Tuesday, November 4, 2014

10 Essential Experiences for becoming a Better Human Being

It's no question the internet has more than its fair share of self-help, list style blogs. Apparently, everyone has an opinion...yet common sense seems to be melting away as fast as the polar ice caps. While no one is perfect, there is a distinct air that surrounds those who make a conscience effort to live an examined life. The truth, of course, being that life should be examined daily. The most interesting individuals, or at least those whom seem to live the happiest and healthiest, are the ones willing to progress with each passing day. So why do I think I have the credentials to give advice, then? Is it my world travels and timely man bun? The answer is I don't have any credentials, but I've had a lot of random experiences. I can tell you with full certainly that the following have shaped me much more than others. Not everyone is willing to deviate from a set path, but hopefully some of these can move you as well.

1.) Working in a retail or service industry job - If I were a tyrannical dictator, or I guess an elected official, I would write into law that every person, regardless of race, gender, or socialeconomic status (SES), should work no less than 3 months in some sort of service industry or retail job. Why? Those who haven't still find it OK to undertip (or not tip at all), while verbally abusing those serving them. Working in customer service is hard, under appreciated, and underpaid, but those who do it learn valuable lessons of how to treat others. While it may be a bit easier to treat a jerk nicely while getting paid, you best believe the first time you have someone dig into you for not adhering to their every need sticks with you. These lessons go far beyond your time in this industry.
2.) Working a minimum wage job - In a similar fashion, the only people who think it is a bad idea to raise minimum wage to a livable standard are those who haven't had to live off of it. Minimum wage is supposed to increase with the inflation in cost of living. If you have ever tried to live off of $7.75 an hour or less, even as a single individual, you quickly realize that this money is not reciprocal to the bills associated with living in a developed country.

3.) Leaving a demeaning situation - For some reason humanity has this notion that prevailing through hardship is the most noble thing we can do. While I'm not saying that hard work and perseverance aren't admirable, what I am saying is that there are certain times when throwing in the towel is the right thing to do. It is a judgement call. There is nothing more gratifying than realizing that your current situation is below you, and you deserve far better. If someone or something isn't recognizing your worth, it is OK to take a step back. If you are being underutilized, underpaid, and demeaned on the daily, you need to walk out the door with haste. 

4.) Deciding to act, instead of complaining - We've all been here. You call your parents or best friend on the phone, describing why a certain situation is awful. You even describe the perfect solution, yet, you remain in the same place. While progress is easier discussed than realized, at some point you need to take action, instead of rehashing the same conversation. The result, though difficult, will shape you permanently. 

5.) Using self-propelled transportation - This especially applies to those in a place they've been for a long time. It is amazing the things we overlook while speeding down a busy road. One simple solution to avoiding the monotony trap is to mix things up. Strap on your roller-skates, fix up that old bike, or even wake up an hour earlier and lace up some comfortable sneakers, to try a self-propelled method to some destination you go on a daily basis. It is amazing what facets of the journey will begin to pop out, even if you thought you knew the trip like the back of your hand. Life is about the little things, and once you start to see this as an action instead of a cliche, you will approach each day with gratitude. 

6.) Go on a date with someone outside of your comfort zone - I've caught some flack for this one in the past, so I want to emphasize the word DATE. If you and your DATE decide to do adult things behind closed doors after, that is your choice (defining your own sexuality should probably be on this list as well...). What I'm really encouraging everyone to do is go on an actual, IRL date. This is an ordinary date, but the kicker is who you go with. Choose someone outside of your own race, age range, SES, neighborhood, state, country, ideology, etc. Believe it or not, while what makes people being so different fun is that we are different, it is surprising how much common ground exists between those from different walks of life. Realizing this commonality bridges gaps our society has dictated for far too long. We have so many mediums now to go on dates, why not expand our narrowly chosen internet search ranges and meet someone truly new?

7.) Offer unconditional love, with no expectation of reciprocation - This could be the hardest item on the list (unless, of course, you are a parent. You guys are ballers). Offering unconditional love is not the same as loving a person. When we fall in love, we do it with a person whom we expect to offer that same level of love back to us. We take them on a date, they make us dinner. We buy them flowers, they surprise us with a movie night. While loving actions make the world go round, what we rarely do is show love to another person with no intention of them paying it back. Though mutual gain is really the answer to a lot of society's problems, offering a small token of free, unrestricted love to any person is a task that will change you for the better. 

8.) Being on a losing team, and fighting until the bitter end - Maybe we can't all identify with a sports/competition reference, but I think the sentiment is understood. At some point, everyone will fail. It can be catastrophic or minuscule, but we all "lose," sooner or later. Some of the time, we know its coming. In these situations, instead of jumping ship at the first sign of bad weather, try taking a page from the captain's log; go down with the ship. It sucks, it hurts, it leaves scars, and it is hard to let go, but with it comes an understanding for true devotion. Those who are willing to commit to something so extremely, even if it will fail or fall, will learn the true meaning of passion. 

9.) Meditate - Meditation doesn't mean absconding from everything and sitting in silence under a tree or in a cave, it means adding conscience action to your daily life. While it can be sitting in silence with crossed legs and directed focus, it can also mean concentrating for a few minutes on a sole action. Meditation reminds us how important each moment is. It reminds us how much weight our actions hold. By adding this to your daily life, the amount of appreciation one has for what awaits them when the alarm clock sounds will increase substantially. 

10.) Do something life affirming regularly - It sounds like a big task, but it's not. Really, I swear it's not. This can be as simple as going to a bathroom on a different floor at work, or driving down a different road on your daily commute. All it takes is a conscience decision to do something as a reminder that you have free will. Do you come home each night and sit on the couch? Why not take a late night bike ride? Do you go to the same restaurant or bar each weekend? Why not find a cheap AirBnb in town or city you've never visited? It doesn't have to cost money, and it doesn't even have to be time consuming, it just has to hold the idea that this is the only life we have, and each day, no matter how similar it may be to its predecessor, is unique and filled with opportunity.

Halloween isn't the only time you should wear a costume

Photos courtesy of the Huffington Post, Shift Gig, Mag Child, and Getty images 
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