How to become a better person

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Once we're over about 12 years old,

We're suddenly encouraged to be nice.

We're expected to make efforts in all kinds of areas,

Chiefly around work, but the idea of expending energy

thinking about and then practicing the art of niceness

sounds bizarre, even eerie.

That's why we've drawn up a checklist

of 10 virtues that we think matter more than ever in the modern age.


This is the art of keeping going,

even when things are looking dark;

of accepting reversals as normal;

of refusing to frighten others with one's own fears;

and of remembering that human nature

is, in the end, reassuringly tough.


The capacity to connect imaginatively with the sufferings and unique experiences of

another person. The courage to become someone else

and look back at oneself with honesty.


We lose our temper because we believe that things should be perfect.

We've grown so good in some areas like putting men on the moon,

we're ever less able to deal with things that still insist on going wrong:

traffic, government, and other people. We should grow calmer and more forgiving

by getting more realistic about how things actually

tend to go.


We're hard-wired to seek our own advantage,

but also have this miraculous ability, very occasionally,

to forego our own satisfactions in the name

of someone or something else. We won't ever manage to

raise a family love someone else or save the planet

don't keep up with the art of sacrifice.


Politeness has a bad name. We often assume it's about being fake,

which is meant to be bad, as opposed to really ourselves,

which is and good. However, given what most of us are really like

deep down, we should spare others to much exposure to our deeper selves.

We need to learn manners, which aren't evil. They're the necessary

internal rules of civilization. Politeness is very linked to tolerance;

to a capacity to live alongside people whom one won't necessarily agree with,

but at the same time, won't be able to avoid.


Seeing the funny sides of situations and oneself

doesn't sound very serious, but its integral to wisdom,

because it's a sign that one's been able to put a benevolent finger

on the gap between what we want to happen and what life

can actually provide. Like anger, humor springs

from disappointment, but its disappointment optimally channeled.

It's one of the best things we can do with our sadness


To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one's troubles and moods.

To have a sense of what's going on inside oneself and what actually belongs to the


Forgiveness. Forgiveness means a

long memory all the times when we wouldn't have got through life

without someone cutting us some slack. It's recognizing that

living with others is impossible without excusing errors.


The way the world is now is only a pale shadow of what it could one day be.

We're still only at the beginning of history. As you get older,

despair becomes far easier, almost reflex,

whereas in adolescence it was still cool and adventurous. Pessimism

isn't necessarily deep; nor optimism shallow.


The greatest projects and schemes die

for new grander reason than that we don't dare. Confidence isn't arrogance,

it's based on constant awareness of how short life is,

and how little we ultimately lose from risking everything.

Let's try to keep these in mind and practice them a little every day.