If you haven’t already read Umair Haque’s The Betterness Manifesto, I would suggest you take a quick look. I bookmarked it weeks ago but have read it over and over again since, and after each pass-through, something new moves me. There are powerful messages here.
Work. You’re worth something. Stop giving your talent away to organizations that misallocate it, underutilize it, and possibly even abuse it. If you’re doing something meaningless, quit… Find a company that’s better. Better yet, start one.
Live. If you’re living somewhere meaningless, move… Move somewhere where there’s a local community made up of passionate, talented people, a community you can nurture and that nurtures you. It just might be good for your soul.
Civilize. Join civic society. Become a volunteer. Mentor someone. Get involved with a local non-profit. Do something that has, in the parlance of economists, positive externalities: an activity that benefits others more than it benefits you. The basis of civilization is not naked self-interest, it’s shared interest.
Reflect. Take time out, no matter what. Pick a favorite place, a café, a restaurant, park or avenue. Hang out and reflect. What would betterness mean in your life? How are you helping betterness happen? How could you help betterness happen?
Betterness doesn’t just happen. It starts with a spark, with effort, with a daily conscious choice to give, to think positive, to live with openness. Here are my personal additions, less macro, more personal, and do-able on a daily basis.
Think Small. A random text message. A phone call hello. A pause to hold the door open for a stranger. Small things can make a big difference in someone’s day. My favourite memories with important people in my life don’t consist of grandiose trips or gifts. I hold dear the daily rituals, the nicknames, the inside jokes, the random acts of love and affection that happen a dozen times a day. They hold the weight of the world.
Act counter-intuitive. Choose love. We are all ruled by the ego (whose need is to be recognized, to feel bigger, stronger and better than others). When you are inclined to withdraw, to hoard, to protect yourself from others – pause. Think counter-intuitive. Be open, be generous, act with humility. Our first instincts aren’t always of love. Choose love.
Give. Of your time, your patience, your prayers. When I am in need, when I’m stressed, when I’m down, I make it a point to let go of my own qualms for a while and reach out to others. It’s not a natural thing to do but I try hard to turn my own Need into Generosity and somehow, at the end of the day, I go to bed with an incredible feeling of abundance.
Pray. To God, to the universe, to the cosmos. Be expectant. Ask. Receive it in your mind and heart now and watch it all unfold. Know that thinking well for yourself (and others) manifests real-world results. The universe is listening.
Touch. Kiss often. Hug. Connect with another human being at the most basic level. It is in our instinct to touch, but along the way we learned instead to be modest, to protect, to shy away. Touch is healing, reduces pain, contributes to positive attachment relationships (especially between mother and baby) and decreases physical and psychological pain. It’s free, it’s basic and has become so rare in western society these days that it makes me wonder how many number of ailments we can cure by fostering a culture of affection. Greet someone with a hug today. Kiss your mom.
Gratitude. Practice it, keep it top of mind, be thankful. Count your blessings. Live with a perspective of abundance and never will you feel poor, no matter the amount in your bank account. When we spent the Christmas holidays in the Philippines with family, this attitude of abundance present in the lives of my poor relatives knocked me off my feet. With so very little in terms of material resources, they manage to be the most joyful, generous, loving people I know.
Living better daily starts a little at a time but maybe, just maybe, it can make a bigger difference than we can imagine.