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kicking ass with kindness


 
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I'm honored to be part of an amazing group -- Random Acts of Kick Arse. The group, which includes Life, Laughs, and LemmingsThe Jungle of LifeJane Be NimbleJoy RebelOperation Nicehas joined together to take part in committing random acts over the course of one month. Each month we have a different "theme" and, for the month of October, the theme was kindness. When I first started thinking about this random acts of kindness project, I had some doubts. First and foremost, I wasn't sure I'd remember to keep up with my random acts of kindness (terrible, I know). What if I forgot to be kind? What if I got to the end of the month and had no random acts to write about?

Secondly, I wasn't sure quite how I felt about random acts of kindness. It wasn't all that long ago that I read (and agreed with) an article on The Happiness Project called "Happiness Myth No. 7: Doing Random Acts of Kindness Brings Happiness." In the article, Gretchen Rubin says, "It’s not bad to practice random acts of kindness. But if you want to build your happiness based on the happiness you bring to other people –- the noblest ways of boosting happiness -– it’s more productive to be targeted. Help a co-worker even when you’re rushing to meet a deadline yourself...Putting money in someone’s meter is just such an unexpected action that there’s a good chance that it won’t be understood correctly." Basically, Rubin believes that, though people like kindness, randomness throws people off and it's not always appreciated.

As Rubin said, it's not bad to be kind in a random fashion, but is it really as productive as we think? I don't know... It's for this reason that I had a hard time with the group project of committing random acts of kindness. I had to wonder, "Would these acts be misinterpreted? Would they be appreciated? Would I honestly feel better, happier, if I performed these acts?" At the beginning of the month, I struggled with this. I wasn't sure what kinds of acts I should perform and, if I did perform them, I wasn't sure what kind of expectations I would have for them. I felt a little bit helpless in the world of random acts, not sure what to do and if whatever I came up with would really be something worth writing about at the end of the month.

So I went back to The Happiness Project and re-read Rubin's article. I realized that the more I thought about, the more I agreed with her. The random things -- like plugging someone's meter or letting a car in front of you in traffic -- are great, but they're not as worthwhile as the less random things -- such as helping a coworker who's super busy or visiting a friend who's upset. I was originally planning to list all of the random acts I did over the month of October, but instead I found myself attempting to help out those around me. I found myself being more attentive to the needs of others and looking around for ways to help those around me make their lives better.

To some, this might sound like something we should be doing all the time -- and I agree with that. We should always be trying to help our friends, our families, or our coworkers. But are we? I don't know about you but I find that I often get wrapped up in whatever I'm doing or get so distracted that my own busy-ness that I forget to really look around me and see what kind things I may be able to do for others. Oddly enough, one of the greatest opportunities for me to be kind to someone else came up over the past month. As you may have read, my mother was pretty sick for about a week with the flu. My mom is rarely sick and rarely asks me to do anything for her, so this was a great opportunity for me to flex my kindness muscles.

One of the things I worried about most when it came to taking on this random acts of kindness project this month was the whole brag factor. Did I really want to do nice things for others and then hop on my website and tell the world about them? Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of doing nice things, if you're really only doing them for praise? For that reason, I'm not going to list (or even tell you about) the kind things I strived to do over the past month. Instead, I'm going to tell you this: being kind to other people makes you feel great. No matter whether I did a small kind thing or a big kind thing, I felt good while I was doing it and it left me with an after glow of happiness. If you're considering doing something kind for someone else, I'd suggest you get on that. It makes other people feel good and it makes you feel great.

Since I'm not going to list all of the kind things I did this month (but I did them! I swear!), I'm going to give you some advice based on what I've learned over the past month as I pondered the concept of kindness in my own life. Kindness should come naturally, it should be something we do without thinking about it, but that's not always the case. For those of you who'd like to incorporate more kindness in your life, check out my ideas below.

 

How To Kick Ass with Kindness
  

  • Pay attention to the lives around you. This sounds easy enough, but think about how often you get caught up in your own life and don't really pay attention to the lives of those around you? I find that this happens to me a lot, and it's pretty hard to really, truly be kind to others when you're completely caught up in your own life. It's really important to look around you and pay attention to what's going on with other people. Don't wait for someone to come for you and ask you for help. Reach out to him or her and spread that kindness around! 

