We see over, and over, and over, and over again in the media how small acts of kindness quite literally change a person’s life. Smiles to strangers give them hope, a random compliment turned an entire day around, one small act of kindness was the difference between life and death. It seems dramatic to put it that way, but in a world so quick to jump to conclusions about people, so quick to judge, so quick rip others down so we can make it to the top, it means the world to stop and be kind. We live in a quick, fast-paced world. It’s not right, but it’s understandable to see how we have come to a point where people are caught up in their own unique and complex miniature universes, and that they sometimes forget everyone else’s is just as intricate. We are all just doing our best. In a society that is moving faster and faster, pushing and shoving to get to the next destination, screaming for answers to questions that don’t have solutions, how do we slow down and make an active effort to live a life driven by kindness?
This week we look at some out-of-the-box ways to go beyond a few intermittent acts of kindness, and lead a softer life, understanding why it’s important, and how to stay centered in a world that isn’t always as kind back to you.
Start with small acts. Weaving kindness into your everyday life can be as simple as letting a car that has been waiting to turn go first, or as complex as changing your entire attitude towards driving, transforming into a less aggressive driver. Those larger changes stem from a series of small changes. Kindness isn’t always paying for the order behind you in the drive thru or donating a bunch of money and stuff to charity. Those are kind acts, and are wonderful places to start if you are looking to integrate more kindness into your life, but kindness goes much further than material objects or isolated instances. However, every act of kindness is beautiful, and every act of kindness makes a difference. Never be afraid to do something you think will make someone else feel good, because you think it won’t make a difference. It will. Tell them their shirt makes their eyes pop, volunteer for a day, start a “pay it forward” at your local coffee shop. Your single act might just be the relief someone needs today.
Kindness as a mindset. Kindness as a mindset means intentionally slowing down in a world that pushes and shoves and presses forward. It means stopping to look around, take in your environment and be aware that your intricate universe is special, beautiful, magical, full of wonder, and so is the personal universe of the person walking next to you. It doesn’t mean you don’t look out for your own well-being. But when you have the understanding that you have a beautiful life with value and that the person across from you does too, life becomes a little softer to handle. It means you can give the time you need to show yourself kindness. Take time to care for your needs, your wants, your dreams. Don’t allow the harshness of this world to harden your heart so you forget to show yourself kindness too. It doesn’t matter what you have been through, the things you have seen, what other people have done to you, or what you have done to yourself. From this day forward, you are worthy of kindness. You always have been worthy of kindness. Some days that may only come from yourself, which is why it is so crucial to be gentle on yourself. You are doing the best you can. Give yourself the love you need. When you feel overwhelmed from the stress of the day, if there are people who one, after the other, after the other try to bring you down, remove yourself from the situation for 30 minutes and give yourself the space you need to breathe. Understand that you are doing the best you can with what you have at this time, and allow yourself to release that tension instead of beating yourself down further. Be kind to yourself. When you are kind to yourself, it will be much easier to be kinder to other people. Cut them a little break as well. We don’t know everyone’s entire story, just as they don’t know ours.
One of the kindest things you can do is be interested in what excites someone else. Imagine how much you could learn from listening to other people talk about the things that bring them joy. World history, technology, art, music, business, animals, engineering, intricate details of wondrous things in the world you may have never even knew existed. Listening is one of the kindest acts we can do in a world that does a lot more speaking than learning. Listen to understand, listen to learn, listen to grow. Have you ever had a time when you were talking about something you were passionate about, only to stop and say “This is probably boring, sorry, I’ll stop,”? Did they answer with, “No, keep going, I want to know more.” How did that feel? Awesome. Have you ever been cut off and told to stop when you were really excited to share something? It felt awful, didn’t it? When we listen to others, we give them our time, our attention. We give them a tiny piece of our own beautiful world, and they share a tiny piece of theirs. That engagement, a genuine connection between two people, grows so much more than a moment of conversation. Learning leads to new ideas. Innovative ideas. Collaboration. All key aspects of success and development. Growing your own garden requires pollination from plants that grow in a garden far away. Diversify. Open your mind. It all blooms from kindness.
Create systemic changes in your perspective. Actively incorporating kindness as a mindset means going against the grain of a society that demands you rush through your life to push your way through to the next stop on your journey. It means slowing down, and being okay with the fact that there are others who are not as kind. It means avoiding those aggressive drivers, blowing off those rude comments from a passerby, patience in tense situations, patience with yourself. It means freedom. Living a life with intentional kindness lifts the weight of the pressure society places on your shoulders. You don’t have to push your way through crowds of bickering bodies, dragging behind the weight of your personal pain behind you. When you are kind to yourself, you can drop those weights, and you can help others set down their own baggage. It’s okay to be a few minutes late because there was traffic. It’s okay to give up some time. Talk to some one new, go to a friend’s art show, read the rough copy of a book they have been working on, support a local business, ignore rude comments on the internet, skip the urge to scream when you’re upset, learn about someone else, pet a dog, bring cookies in for the office, send someone a meme that made you think of them. Small acts ripple to a big impact. The wave of freedom that comes with a life lived through kindness, will carry you further than you could have ever made it pushing your way through alone with the burden of all those weights.
Live softly. Live fully. Live kindly. When you open your heart to accept and share kindness from within, the world becomes a little easier to navigate. Selfishness forces us to use tunnel vision to get to where we want to go. Kindness removes those clouds, so we can see that our worlds are so beautiful exactly where we are at.