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.