exercise. Consider every challenge a test that, if met with respect will sharpen your skills.

3. Model respect.
Men model behavior for boys in every familial, social, and professional interaction. Boys grow up to treat women the way their father treats their mother or grandmother or allows them to treat their mother or sister. Boys copy their male role models instinctively, without thinking. How many times have you been shocked to hear your kid say something nasty, only to realize he’s repeating your words? Model the type of person you want to create, to mould, lead, or show, and do it with conscious intent.

4. Teach respect.
When you practice and model a way of being, you become a teacher. You don’t have to stand in classroom or earn a degree. You’ll be sought out for counsel and asked for advice, because you’ll be respected, and people will be eager to learn your secret. Don’t charge for your wisdom. Share it generously. It’s not as if you’re going to run short, because the more you give, the more you’ll gain.

5. Demand respect.
When you learn, practice, and model respect, and when you teach it to students of all ages, you earn the right to demand it back. And you find the courage to say, “If you treat me that way, I will walk away.” This is self-respect, and it forms the core of the respectful man as well as the golden rule. To treat others as you would want them to treat you, it’s essential to know how you want to be treated. If it’s OK with you to be bullied, hurt, abused, and otherwise disrespected, you’ll have no trouble passing the pain along. On the other hand, if you develop clear and enforceable boundaries, you’ll find it natural to respect the lines that other people draw.

6. Support respect.
Wherever you see respectful behavior, commend it. Positive reinforcement works wonders with kids and adults alike. If you want more of something in the world, praise it, celebrate it, speak out on its behalf. Choose to be around respectful people. Work only with colleagues and bosses whose values you admire. Buy from companies who treat their employees respectfully. And exit situations and relationships with a disrespectful dynamic. Make respect your deal-breaker.

7. Sustain respect.
Even when you’ve mastered a practice, it’s easy to falter. We tire. We turn to situational logic and justify with rationalizations. When this happens, do what’s needed to recenter yourself. Create a visual reminder that’s in your face every day. Be aware and listen to your loved ones for signs you may be slipping; they’ll be the first to let you know. Ask people you trust, “How am I doing?” And get help if you need it. No one is perfect, and we all mess up. When the inevitable happens, apologize respectfully, forgive yourself, get back on your feet, and get back to work.

[T.G. Fiffer]

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