How Do We Become Our Best Self?

Everyone wants to — or should want to — get better. A common expression implores us to “be your best self” but how exactly does one do that?

The end of the calendar year often leads to some reflection on the past, and perhaps even to some self evaluation. In turn, this might lead to new year’s resolutions, or things you may want to change or improve about yourself.

But is change even possible? Sometimes it feels like year after year you have the desire to change, but may not have the capacity to carry through on that desire. Is it just a matter of not having the willpower, or is there something deeper at work here?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘What do you believe?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What are you willing to sacrifice?’


For example, some people, after thinking about their life, may decide they resolve to be a more positive — or at least a less negative — person in the new year. But some studies seem to indicate that a person’s happiness level is pretty constant. While it might change a bit in the short term, long-term happiness remains mostly constant.

After all, we live in an age of wonder, where we know more and can do more and live longer than at any time in history. And yet, there is no evidence that we are any happier — in fact, the opposite maybe true.

But of course, some change is possible. No one stays the same — at the very least, a person will get older, which is one kind of change. But can we direct that change and make meaningful strides in our desire to improve? And if so, how? How do we become our best selves?

Related questions: What are you doing to improve yourself? How does creative expression help us to know ourselves better? Is life today better than in the past? What are you doing to make the world a better place?

How Do You Determine What Matters?

Most people strive to live a life that has meaning; a life that matters. Key to that end, then, is figuring out just what matters in the first place.

This question follows up on this week’s Throwdown Thursday question: Everything Matters or Nothing Matters. As with many Thursday questions, the answer likely falls somewhere between the two extremes. In this case, there are some things that matter, and some things that don’t.

If that is true, the challenge lies in determining which of your actions fall into which of the two categories. You probably don’t want to spend a lot of time agonizing over decisions that don’t matter. Similarly, you do want to put in the time and effort to make the right call on something that is meaningful.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How can we maintain wonder?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How do you think others see you?’


But how to decide between them? One way might be to lump all the small decisions — what to wear, what to eat, when to go to bed, and so on — as being inconsequential. The big decisions — where to go to college, who to marry, which house to buy, whether to have kids — are meaningful.

There are a few problems with this. One is that adding up a bunch of small decisions can equal a big decision. Constantly being late for work (a small decision) day after day may mean you lose your job (a big outcome). And even a small decision can have a big impact. If you trace back the biggest, most important decisions in your life, often they come from small choices we made.

But it is important that we recognize what matters and what doesn’t. Or is it? Maybe we treat every decision as one that matters. Or might that leave your wracked with indecision, stressing over the potential consequences of everything you do?

How do you determine what matters?

Related questions: What is important? How can we turn ideas into actions? How much power does an individual have? What deserves your attention?

 

What Makes A Person Interesting?

When you meet someone new, you may find that person interesting or you may find them boring. Can you pinpoint exactly what makes someone appeal to you?

There are many things that might make someone fun to talk with. Maybe they have funny stories to tell. Perhaps they know a lot about a wide variety of subjects. Alternately, they may be a good listener, which might make for a good conversationalist.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What gives a person value?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘What makes you you?’


In fact, not everyone finds the same things interesting. To me, a person might be quite dull; but to you, they could be fascinating. So really the question could be rephrased as “What makes a person interesting to you?”

Or maybe it is a fact that all people have something to recommend them, and you only need to put in the work to find out how the person interests you specifically.

At any rate, can you identify the traits someone might have that makes them fun to be around? What might a person do or say in order to participate in a meaningful conversation? When you think about the humans you have been fascinated with, do they have something in common? What makes a person interesting?

Related questions: Who are your most interesting friends? What makes a good friend? What makes a good leader? Who are your heroes?

How Does Media Manipulate You?

It is easy to imagine how someone you disagree with might be manipulated by the media they consume. But how does your media manipulate you?

Frequently, I see people referred to as sheep. The implication is that they blindly follow whatever they hear. The person using the word “sheep”, however, would never fall for such obvious tricks. Or so they believe.


Related: Listen to the Intellectual Roundtable podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the question, ‘How much of our thoughts are our own?’ Stay tuned for a bonus question, ‘How much is enough?’


In reality, all news, opinion, and entertainment programs use many methods to get you to believe what they want you to believe. That might include word choice, music, on-screen text, sharing only one side of an argument, or even outright lies.

While it is easy to notice these flaws in the media outlets that don’t share your worldview, it is much harder to be critical of the media — newspaper articles, cable news, web sites, and so on — that you consume on a regular basis, and that you agree with.


Related: Here is a podcast episode with the question, ‘What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?’ We also discuss a second question, ‘What makes a place feel like home?’


Are you familiar with the rhetorical methods that are used to persuade? Do you recognize some of the behaviors that you condemn in others in your own choice of news? Can you recognize, in what you read or watch, an agenda being driven, even if you agree with that agenda? How does media manipulate you?

Related questions: How much of our thoughts are our own? How does your vocabulary influence how you think? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong? What deserves your attention?