 

  • Listen to what people are saying. It's so important to listen to what other people are saying. And don't just listen to the words that are coming out of their mouths. Listen to what the meaning is behind those words. Listen to what people are not saying. Sometimes it's what people don't say that's really important. One of the greatest ways to find out how you can help other people and treat them with kindness is to listen to them. Sounds easy, but it's even easier to ignore the true meaning in another's words. Listen up and address the words of others with kindness.  

 

  • Treat yourself with kindness always. It's pretty hard to be kind to others if you're not kind to yourself. It's interesting, actually, when you look at some of the nicest, kindest people and realize that they're really hard on themselves. Some of the nicest people I know treat themselves pretty harshly. If you really want to be open to committing acts of kindness, you have to treat yourself with kindness. Be nice to yourself. Treat yourself kindly and be nice to your mind and your body. If you do this, you'll be much more able to treat others with kindness as well. 

 

  • Look out for the underdogs in life. Some people naturally cheer for the underdogs in life, but many of us don't really pay that much attention to the little guy. It's not that we're mean to the underdogs, but we might not notice them because they're usually not as loud or showy as some of the big dogs. While you're paying attention to the lives of those around you and being conscious of what others might need, look to see who's not speaking up, who's getting buried by the noise and chaos of others. It's often those that aren't speaking up or voicing their problems that need the most help. If you're able to offer someone else a bit of kindness -- even if it's just a kind word -- you can really make a difference in the life of an underdog. 

 

  • Go out of your way for others. While I never believe you make other people the priority in your life, I do think it's important to find ways to go out of your way for other people. It's easy to do things for others that benefit you as well, but what can you do for someone else that really requires you to go out of your way for him or her? Sometimes it's a pain in the ass to go out of your way for someone else, but it's such a great way to spread kindness. People don't often expect you to go out of your way for them so it can be such a pleasant surprise for them when you do. Give it a try and see what happens! 


 

I hope these tips have inspired to you to spread kindness in your own life. I know we should always be doing this, but don't think I don't know how easy it is to get caught up in other things and not think about treating others with kindness. Sometimes it's just a matter of going from neutral to kind. Just because you're not being mean or cruel doesn't mean you're being kind. This month has given me a chance to really think about kindness and how I can incorporate it into my life. I can say for a fact that acting out of kindness has really helped me to be happier this month -- and nothing brought a smile to my face when I received a hand written note thanking me for being so kind. Take these suggestions and see how you can incorporate more kindness into your life! 


How do you spread kindness to those around you? 
What is your opinion on random acts of kindness? 

Comments

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"Treat yourself with kindness always."

This one is sooo important. It just speaks to me and I'm glad you included this in your list. You're so right when you mention how people often treat themselves in a manner that they would NEVER treat another person.

great article. i love what you say about treating ourselves calmly, and taking an interest in other people's lives - sometimes the smallest things are the most important...

> Look out for the underdogs in life
That's a sweet spot. Everybody can lift somebody up.

Hayden - I think it's really hard for people to treat themselves with kindness (I know it's something I struggle with!) and it really can make a huge difference if we take a step back and ask ourselves, "Would I say/do those things to someone else?"

Rachel - Thank you! It's true that more often than not it's the little things that are so important. We can make a big difference just by being kind in little ways.

J.D. - I love what you said in your comment: "Everybody can lift somebody up." It's so true!

Great post Dani – I think you’ve rightly pointed out one of the toughest things in the combination of trying to make an impact on other person’s day and inspiring us to do the same. Writing about your experiences can sometimes feel self-promotional, the opposite of what you’re trying to do, and yet it may be the best way to share what you’ve accomplished. When I started blogging about my own activities, the thought I’d have a list of look-what-I-did-today things was horrible, and the very opposite of what I was trying to do. But I also believed if I didn’t make public my goal to have an impact on other people’s lives, I’d soon or later let them go. Now, I write anonymously and in combination with a small group of other like-minded people about our work to make a personal difference. We try hard to ensure the stories are never about us. The stories can be fun, are sometimes about really small things – but they can inspire too. Think about sharing more of what you’re doing with us; you might just inspire us to do more for others as well. Kindness should, as you say, come naturally, but a nice reminder that it’s not hard to have a positive impact is always welcome.

Dani, this post is just fantastic. You had me at the title. :) Thank you for sharing this greatness.

