How to Be a Better Person | JR Cook Philosophy

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I remember a time many years ago when I started to wonder how to be a better person. I compromised my true self too many times, and before long I started to forget who I really was. I wish I would have had an answer ready all those years ago. I have done a complete 180 over the past 10 years and I’d like to share a little bit about how I have found to be a better person.

Let’s first understand how we got here.

“It is not so much about what life hands you, but what you do with what you get.”
― Idowu Koyenikan

Childhood and Life Conditioning

An interesting thing about childhood is that we accept the things that happen as normal.  We simply don’t know any better, or what normal really is. My childhood taught me how to be a criminal.  I had to teach myself that there was a better way. I allowed my childhood conditioning to get the best of me.

Many of us have scars from when we were kids. Either we were neglected, something terrible happened to us, or we were simply trained to be bad. The good news is that it is in our control to change. It all starts with a little bit of effort. We can do something about it.

Questions to Ask

  1. What kinds of childhood conditioning are you still holding on to?
  2. What did your childhood teach you about the world?

Life Conditioning

After being a kid, I joined the United States Marine Corps. In some ways I am very glad to have done that, and in others I am not. They definitely helped me in that they took a no good kid from Shidler Oklahoma, and taught me some discipline. The part that I didn’t like was how extremely negative the environment was for me.

In many ways it made me far more sophisticated, teaching me to think quickly and accurately. In other ways, it refined me into a weapon. If you mix the skills that they teach you in the military, with the mindset of a criminal, you get a recipe for disaster.

I was in jail not 6 months after getting out of the Marines, charged with a crime that I didn’t commit. It was fine though, I knew I deserved to be in there for everything that I didn’t get caught for during those 6 months.

It was a major wake up call. I realized I needed to make a major pivot or I was either going to die, or spend my life behind bars. Neither of which sounded very appealing.

Questions to Ask

  1. What kind of decisions have I made that has changed me?
  2. What kind of experiences have I gone through that have turned me into who I am today?

Realize that none of us want to be a bad person.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
-Soren Kierkegaard

I think that every one of us really want to be a good person. Just not everyone knows how to be a good person.  Even the most wicked of individuals, doing what most of us would consider heinous acts of savagery, have justified what they are doing is for a noble cause to themselves.  Even the acts of terror we see happening from all of the different ideologies are coming from a sense of righteousness. People don’t hurt others if they don’t truly believe in what they are doing. 

It helps me to avoid anger by realizing that these people believe in what they are doing, as much as I am disgusted by, and despise their actions.  They are motivated to do what they are doing, just as I am motivated to do what I do. We just have different beliefs, leading to different motivations.

So if you can change your beliefs, you can change your actions. If you can change your actions, you can change your entire life.

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. Marcus Aurelius
Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. 
Marcus Aurelius

While this might seem simple enough, it can prove to be challenging for many of us. It is because the ego (sense of self) likes to hold onto our beliefs. It is a sense of not wanting to be wrong, and fighting to prove we are right that often takes us to our graves in ignorance or stupidity. It is critical if you want to become a better person to open your mind to change when new evidence presents its-self.

Have strong convictions, but be willing to let them go in the light of truth and reason.

Questions to Ask:

Choose a behavior that you would like to change in your life.

  1. What would I have to believe to be acting this way?
  2. Why do I believe that?
  3. How do I want to act?
  4. What would I have to believe to act that way?
  5. What beliefs would I have to let go of?


The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination. Carl Rogers
The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.
-Carl Rogers

I think that maintaining the mindset that there are no evil people, only confused ones, is essential for bringing people together.  It is also am important lesson to learn if we are really going to be a better person.

Think about it, if you are going to treat people better… What are you going to have to believe to do that? If we want to treat people good, we are going to have to believe that they are fundamentally good. That is a problem I see in today’s polarized populist, versus establishment dynamic. Both sides think that the other side is the embodiment of evil, which is simply not true.  The story is stale, and has been played out repeatedly throughout history.  But many don’t read history books, so I am left scratching my head.

I think that when we take a step back and realize that every one of us are all simply doing what we believe makes us better people, the truth begins to come into focus.  It opens our hearts to other human beings. Remember that the other person believes and feels the same way about what they believe as you do. You think you are smarter than they are?  They they think they are smarter than you are. The fact of the matter is that 100% of us are probably misinformed anyway, regardless of our source of information.

Did you ever play the telephone game during school?  If you take some time to consider the lessons that that game teaches, you will discover some profound realities about news distribution, and global zeitgeist as a whole.

So What Can We Do Then? Be a better person by changing the way you see people.

Stepping into that paradigm of thought, we might consider that there may be other options than the ones that are provided to us.  What is popularly relevant, may not be the best thing to be focusing our minds on. Maybe NO ONE has our best interest in mind. What if we began to focus more on adjusting our thought habits so that we can become better individuals?  Is our society not woven by the threads of individuals? Perhaps we can weave a higher quality of fabric by focusing on the quality of our thread.

Buddah Quote JR Cook How To Be a Better Person Philosophy
The mind is everything. What you think you become. 

Why are we so quick to lambaste someone for a difference in perception, when we are so slow to help others find their own version of happiness?  I think that the greatest travesty of our times is not the political climate, but that so many people are wasting so much time focusing on things that they will never take any action to change.

