Many people have goals for themselves in life and so make a list of what they want to do before they die. Many people are under the impression that they must do something special to save the world and must be able to show numerical success. We think solutions for improving life come from academics and raising money. Everyone feels they need to start their own charity and that they are individually responsible for solving the world's problems.
I think we could accomplish more real change and work on something we can really change and that is ourselves. It is great to have goals, but I find it more satisfying and many times more difficult to work on self improvement. I look at self improvement not as trying to be a perfect person, as this is ends in sure and quick defeat, but to simply genuinely try to treat others better. We need to change our attitudes and our worldview, not our job or the charities we give to.
It is not a list of goals, but a changing, in our way of thinking, that will make us truly better. We need to pray regularly and ask and let God slowly change the way we think, so that we no longer desire to be mean to others, even when we feel bad. One of the loftiest goals is to become more kind to others and this is really something we not only all can do but must decide is a basic requirement for being a moral person.
There are many very different views of life talked about in each of the major world religions and many are contrary to each other, but the basic ethical rules are very similar. Throughout most of society and history, the basic laws are mostly in agreement. What we learn in life through experience and reflection is that we all do really know what is wrong, even if we try to justify our evil actions.
People spend a long time thinking of what is right and wrong and why, but the simplest answer is the best one, in this case. This is especially true in Christianity, where many people want to rationally understand everything in the Bible, before they follow God's commands. You will never fully understand the Bible or really anything in life.
In the military, most people would agree life is hard, but at the same time we all are aware that it is not hard intellectually. Living a good life is also hard, but not of the kind of challenge, that society and school teaches us to deal with. I remember, in basic training, that one of the most complicated combat survival task was setting up a claymore mine. One of the drill sergeants said that it was on the intellectual level of a 4th grader.
In the military, attitude is everything. Even in the more advanced areas of the military, the primary goals are not to complete the mission. You need to follow every tiny rule, immediately without question, and work as hard as you can. I remember when I messed something up in basic training and apologized to the drill sergeant. He said don't apologize - just don't do it again.
The military has no time for distractions and you should not be distracted from what is most important in life - self improvement and treating others kindly. When I was in the military, we trained alongside both men and women in the same platoons and this was the period of the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy. What was the military attitude? We need women and minorities in the military because we cannot win wars without them.
There was a criteria of an equal number of black, white, and "other" amongst sergeants in the army at that point and officers that didn't have the right mix could get in a lot of trouble. One private told the drill sergeant that he was gay and the drill sergeant told him he didn't care and just go back top work and stop bugging him about it.
The army works top down and so when congress ever passes a law, that affects the military, even the general must immediately follow them, to the letter. When they pass a law, allowing women to work, in direct combat or people being openly gay in the military, that will happen immediately, whether or not anyone in command wants it to - it will not be optional. We were talking about race in the military and the drill sergeant said we all bleed red and we are all pink on the inside.
You should obey the Bible just like God is your drill sergeant. Nothing in the Bible is optional. Do not think about how to justify what you do; simply act on what you know is right. Like Judge Judy says on the TV court show, you do not have to think to tell the truth.
Raising kids or owning pets is a similar difficult challenge, although not intellectually, for the most part. Good parents and good animal owners don't necessarily need to be academics - that is not what determines being good at raising kids or taking care of animals. Improving your own life is even more difficult and even more personal in its challenges.
Being a good person cannot be put off. It must be acted on now. To know what to do ethically, all we need to do is follow our conscience. We need to do what we know is right. Even having an addiction or disability does not absolve us from doing what is right. But being a good person is not a binary thing and, although it is always difficult, it is not beyond any of our capabilities.