I have never been one to earnestly celebrate the New Year. I have never really enjoyed this time of year or regarded it as a marker that means anything personally to me. I do, however, appreciate its significance and for many, it’s an amazing time to start afresh. For the majority, New Year is a time for over-eating, relaxation, holiday lights, music, excitement and much more. I have always been unable to view the New Year through those same enthusiastic and positive lenses. Even the years that I go out to watch the fireworks display or gather with family and friends to celebrate the coming of a new time, the concept of New Year, for some reason, does not resonate with me. Hannatu Musawa

However, despite my rather glum take on the New Year, the one practice that I always look forward to and have always observed every January is that of making resolutions. For as long as I can remember, I have always made it a point to make a bunch of resolutions, determinations which I undertake to uphold for a full 365 days. And “Yes,” as you may have guessed, the trend is usually one where my ability to make resolutions far outweighs my ability to keep them beyond 60 days.

This year, I have continued to observe my practice of making resolutions. But in order to make sure that I am more successful in sticking to my 2015 resolution than I have been in prior years, rather than look at the resolution I have chosen to observe as a change or sacrifice, I will perform reverse psychology on myself by considering my resolution as a gift, instead. A gift that I will give myself, give my family, give my community and my country. It will be a gift that I am giving to the world, one that may, in some way, enhance humanity and give me the true ability to make a real difference. My resolution and gift for 2015 is to try and #BeABetterMe.

My Mother and Father have certainly been the greatest influence through my life adventure. They are the ones who have worked tirelessly in teaching us how to always try and be better. Every day, I strive to be what they taught through their demonstration of faith, honesty, integrity, hard work, objectivity, honor, pride, generosity, justice, empathy, kindness, humor, fair-play, passion, contentment, conscience, support and unconditional love, even when challenged.

In addition to being extraordinarily kind and good, Mom is constantly teaching through her actions, words and advice. One of the most valuable pieces of advice she gives us is the Gandhi quote, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” She often says, every change throughout history happened as a result of the bravery and dedication of individuals. It is the choices of individuals that culminate to become the policies of groups, nations and armies. She encourages us to think through and take personal responsibility for every single action we take. And she reminds us that it is the actions of individuals, like us, which invariably has a causal effect on the whole world.
 
As for Dad, apart from being the one I love above and beyond every other person in my life, he is also the hardest working and wisest man I know. One of the wisest lessons he taught us was to always remember, ‘perception is reality.’ He recommends that we be cautious of taking issues too personally and judging the actions of others. According to Dad, the perception of people determines their own reality. What each of us determines to be the realities of situations and life stems from the way we each perceive it from our vantage point. And our perceptions are largely formed from our different orientations, experiences, beliefs, awareness and knowledge. It is the perception we each have that largely justifies situations in our mind. And it is the different perceptions we have as individuals that are mainly responsible for miscommunication and misunderstanding between different people. As a result, he always tells us to try and look at situations from other people’s perception before making any judgment, even on those whom do us wrong.

For the last two years, on some of my social media pages (Twitter @hanneymusawa), I have ran a series, which gives short tips and advise that has been taught to me by my parents, relatives, friends, teachers and some that I have come across, for my followers on how to enrich their inner beings and be better versions of themselves using the hashtag, #BeABetterYou. With the hashtag, every once in a while, I post words of encouragement on a wide array of subjects in the hope that they will reach and be of value to someone, somewhere in the world that may be in need of reading or hearing the words. It is a series of advice that I am convinced people could benefit from.

As we watch the mayhem going on around the world and the anxiety Nigerians are feeling in the run up to the dreaded elections, a lot of chaos can be avoided just by individuals making an adjustment in their everyday choices and trying to understand the perception behind the actions of others. All the pandemonium unfolding before our very eyes is the culmination of bad choices that people make. If we each took the time to consider our actions and put some effort to improve on being better people and making better choices, it would have a definitive effect in making the world better.

Most of us think of ourselves as good people. And we probably are, for the most part. I mean it is not like we run around hitting, killing and destroying lives on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this seems to be the kind of extreme test we use to score ourselves on whether we are good or bad people. But even if we don’t behave as abysmally as barbaric insurgents that go around bombing Churches and Mosques, kidnapping girls and beheading people, even if we don’t commit mass murder, as long as there are single instances in our lives where we have treated others badly, cheated them, been unfair to them or refused to assist them, then there is room for us to work on becoming better people. No matter how good, generous, pious any of us think we are, there is always room for improvement to become better people.

Every single one of us has flaws and it is never too late to change and improve a part of our character that will make us into the better people that will affect the whole collective of this world. This is exactly what the world needs: for us each to put in some effort to become better people. By becoming better people we will give the world and the generations that will come after us, the prospect of a brighter future.