Cheers to you!
Dayne

I love the work Kick! As you can tell by the name of my blog.

I think non-random acts of kindness have the advantage of being there when the person needs them the most, so from this perspective, they make more sense. Random kindness can be fun to, especially if you're not doing it to win somebody's approval, but as a way of self-expression.

Eduard

If you listen to people you will find out what they need and/or want. For example: Knowing your friend at work is low on cash that day/week - treat them to a cup of coffee, or breakfast one morning. You will both feel good. Random acts of kindness are fine if that's what you want to do. Just be careful. There are people out there who will try to take advantage of your kindness. Know where to draw the line. Some people have so much drama going on in their lives that you just don't want to get involved (get sucked into their drama). I'm there for my friends and I do random acts of kindness.

Sometimes...in fact, always...just listening to people is an act of kindness all to itself. So many people just want to be heard, to be understood, and to feel like someone is really listening to them. If you can do that, any other kindness you show them afterwards is just icing on the cake :)

Dani, LOVE LOVE LOVE the concept of looking out for the underdog. I'm a big sport fan, and always cheer for the underdog if none of my home teams are in the game, but I've never really thought of taking that concept into daily life. I mean, my wife and I enjoy helping out children's charities, which is a similar thing, but just the idea of thinking of people as "underdogs" gives it a whole new meaning.

I also think that it's always better to have our acts of kindness be more on purpose, but perhaps starting in a random fashion helps get us into the habit of being more kind, which leads to our kindness becoming more regular.

Matt - Great comment! It's so true that by sharing more about ourselves, we can often impact and inspire the lives of others. Writing about personal experiences can actually be a great way to spread kindness.

Dayne - Thank you! I'm so glad you liked the post and that the title grabbed your attention.

Eduard - I think you're on to something, highlighting the positive aspects of both random and non-random acts of kindness. They can both be good in their own ways.

Anita - You've brought up some excellent points in your comment. I particularly like what you said about listening and about being careful when it comes to kindness. One of the best ways to find out what other people need is to really, truly listen (which is sometimes easier said than done!). In addition, kindness is something that people can take advantage of and, for that reason, it's important to be careful.

Jay - I agree that listening is one of the kindest things you can do. It seems like it might not be a big thing but, as you said, people really do just want to be heard.

Jason - Me too! My mom always cheers for the underdog in sports too and I always really liked that. It was only recently that I thought about how that could apply in life. I like what you said about how random acts can lead to a more consistent level of kindness towards others. Great point!

I spend my time living in kindess. It's a way of life for me. I think kind, speak kind and do kind. Good post.

I agree.

I just wrote a post about how rewarding it is to be nice to people! Check it out:
http://xsarenkax.blogspot.com/2009/11/friends-in-need.html

Love your take on this month's theme Dani. It's funny, whilst I didn't struggle with the fact that the acts were random, I did wonder what constituted kindness as opposed to just being nice. You'll see from my post I decided in the end to not overthink it, just see what life came up with and run with it. It worked well because opportunities to be kind did present themselves (and they were quite random!).

I also found that I received more kindness than usual in return. I left a comment on Lori's post saying I wasn't sure if it was because I was more aware of kindness or I was getting back what I was giving out. Either way, it was very cool to spread the kindness, randomly or otherwise!

Great post Dani!

This is my first visit to your blog and I shall certainly be back for more:-)

One of the keys, as you say is to be always kind to yourself. In fact I would even make that to be a pre-requisite to being kind to others. You will then find that you have so much more to offer other people.

Kindness, whether completely random or raoka (kick arse) is much needed in this world.So rock on everyone!

Dani, I just remembered that I had written a post about 29 ways to carry out random acts of kindness every day, which might interest your readers:-

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/29-ways-to-carry-out-random-acts-of-kindness-every-day.html

All we now have to do is add kick-arse to these 29 ways :-)

Hi, Dani -

A book a read recently ("Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box" by The Arbinger Institute) talks about how we each have moments of quiet "knowing" when we know we should reach out and do something to help someone else along the way -- the book suggests that we really don't need to go looking for opportunities but that the opportunities are all around us and our gut instinct will point them out to us -- if we are willing to listen.

I like that thought!

Great post . . . really made me think!

