3 powerful steps to increase kindness in your work, family, and life
I don’t claim to be kind any more than I claim to be strong or thin. But, today, I am kinder, stronger, and thinner, than I have been in the past. In each case, its because I started doing a few things differently in my day. Kindness is a huge need in our society today. There is so much plain meanness coming at us from all directions and from leaders, that we seem at risk of being swept away in a current of nastiness.
Here are three steps of kindness you and I can take that can help us move against the current in our work, family, and life. At the end, I hope you will comment and share your own kindness practices. I’d like to use some in my writing.
Create lumps in your sugar bowl.
Over the years, I have put a great deal of energy into solving problems, creating programs, and addressing the needs of the organizations I work for. Of course, that’s what I get paid to do. But, over time I have come to realize that the only lasting efforts are those made on behalf of individuals. Most, if not all, of the milestones, programs, and accomplishments we work at are like powdered sugar in a bowl. Someone or something comes along and, with one big blow, sends all that effort into the wind, leaving our bowl of results empty except for the lumps of sugar that are left in the bottom of the bowl. These are the individual lives of people we have impacted in positive ways. I may accomplish some big things over the next few years, but the only ones that will really be remembered are the investments I make in other people’s lives.Whatever you do in your life, don’t ignore, forget, mistreat, or treat unkindly, the people you do it with. Instead, invest in them, demonstrate kindness to them, appreciate them, if you can, help them. These will be your true legacy, the only one you can truly count on.
A friend of my works out at the same gym several times a week. His story relates to each of us and it doesn’t have to be a gym. It could be a Starbucks or your office, anywhere you visit regularly. After a couple years, my friend realized he recognized the regulars but didn't know anyone. I encouraged him to try a kindness experiment and hello to five people at the gym every day. He did. At first, he just said hello with little response from the people he greeted.After a week or two, you can guess what happened. They began to say hello back. When it was appropriate, my friend introduced himself. Sometimes he and another person would talk briefly about their workouts. Sometimes while he was talking to one person, he would say hello to someone else walking by and maybe introduce them to each other. He started the experiment about a year ago. Today, he greets between fifty and sixty people by name when he sees them and they greet him back. After a while, he wasn't just saying hi to strangers, he had begun affirming people he knew. What's more, they have begun greeting each other as well! His gym seems less like an impersonal gym and more like the Cheers bar where everybody knows your name. By just being intentional about greeting and affirming five people a day, my friend not only increased his connections and begin to develop new relationships, he helped change the culture of the entire gym. What is your gym? Could you say hello or affirm five people a day?
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012. For eighteen months I was given the “treatment” called watch and wait. This consisted of many doctor appointments, multiple unpleasant tests, all the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate, and no actual progress toward addressing the problem. I can’t imagine how much money my insurance company paid to have nothing happen. This is a valid practice for my diagnosis but, after that year and a half, I got a second opinion. The recommendation was to have my prostate removed. Within two months, I was in recovery with my problem addressed and my symptoms gone, rather than watched. My point is, when it comes to being kinder, don’t watch and wait. Start now. Today, you can do one thing, practice one kindness skill, say hello to a few people, and start making a lasting difference in others, in yourself, and in the world.
Please comment and share your own kindness practices. I’d like to use some in my writing.