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Dive 33: Why random acts of kindness will change the world
Hey, it’s Alvin!
One day, many years ago, I had a shitty day at work. You know—one of those days where nothing went right.
So, after a long exhausting day, I got on a bus and headed home. I sat alone next to a window while I mulled over the day’s events, frustrated with my job and my life.
When the bus arrived at my stop, I got off and started walking towards a connecting bus route. That’s when I heard a voice call out behind me…
I turned around to see a few steps behind me, Carol. Carol was an administrative assistant. She and I worked in the same office. Her cheery, upbeat personality led to plenty of pleasant conversations. Chatting with her always lifted my spirits and put a smile on my face.
As she caught up with me, she said, “I didn’t recognize you ‘cause you weren’t smiling. You have a beautiful smile. You should smile more!”
We started chatting as we got on the next bus all the way until she got off at her stop. My smile? That lasted all the way home.
Thanks to Carol, I have lessons I can share with you from that day.
1. If you can’t move on from a grievance, it’s time to rethink your strategy.
In modern society, I often see people bringing up old gripes again and again and again. They can’t move on and it’s like they don’t even realize it.
Obviously, that isn’t good for a person’s mental health. Worse still, it stops people from seeing opportunities to move on with their lives. I was mulling over my bad day so much; I didn’t even see that Carol was on my bus!
Are you ready to move on from a grievance? Thinking about it more won’t help. Our grievances are too complex for us to hold and process all the details in our mind at any one time. Talking about it more won’t help either, unless you’re talking with someone who can help you make sense of your issues in a way that lets you move on.
Writing is a solution, and it changed my life. Writing for an audience, in particular, forced me to put my ideas down. Seeing all the details laid out on paper (or screen) helped me make sense of the problems I had. You can read more about this in Dive 26.
2. Assume good intent.
Some people these days get offended when they’re asked to smile more. That’s because they’re assuming ill intent based on surface-level assumptions. They assume the other person is denying their feelings. Then, they get angrier.
That response is their choice.
It’s not mine.
I knew Carol well, and I saw her deeper intentions to cheer me up. Someone cared enough about me to reach out and help. How could I not smile about that?
What you assume of others affects you. If you assume ill intent, you will be crabbier. If you assume good intent, you will be happier. Choose wisely.
3. Small acts of kindness lead to big positive impacts.
Nowadays, it seems like many people are obsessed with big, worldly issues like poverty, homelessness, inequality, and a multitude of other global social issues. There seems to be this obsessive focus on changing the world.
I studied change management in university. What stuck with me most was the fact that the most effective approach to change always starts at the individual level.
Change starts with you.
How can you change others if you can’t change you? If you can’t change the one person in the entire world over whom you have the most control, how can you change everyone else? Once you can change you, then you can live a life as an example for others to follow. That’s leadership. There’s nothing more persuasive than seeing someone successfully living the life they espouse.
So, if you want the world to be kinder, then start being kinder to those around you. You don’t need to lobby the government, protest in the streets, or start “anti-hate” campaigns. Just greet your neighbours, hold doors open for others, and bring joy to those around you.
Carol, reminding me to smile, flipped my day from a lousy one to a happy one. Instantly. All she did was check in with me. It’s so simple. Don’t underestimate the power of positive comments.
People overthink what it takes to change the world. If every person in the world just did something kind for three people around them every day, the world would already be a much better place. I don’t even remember what I was frustrated about that day, but I’ll never forget Carol’s kindness.
And if you ever need a reminder to smile, the light at the end of the tunnel, print off the visual at the top of this newsletter. If you’re reading this from a browser, you can right-click and open it in a new tab or window. Or you can print this entire edition. Set it on a wall near your desk or your bed where you can see it. Then, when you’re feeling down, you’ll see this smiling face, giving you a reason to smile.
Or if you think this is a dumb, goofy idea, print the smile anyway. It will infuriate you more than whatever’s got you down, but at least you can tear the paper to shreds and trash it. Or recycle it if you’re environmentally conscious. You’ll feel better.
I hope you enjoyed this dive Below the Surface of random acts of kindness. Reply to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or comments. What acts of kindness would you like to share? I’d love to hear from you.
In case you missed my announcement: I recently started a YouTube channel. The videos are based on this newsletter. So, if you’re an audio or visual person, you might enjoy the new experience. The most recent video is based on Dive 3: What is Fear-Driven Kindness? And why it’s bad for you. Check it out if you have a few minutes!
Thank you for reading. Have a bright and wonderful day. And I’ll see you in the next one.