I used to think that the key to becoming a better person was, essentially, to know more things about how to be a better person.
Maybe I needed to learn new skills or tools to help me be better.
Maybe I needed to get some new research about why I should be better.
Maybe I needed to acquire new “tricks.”
Maybe I needed to gather some new ways to see reality.
While none of those things are bad, I’m starting to think a little differently about this.
Now I’m noticing that whenever I behaved badly, done something untoward, or somehow engaged with life in a way I’m not necessarily proud of it’s usually not because I didn’t know how to be a better version of me. No, I knew what I should have done, I just didn’t choose to do that.
Why didn’t I make a better choice, then?
Well, I’ve come to believe it’s because in that moment I didn’t have the personal resources to have been the better person I could have been. For whatever reason (usually a variety of reasons), I didn’t have the energy — the capacity, the bandwidth, the stamina, or whatever you want to call it — to behave in the way I would have preferred to behave.
Put another way, in that “bad” moment I was tired and worn down or just altogether “tapped out” to the point where I didn’t care enough to override my default setting… which is, many times, to be kind of an asshole.
When I get my energy reserves UP, though — when I have the presence and mindfulness and awareness that I need — I’m usually able to override the “asshole” setting and be the kind of person that I would like to be. But when I am tired and rundown it’s like I simply can’t do it. It’s basically like I can’t stop myself from being this worst version of me.
So these days I’m wondering if being a better person isn’t so much about knowing more or learning new tricks or having a better understanding of all the ways to be better, but if it’s more about ensuring that I am always cultivating my energy reserves — constantly refilling them — so I have the wherewithal to fight against the “evil Josh” that lurks somewhere in the background, forever tempting me to be an idiot.
That’s an entirely different approach to this problem.
12+1 Songs You Need On Your iPod (Holiday Edition) by Josh Allan Dykstra on December 11th, 2009
Rushing Through Life Is A Form Of Violence by Josh Allan Dykstra on March 18th, 2013
How To Not Be A Douchebag by Josh Allan Dykstra on November 7th, 2013