Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Selfless Random Acts of Kindness

Our family has been doing a "Random Acts of Kindness" experiment to see what the affects would be. We actually Googled for examples, to get a few ideas and inspiration. We found several lists and examples... Many of them were small, like letting someone with only one or two items go in-front of you in the grocery line, letting someone in your lane when driving, holding a door open for someone (especially with a baby buggy or carrying something), giving a stranger a smile, holding the elevator for someone, if someone drops or leaves something to pick it up and give it to them, over tip waitstaff etc etc.

Since starting the experiment, here have been several occasions to put it into practice. We currently live in Kuala Lumpur, so most of the time it involves crowds while driving or walking, standing in line, etc. Everything is always crowded, long wait time and loads of traffic, so I can see how everyone can get a bit edgy and selfish by default, just trying to get things done and to move on. But because of this, one can easily forget about just being simply polite to others.

The first trials were in the car, of course. Once cut off by someone or someone pushing their way in, right in-front of me would immediately spark a negative reaction. I was able to remember this experiment and would then allow the next person in, on purpose. I can easily see that by doing this, it takes away the selfish posture and washes away the anger. Immediately! It's really insane. 

Other daily examples are in the parking garages, which are typically terrible here. There never is a space and sometimes you have to drive around for 15 minutes or more, just to find a space. I can remember that before I would start to get extremely impatient and would eventually cut someone else off to get MY space, as I was so fed up... Since trying this experiment I have graciously allowed others in, just not been so impatient in general and it's all worked out just fine. In the end I get a space and my blood is not boiling. Somehow keeping the idea of acts of kindness in the front of my mind has helped me to step away from these little daily annoyances, as if I'm an observer in the situation, rather than right in it. It really takes away the negative emotion and brings you out of it. Taking away the thought “Why is this so annoying?” Or “Why is this happening to me?” and changing it to “What act of kindness could I get out of this situation?” completely changes your mindset. For me I've become much less impatient, self serving and annoyed by things that I have zero control over. I think that the small things throughout the day add up and can make a big difference on your daily and weekly happiness. Just outwardly deciding to think of others in situations before yourself.

A good one came up where I needed to go to the post office to mail a package. It can take 5 minutes to do this, or one hour. You just get what you get at that moment. This moment I could see that there were about 40 people in-front of me and I was sooooo annoyed. I had to be somewhere within the hour and the time was ticking! I started out by sitting there frustrated. Then I remembered my experiment and thought that the perfect act of kindness would be to offer someone my earlier number, who was in a hurry and had a later number. Wow, just having this thought changed my mindset and attitude about the situation completely. Instead of sitting there fuming, I was looking for someone to help. It turned out that I was basically the last one, ha! So I didn't get the opportunity to swap my number with a later person. But I got the package sent and made it on-time to my next appointment. Because of changing my mindset, I didn't leave the situation feeling that it was a waste of time and annoyed (which I would normally have done.)

In general I've been executing the small things like holding doors open, etc. and just smiling at strangers or moving over for them on the sidewalk. Lots of little things to just brighten people's days when ever I can. I can see that people love it. They smile back and seem really happy and grateful to have a stranger be nice to them. I make a point to smile and talk to the checkout people at a store or restaurant. The really love it. What a difference little things can make to others and to your own outlook in your every day life. It goes to show that one has the power within to have a positive attitude and mindset, regardless of the circumstances really. 

For the family... We made lists of nice things we could do at school, in different situations, etc. I asked my boys to say something nice or give a compliment to someone each day. Just a small thing to lift someone up. I asked them to let me know what the person was doing, what he said to make them feel good, how that person reacted and how then how he felt afterward. Children can be very comparative and competing and can forget to just compliment or encourage another. It was fun to see how it went for them... They liked the experiment saying that the other person smiled and it also made them smile. Then I got a certificate from our 5 year old's teacher saying that he did something nice for someone on the playground. That one of the teachers observed it, gave him the certificate and then he got to have a special lunch with the Vice Principal for being thoughtful of another person (for just no reason at all). I was so amazed and happy about it. And it wasn't even one of the days where I actually asked them to do the 'nice experiment.'

The challenge is to do this even when you are feeling tired, hungry, frustrated, in a hurry, etc. But those are the times we should do it even more... It's easy to be nice when your in the mood, but it's really hard when things aren't going your way. Just trying to be mindful of this is the first step in the right direction. Making small little changes along the way make a lot of progress and could make a big difference in your life and the others around you.