The Ten Steps to Being Better

by Marshall Brain

How does one become a better human being? How do you go about the process of being better? Many members of DecidingToBeBetter choose the path known as The Ten Steps to Being Better, as outlined here:

  1. The process starts with self-assessment. Look at your life. Take the time to look at yourself, and your life so far, introspectively, honestly and without holding back. Look at every aspect of your life: your relationships with your family and friends, your career, your finances, your education, your personality, your morals and ethics, your health, your fitness, your charity, your politics, your causes, your hobbies, your sexuality, your virtues, your vices, and so on. As you are assessing, look also at your hopes for the future - things that you would hope to achieve as you move forward. Write down what you discover. Try to understand the things that make you happy and the things that displease you; the things that cause you to smile and the things that just aren't working; the things that bring joy and the things that bring terror in your life... everything. As you look at the result of your self-assessment, one of three things will happen:

  2. Next you choose an area that you want to improve. If part of your life is in crisis at the moment (for example you are an alcoholic, or you are morbidly obese, or you explode in disproportional anger at the slightest provocation), then that part might beg for immediate attention. Otherwise, look at the results of your self-assessment with an eye toward finding the thing that displeases you most, or a thing that seems to be holding you back, or something that would bring you joy. It might be a negative in your life that you need to address, or a positive (like a new skill or opportunity) that you hope to bring into your life. In some cases it is beneficial to choose both a positive and a negative and to work on them together. But generally speaking, it is best to focus on one thing and give it your all.

  3. If it is a negative that you are addressing, Admit that you have a problem. Admit it to yourself. Consider talking to a close friend or family member and admitting that you have a problem to him or her. If you think it would help, admit it openly to a whole group of friends. This is not about self-flagellation or drawing attention to yourself - it's simply the case that some people are more motivated if they have friends and family helping. In admitting the problem to yourself, also admit that: a) this problem is having a significant negative impact on your life, and b) that your life would be significantly improved by addressing the problem.

    If it is a positive that you wish to add to your life, embrace the idea. Embrace the idea that this new skill or opportunity will significantly improve your life.

  4. Decide to be better. Make a conscious, heartfelt, convicted decision to solve the problem or acquire the skill you have chosen and to make your life better in so doing. For example, if you are obese and you have decided that you wish to solve this problem, then make a conscious, heartfelt, convicted decision to become a thin person. Say to yourself, "I am Deciding to be better." Make a commitment to truly solve the problem.

    In making that decision, create a list of reasons why you are making the decision. Make the list as big as you can - give yourself a dozen or more good, solid, life improving reasons for making your decision.

    Now write it down. Get out an index card or a small piece of paper, write down your decision and the reasons why you are making that decision, and sign it. Write, "I am making a conscious, heartfelt, convicted decision to..." and, "The reasons why I am doing this are...". Tape this to your bathroom mirror so you can see it and review it and remind yourself of your decision and reasons every morning and every night. Repeat it out loud if that helps.

    This page and this page may also be helpful.

  5. Research the area that you have chosen to improve, and understand all of the different options and techniques that are available. Just to take obesity as an example, there are a thousand different ways that people have invented to lose weight - everything from specific diet plans to commercial weight loss programs to surgery. In many cases, a DecidingToBeBetter community near you may be offering a class designed to address your specific needs. Look at your options. Understand what you are dealing with.

  6. Choose one of the techniques that you have discovered in your research.

  7. Be better. Using the technique that you have chosen from your research, and your heartfelt conviction to improve in that area, make it happen. You are in control of, and in charge of, your brain and body. You are ultimately responsible for living your life. Make it happen. This is often more easily done in a group, a class, or with the support of friends and family. Talk about what you are doing. Write about it in a diary or a log book. Make videos and blogs if that helps. Chart your progress. Continue doing research as you are underway so that you learn more and more about the area you are addressing and ways that people have used to master it. Restate and re-commit to your goal each morning. This video may give you inspiration: Reaching your goals. See also: this page

  8. As you are underway, Evaluate your progress. Is your commitment wavering? Repeat steps 3 and 4. Is your chosen technique not working for some reason? Revisit steps 5 and 6.

  9. As you reach your goal, help and teach others. There are at least two reasons to do so: 1) In teaching others, you teach yourself. You become far more knowledgeable about what you have accomplished, and are strengthened in your resolve, when you begin teaching others; and 2) Think back to how this problem was holding you back, and how much better your life have become by eliminating the problem - understand how much you can help others by showing them how to do what you have done so well. Introduce others to DecidingToBeBetter. Use the DecidingToBeBetter platform to help others. You may wish to teach a class, build a web site, or write a book. Or talk to a friend who shares your problem and tell your story in a quiet, non-judgmental way. Or mentor one person or a very small group one-on-one and help them achieve what you have achieved. Share your knowledge.

  10. Congratulate yourself on a job well done and Repeat. Return to step 1 and decide on your next area of improvement.
All of these steps are important, but step 8 bears special emphasis. The first technique that you choose may not, in reality, work for you. Or, halfway through the process, you may have a bad day or even a bad week where you forget what you are trying to accomplish and why (also known as "falling off the wagon" or "getting off track"). Or, having succeeded, you may find yourself backsliding into old behaviors and old patterns after some period of time (Step 9 can be especially helpful in avoiding this effect). These are not unusual things. Do not beat yourself up. Simply go through the steps again and re-start the process. Jump back on the wagon - get back on track. Restore your conviction. Decide to be better.

In addition, notice the fact that many of these steps reinforce the values of DecidingToBeBetter members and express the goals of DecidingToBeBetter.