— A lesson by the King of Monks in Thailand. —
In a world obsessed with success, possessions, and recognition, it’s useful to remember a deeper goal we have all shared, ever since we were kids. To become good people. We all intrinsically want to be someone who is unequivocally good. Someone with a pure mind which others can look up to and trust, even if we don’t have money, status, fame, or power. Here are 7 (paraphrased) habits, suggested by the King of Monks in Thailand that you can cultivate today to help you on your journey to becoming such a person.
#1. Good People – Calm Their Ego
The moment you see yourself as important, powerful, or intelligent, you lose. You stop learning. People around you step back. No matter how “big” life you live, you’ll always be infinitely small in this universe. With this in mind, try to make your own self-image as small as possible. It may sound depressing. But this doesn’t mean to lose sight of the value in yourself. On the contrary, it helps you to see the value of others. When you practice seeing yourself as equal to others or lower than them in some way, you become able to find things to learn from every person you meet.
With this perspective, people become more naturally open and trusting with you. It builds deeper relationships with others because you do not place yourself above them. Instead, they feel valued and important when with you. You also gain much more in the process. First, by practicing humility, competition with, or impressing, others isn’t necessary. You feel more relaxed. Plus you allow yourself to learn something from every person you meet.
#2. Good People – Are Content
Imagine having everything you want. What would you like? A big house? A boat? More friends? A cuter husband? Whatever it is, it’s likely something different than what you have now. Greed is normally a problem for all of us. We desire more than we inherently need, and it ties us up in life. So, if it’s difficult for you to quell your thirst for material objects, try to shift your perspective instead.
Everything you own is a link in a chain that holds you down. When you buy something, it adds to your responsibilities and worries. Think about it. A new car means paying insurance, petrol, cleaning it, taking care of it, worries about something happening to it – like theft, scratches or dents. Not to mention any further financial burden taken on because of it. That cute puppy you want? He’ll need shots, food, and constant attention (forget long trips or holidays), plus he’ll die one day. These things may seem trivial now, but every little possession adds up until life becomes simply maintaining the things you have.
The human capacity for desire is unquenchable, without restraint. There is no limit. No matter how rich you get, there are still some things you cannot afford, or a bigger boat you could buy. Being content with what you have, takes practice. But, the beauty is, that once you train yourself to be content, you start to appreciate the things that you have. Until, one day, you don’t want anything more. You’ll be happy with what you have. Even if you lost everything you had, you’d be happy with what you had. Of course, it doesn’t mean that being content means being poor, it simply means being happy with whatever you have. Work on improving your life, while content with every step of the way.
#3. Good People – Refine and Compare.
Perfection is in the mind. Those who try to be perfect often set unrealistic goals or expectations for themselves and others. It results in stress, displeasure, and disappointment. Do the best you can in every moment. Refine your actions, your abilities, yourself. Never expect yourself or anything you do to be perfect. Instead of simply being better than you were last time.
This goes hand in hand with comparing yourself with others. Most compare themselves to others, “keeping up with the Jones’s.” But, they fail to realize that the other person is on a completely different journey than them. The only person we should compare ourselves to is our past selves. Are you a better you, than you were yesterday? This should be the question asked. Refine yourself in each moment and keep track of your own progress in comparison to your past.
#4. Good People – Know When to Speak
In Buddhist texts, they explain how to choose the right time to speak. This is because words are powerful, but only if treated right. The more you waste your tongue on useless conversations or lies, the fewer people value what you say. If you want people to listen to you. Or, if you want what you say to mean something and have an impact, everything you want to say must pass through 3 filters of scrutiny, before deciding whether or not to actually speak the words. The three filters are usefulness, pleasantry, and truth. Before speaking, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it useful? Is it pleasant?
Here’s how to choose when to speak, and when not to.
When to speak
If it is true, useful, and pleasant, then say it.
If it is true, useful but not pleasant, wait for the right time to say it.
When not to speak
If it is true, not useful, but pleasant, don’t say it.
If it is not true, but useful and pleasant, don’t say it.
If it is not true, not useful but pleasant, don’t say it.
If it is not true, not useful and not pleasant, don’t say it.
#5. Good People – Realize that Reality isn’t Real
Nothing lasts. So how real can it be? Is reality real? Or more like a dream? This is a difficult concept to grasp. Even Einstein said that it was a persistent problem. But, if you can at least keep it in mind in difficult times, it will be of immense value.
Think of an ice cube, floating in the ocean. The ice cube is certainly its own separate entity with a specific shape and certain unique characteristics. Depending on its surrounding environment, it may grow in size or shrink. It may be beautiful, like a crystal, or dull and cloudy. But in the end, that ice cube will melt, like any other, and once again become part of the vast ocean. Likewise, everything we see, including ourselves, will one day melt back into the world from which it came. Remember that. Every second is precious to be in the form you are in. See the value of each passing impermanent moment, but also remember – it isn’t actually real.
#6. Good People – Know that Gossip Sucks
Gossip is one of those things which is useful to none. The person who gossips loses people’s trust, wasting their time commentating on someone else’s life. For those who are the topic of gossip, no matter what another person says about you, it’s not who you are either. There’s a lot more to you than an ill spoken story. Remember this. If others speak well of you, or poorly of you, it has nothing to do with you. If they say you’re bad, it doesn’t mean you’re actually bad. It’s simply their perspective.
Even if you are bad, you can still improve. Everyone has areas where they can improve upon themselves. On the other hand, if people say you are brilliant or perfect, it doesn’t mean you’re there yet. Also, we both know the day you feel you’ve reached the summit is the day you stop climbing, which would be of no use to you anyway. Just keep in mind that whatever people say about you to others, is not really you anyway.
#7. Good People – Don’t Worry About Success
Success, status, competitive achievement, in this world, are things we’ve made up. We based them on animalistic survival instincts which are – all in all – not necessary. They’re not bad, per se. However, we do often lose sight of other areas of our lives because of our affinity with primal ideas of success. The truth is, success creates slaves, not emperors. We fight so hard for success, giving up our lives for it.
Success is like water. Once it’s in our grasp, it’s elusive. We struggle to maintain it, to develop it or reach one more step higher. Life becomes burdensome. Everything becomes about getting and maintain higher levels of what we believe success to be. The problem is, yet again, that human desire is unlimited and ever-expanding. It’s like money when growing up. A boy gets super excited about finding $10 on the street. A teenager needs at least $50 for buying video games, and by the time we’re adults, anything under a $100 dollars seems chump change.
The other side of success is ugly too. There are countless movie stars, athletes, performers and more who sink into utter depression after their “peak.” Many kill themselves, others become self-abusive. It’s difficult for a person who has sung in front of 100,000 fans screaming their name to accept not even selling out 1,000 seat theaters.
Don’t worry about whether you’re a success. Success doesn’t make emperors. It makes slaves. Instead, focus on becoming the best version of you. Educate yourself, refine yourself, and make yourself increasingly useful and valuable to others. Like an old Thai King once said. “I do things I think will be useful and that is all…..I have no plan. Just like today we have something to do. We don’t know what the something is, but we’re going to do something that is good.”