So much human potential is being wasted on things not nearly as severe as the dominant hyperbole declares.  What is breaking society apart is that people are taking things literally. The TV and Internet news stations have in effect become our preachers giving us a sermon.  I understand that it seems like everything is a matter of good versus evil, but I think that is a diseased paradigm to live in. It is how wars are started and maintained.  I hope that we can all agree that war is something to be avoided. Especially when the us versus them paradigm is merely a matter of perspective. We could all easily be that other person, had we been born somewhere else, and had been raised under different conditions.

You are going off the rails JR, what is in this for me?

Going back to the fact that we are all only doing what we believe in puts us all on the same page.  It means that instead of that person being evil, that person may be confused. Which belief do you think makes you more likely to treat someone better?  Let us talk to each other with that understanding. Let’s also consider that when we talk to ourselves.

A very powerful question to always keep in mind is:

What if I am the one who is wrong in this argument?

That is a good thing.

Being wrong is not a bad thing if you admit it. I have trained myself to admit it instantly and thank the person for taking the time to show me the truth of the situation. I highly recommend trying it out as a habit. Just changing that little aspect of your behavior can shift your entire character. If I am right, and the person insists on arguing without presenting evidence, then I remove myself from the situation.

Life is just the same as learning to swim. Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!
-Alfred Adler

Let’s dig deeper into how to become a better person. Simple answer, do better things.

How do you think that we can make things better?  Let’s talk about that. I’m not interested in Dogma or Ideologies.  I think that what is missing so much in humanity today is what it is that really makes us human.  It is the ability to discuss how we can improve things with novel ideas. It is this quality that has allowed us to create such amazing machines, and beautiful pieces of art.  It has been what has sparked every great period of renaissance in the past. I am convinced that it is the key to sparking our next great expansion into the future.  Yet we cling to whatever we have declared to believe in the past, letting our ego imprison us from pursuing other beliefs.  We must free ourselves from that.

Focusing on what you want is the key to discovering any outcome.  Let us focus on a unified humanity of mutual respect. Had our conditioning been different, we could have been that person who we are arguing with.  No one really knows the truth anyway. I believe I am writing this document right now, but I could really be in a straight jacket at a mental asylum imagining the whole thing.  The same thing is true for all of us. A good principle that I live by is to have strong convictions, but to hold onto them loosely.

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.
-Steve Jobs

I have trained myself to enjoy finding out when I am wrong.  The reason for that is because when I find out that I am wrong I can improve my thinking.  That makes my perception of reality more accurate, and improves my decision making in life moving forward.  I think that people can also sense that when we are having a conversation, so they know that they can let their guard down. I am always open to being convinced if the correct evidence is presented.  Remember that phrase, strong convictions, loosely held.  

I have come to realize that how I treat other human beings is more important than what I believe. 

I’ll elaborate on that briefly.

Do I want to achieve my goals, or do I want to win an argument?  Do I want to be a good human being that makes the world a better place, or would I rather crush people with intellectual tactics?  I started to ask myself these questions, and I realized that I was living out the latter option of both. While I wanted to achieve my goals and being a better human being, I realized that I was focusing more energy on winning arguments, and hurting others through debate.  Sometimes in life, we have to make a choice.

This is your opportunity to choose to treat people with respect and dignity.

It isn’t the emotion and thoughts that matters, it is the actions that we take that makes an impact. 

Take a minute to answer:

How do I act daily towards others?

From the moment I wake up, until I go to sleep. Try to step out of your way of thought and see your actions from a third parties perspective.

Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.
-Wayne Dyer

Instead of getting wrapped up in the belief that I had that justified the argument because I am right, I began to consider the fact that I really don’t know anything anyway.  I began to realize that I could be in that straight jacket imagining this whole thing. It began to put things in perspective, and made me realize that how I treat other human beings is far more important that my beliefs.  Even when I “know” I’m right. I now ask myself the question, “How would I feel about how I am treating this person if I were wrong?”

Wayne Dyer once said, “If given the choice between being right, and being kind, choose kindness.” 

I disagreed with him at the time, but have come to realize that my new way of life is actually more accurate to who I am than trying to grasp an elusive truth that is beyond my, or anyone’s comprehension.  All humans have are perception, or belief about things. But while absolute truth is never fully attainable, the objective of being a good human being is. I’ll settle for being a good person, with a great quality of life. What about you?

My challenge for you is to begin to think in terms of bravery, nobility of character, justice, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, love, and positive faith(optimism). Write those words down somewhere and read them every morning. Find opportunities to embody them in your life.

In Conclusion

I try to remember the profound truth that I could always be wrong.
-JR Cook

It is my belief that the only people who we can really control is ourselves, yet most of us spend the majority of the time trying to manipulate the thoughts and actions of others.  I think that this is the source of conflict in far too many situations. Especially when it can be avoided with a little understanding of what it really means to be a human being. That is how to be a better person.

I try to remember the profound truth that I could always be wrong.

That is why you no longer see me participating in any of the daily discourse.  I now focus primarily on my lifelong goals, and helping others. It is my belief that if others would begin to do the same the world would be in for a major healing.  I’m not here to convince you of that though. I just want to share my thinking, and hopefully it will inspire even greater thoughts than the ones that I have shared here.

Until Next Time, Be A Better Person.

JR Cook

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