So, this is my resolution this year: to strive and improve myself to #BeABetterMe. I have made up my mind right here and now to try and wake up each day with the attitude that, no matter what happens throughout the day, I am going to try and give my life the very best I have to offer in being a better version of me. I am going to try and train my mind in a way that makes me want to continue being better than I am. And I am going to continue trying to grow and progress for the better and in a way that might have a great benefit on the world. I urge everyone who comes across this article to also take the initiative to #BeABetterYou.

Becoming a better person is not rocket science and wanting to become a better person is in no way an indictment on the person you are today. It is purely about you becoming an even better version of yourself. It is when we channel the little things in our life, which we have control over, in a positive and selfless manner that makes us better. We can each do it by taking little steps, filtering our actions and making good choices.

To #BeABetterYou, you must continue to be grateful for small blessings by focusing on the good parts of any situation in your life. No matter how bad things get, chances are, if you focus, you will find some silver lining or something positive amidst any darkness.

To #BeABetterYou, you must let go of being defensive and being in denial when things go wrong, so that you will be able to dig deep and work at fixing your flaws. There is no point in always burying our head in the sand every time something goes wrong in your life. When you become unreasonably defensive and are in denial, you deny yourself the power of looking back, correcting mistakes and planning for a different future.

To #BeABetterYou, you must be able to acknowledge fault and stop making excuses for everything. Whenever things go awry in life, it is a natural human reaction for one to find fault in the actions of others. You must train your mind from making excuses that exonerate you from fault every time and take accountability for your own part in the mistakes that were made. You can achieve so much more from taking accountability because, by understanding your mistakes, you can use that mistake to learn. And “when you know better, you do better…”

To #BeABetterYou, you must learn to forgive people who may have done you wrong and let go of resentment towards them. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful practices of life but it is also one of the hardest, especially if you feel you have been hurt badly. But by forgiving, you release yourself from the negative experiences of the past and open yourself to channels where you are able to appreciate the bad experience and wisdom you learnt from any negative journey.

To #BeABetterYou, you must always forgive yourself. No matter how many people you forgive, you must always keep in mind that forgiveness should always start from within. Not withstanding how bad your past and your mistakes are, always be ready to forgive yourself for mistakes done. That is the only healthy way to channel your energy to the future instead of the past.

To #BeABetterYou, you must always try to be honest, genuine, authentic and direct when articulating your thoughts, feelings and ideas to others. You must have the courage to show the world who you truly are, even if it is at the risk of being criticized. Honesty is the best remedy for any situation, even if it has an immediate negative effect. In the long run honesty always pay off.

To #BeABetterYou, you must always try to be sympathetic to other people’s feelings and have empathy for other people’s situations. You must always try to put yourself in other people’s shoes, be compassionate, kind and considerate towards others. Try not to judge people and their actions before understanding their individual situations and the reasons for their actions.

To #BeABetterYou, you should always try to behave in a way that shows integrity by showing consistency in character, being reliable, and sticking to your word. Even if what you earnestly believe is in variance to the majority view, always stick to what you, in your heart, believe to be right. Trust your instinct, your intuition, have confidence in yourself and “stand tall to walk in your truth.”

To #BeABetterYou, you must learn how to accept situations that you can’t change. Whenever you are confronted with negative situations that you cannot change, you have a choice in the emotions and responses you attach to it. If you cannot change a situation, you must remember that you have complete control to change the way you think about it. You must try and make the best of every situation you find yourself in. This will give you the power to be able to overcome it.

To #BeABetterYou, you should always be willing to change aspects of your character that needs to be changed. Change can be very hard but it often is a necessary part of life in order to emerge into the person you strive to become.

To #BeABetterYou, always try and listen to what people are saying to you. Everyone, these days seems busy with different activities. People hardly have time to listen to what others have to say. But always try and be the one who will pay attention and is interested in what others are telling you. Care enough to ask and follow up and show others support in their time of need.

To #BeABetterYou, you must educate yourself. That is the only way you can eradicate ignorance and fear. It is the only way you can understand points of view different from your own. It is the only way you can equip yourself with the tools to empower yourself and empower others. Knowledge is power, so read widely and always be open to read and learn more.

To #BeABetterYou, you must treat everyone as if they are important, despite their calling and placing in life. Everyone deserves to be treated well whether they are rich poor, ill or well. “A human, is a human, is a human, is a human…” Don’t be in the group of people who don’t treat others well. In life you never know whom you will need and who will need you in the future. Treat every human being equally. Treat others as you would want others to treat you.

To #BeABetterYou, you must try and stop being angry: Many people let anger and rage alter their decision-making skills. Anger damages relationship, makes you look un-reasonable, causes illness and does not help you solve problems. Controlling anger is an extremely difficult skill but a very beneficial one. Instead of getting angry, change your negative emotion or remove yourself from a situation until you can let go of the anger. Once you allow anger to fester, you put yourself in a situation where you make unwise decisions and you confine your heart rather than letting it be free.

