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.

For example:

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.


5 Replies to “How To Be A Better Person”

  1. ted coine says:


    I love it – BAM! You hit this one out of the park. We all run out of gas, and we all get hungry two: those are the two things I notice make me crankiest, or most evil, as you so aptly put it. As a dad of two little girls, I notice from their expressions when my wife and I are run down and our tempers ultra-short (Jane and I are quite often on the same schedule, energy-wise). Sometimes, I have it in me to clam up rather than be a bully and infect them with my mood. Others, I want to, but I watch the mean words escape my mouth and… two or three wonderful people get infected with my mood, rather than my letting their joy rub off on me.

    Taking this to the workplace: yeah, we’re a run-down culture. We think it’s macho to over-work (guilty!) and to under sleep. Running into a burning building to save people – that’s macho (or heroic, anyway). Depriving yourself of sleep? Um… not very macho (or heroic). Bragging about it? Lame. Encouraging such bragging? Lamer.

    Eight hours, folks. We need our brains at work, not our brawn. Brains require rest to recharge.

    No wonder so many of us hate work. Everyone around us is as stressed-out and exhausted as we are!

    Great post, Amigo.

  2. Trev says:

    Amen! Thanks for this. Perfect clarity

  3. If we dedicated every single minute and every second of everyday to knowing more and doing more, it still wouldn’t make a smidgeon of a dent in everything there is to know and do. And yes we seem addicted to doing just that. You nailed it with your post. New ways of dealing with reality and fueling up on energy — usually happens when we’re passionate about something in service to others and doing something we’re just mad crazy about cause we like it so much. I also appreciated Ted’s response about the “run down culture” and “We think it’s macho to over-work (guilty!) and to under sleep.” Lame indeed! We also need a new way of dealing with that false reality.

    By the way don’t be too hard on the “Evil Josh”. I call my alter-ego, “Broken Record Suzie” and I’ve found that the less I put myself down, the less I feed that negative thought machine and the “blame game me”, the quicker I can shift to the kinder, more positive, kick-ass fun me that gets me in gear.

    Suzanne another one of your pals

  4. Bobby says:

    Well done my friend!! Always the teacher and always the student thats how we should approach our daily lives.

  5. The key to becoming a better person is to clear your internal baggage so you’re not projecting it onto others. If you do this it won’t matter how little sleep or food you have, you’ll still be a decent person. I agree with Ted that we’re a run-down culture, and we’re also a culture that is addicted to looking without rather than within. Suzanne made a great point – it starts with deciding not to buy into the ego’s game of misery and flows from there.

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