To #BeABetterYou, you must always be helpful when you can. Being helpful is one of the easiest and most effective ways to practice becoming a better person. You will find that, the more you help others, the better you will feel about yourself. Put yourself in the position of someone who needs help and feel how miserable your life would be if nobody helped you. Always be helpful to others.

To #BeABetterYou, always try to be polite. Being polite and pleasant to someone can make their day and make a world of difference to them. Being respectful of others’ time, thoughts, ideas, feelings, work, and everything else is part of the ways you can be polite to others. You don’t have to agree with everything everyone says, but people have a right to their opinions and yours is not necessarily correct. Try not to be rude to people you meet, even if they annoy you.

To #BeABetterYou, surround yourself with positive people. As they say, you become the company you keep. Keep people who are optimistic, uplifting, pious and kind around you. Once you have good people around you, your world will become more of the same and you will act positively.

To #BeABetterYou, have patience and compassion. As much as people may aggravate you, always try to be patient and have compassion and empathy towards others. Try to assume the best, rather than the worst of other people until they give you a reason to think otherwise.

To #BeABetterYou, operate from a place that adds worth to your life. Always make sure there is purpose to the things you do. Have a mission and goal in your life and focus your mind on realizing them. When you have a goal and purpose, it gives you a chance to build your passion and you open up possibilities of discovering skills and strengths you never knew you had. Don’t float through life.
 

To #BeABetterYou, love yourself. Practice self-compassion and self-care. Understand you are exactly as you should be and are perfectly lovable as you are. Forgive yourself and understand you are human and nobody is perfect. Celebrate your life, your unique spirit and gifts. Take care of yourself and be with the people you love and who want the very best for you. Stop making negative self-talk in your mind. You must always remember it is easier for you to be a better person when you are good to yourself. If you are not kind to yourself, it will be hard for you to be kind to others.
 

To #BeABetterYou, you should try to be a role model for those who come after you and work towards leaving a proud legacy, no matter how small. To #BeABetterYou, you should try to be inspirational to those who need the kind of inspiration you can provide. To #BeABetterYou, try to encourage yourself and be confident. To #BeABetterYou, try to do activities that will bring positive change in your community, no matter how small. To #BeABetterYou, you must remember to always put in effort and try harder all the time. To #BeABetterYou, you must liberate yourself to think and be ready to act outside of the box. To #BeABetterYou, you should always try to be optimistic and look for the good in the world. To #BeABetterYou, don’t unleash your stress out on others and be the cause of someone’s sadness. To #BeABetterYou, you must let go of the need to always be right in a situation or argument with others. To #BeABetterYou, be grateful and content with what you have and be thankful to those who show you service and kindness. To #BeABetterYou, if you are not happy with something in your life, make the choice to try and change it. To #BeABetterYou, always try to analyze situations and think before you act, so that you can make wise choices. To #BeABetterYou, you must simply be kind to others. To #BeABetterYou, always operate from a position of honor and defend your integrity.

Most importantly, to #BeABetterYou, you must have faith, you must keep in mind that life is temporary and you must Fear God and pray consistently and constantly to Him!

With the challenges we have on a national and international scale, there is a great need for each of us to be better. We cannot all be global heroes everyday but we can be heroes with the little things we do each day that helps others and enhances those around us. I truly do believe that being better versions of ourselves is the greatest gift in life that we can give to the world. It is one of the only things that we have complete control of. Making wise choices in the way we respond to issues and adding value in building our own personal character is probably the best way we can leave an imprint on the world.

Everything we do in life is a choice. This year my resolution and gift to myself is to try and #BeABetterMe. None of us are perfect and every single one of us would benefit from improving ourselves. I certainly will try to do even better than I may have done so far. And while I will probably not be perfect in improving every single aspect of myself, it is important to make the effort.

For me, a great place to continue in my journey of giving a better version of me is by completely lending myself to the advice of the two greatest and most important people in my life; My Mom and Dad, whose voices continue to say; “be the change you wish to see in the world,’ and “perception is reality,” respectively. That way, I can continue working on improving myself and my personal contribution to the world, continue honoring my amazing parents, while being open minded and objective about why others behave in a manner that I may not necessarily understand.

From time to time, on social media (Twitter- @hanneymusawa), using the hashtag #BeABetterYou, I will continue to post tips I have come across on how to add value to life and live in a way that makes one want to be a better person.

Presently, the world desperately needs better versions of each of us. In the coming weeks, more than any other time in our history, Nigeria urgently needs a better you and I. So, as I take my 2015 New Year resolution to #BeABetterMe, I invite you to join me, so you can also try to #BeABetterYou.

Hannatu Musawa

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