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

I think it's simply wonderful that, as a group of people all set out to essentially "do the same thing", they each do it in their own very unique and special way. :-)

The act of paying attention to the lives around us, in particular, has been something that, for me, has made an enormous difference in how I view the world, and my place in it.

Thank you, Dani!

you know, I have always been too unsure to pay for someone's coffee behind me or something for the very reason you mention-the whole not being understood/appreciated because it's random and unexpected. I love that you mention how important it is to focus your kindness. thank you!

Nice post Dani. I think you've hit some great points here :)

Hi Dani,
I am in love with this RAOKA group. I just left a comment over at Samis blog about joining int he next month theme. How i didnt know about this gorgeous idea...i dont know :( But now i know..and next month we will all make the world BEAUTIFUL with our Random Kick Arse Acts together :)
I love all the points you have shared here about how we can spread kindness.
Be kind to yourself..and to others...and the World will shower kindness on you. Karma Karma :)
With Love
Zeenat.

Dani,
Interesting...I felt the same way. Would it feel like bragging to talk about what I did? This one was really difficult for me. And I chose to touch more upon how I received kindness toward me during the month.

And I spent a bunch of time tossing around what the word "random" means in RAOKA. And in the end, I decided for me that "random" means that there is a random theme every month - and then I can choose how I want to make that theme more of a part of my life during the month. I really did bounce back and forth on this one - in the end, I've chosen that random for me will only specifically refer to how the monthly theme gets chosen.

Nice angle to this post, Dani!

Tess - That's wonderful! It's so great that you live your life that way and the world would be a better place if everyone did that.

Benia - Awesome! I'll definitely have to check out your post.

Sami - I'm looking forward to reading your post. You bring up an interesting point about the difference between being nice and being kind. Either way you look at it, you're likely to be spreading something good and you're probably likely to get something in return too!

Arvind - Thanks so much for your comment! I'm so glad you found the blog and enjoy reading it. It sounds like you wrote a great post that's very relevant to what I've written here. I'm looking forward to checking it out!

Marie - That's a great point. I agree that there is a sort of "knowing" when others need help. We don't necessarily need to search for it. We just have to open our eyes and minds and pay attention.

Gayze - I agree! It's awesome to take one topic and see what a bunch of people will do with it. When it comes to kindness, there are SO many ways to be kind. Like you, I feel like paying attention to those around me has made a really big difference in how I live my life.

Brandi - It's definitely hard to know whether or not it's appropriate to act randomly in a kind way with strangers which is why I chose to think about how we could incorporate more kindness into our interactions with those we know (or at least sort of know).

Srinivas - Thank you! I'm glad you liked the post and I hope it's inspired you to think about kindness in your own life.

Zeenat - YAY! I'm excited that you're going to join the ROAKA group. You should make sure that Sami sends an email to everyone so we make sure to mention you on our sites next month. I agree with your last two words for sure! Karma, karma!

Lance - I'm looking forward to reading your post about kindness. It was definitely hard not to feel like I was bragging if I just made a list of all the nice things I did. I like your take on the whole "random" thing. That's a good way to think about it!

definitely gonna think about this the rest of the day (and hopefully the rest of the month)!

awesome, Thanks Dani !

Thanks so much Dani, for reminding us to share kindness with everyone around us. I'm going to especially bear this in mind and make a special effort to give kindness to the people I see later today!

Hi Dani,

Acts of kindness needs to be shared so people don't run out of inspiration. It should be simple but in our busy daily life we often don't see what is right in front of us.
Like the soaps and shampoos at a hotel we don't use but can be donated to a homeless shelter.

Things like old books,stationary and stamps,nail polish AND remover can be given to nursing homes.

Diapers and used clothes to the Catholic Charities and domestic violence. There are so many ways to help each other.

This is a wonderful post.

Rocky - That's awesome that this post has made you think more about kindness. Thank you for being kind enough to leave a comment!

Celes - You're welcome! I'm glad the post has inspired you to spread kindness today. :)

Bunny - I love what you say about how kind acts are inspiring. I never really thought about them as inspiration, but they really are. You've shared some really great ideas in your comment and I'm going to start being more aware of things like that. Thanks for inspiring me!

Nice job Dani. I think I read one time a surprise act of kindness is the one that's most appreciated. So I guess it doesn't have to be random, it just needs to be unexpected.

Such a great post Dani. I love to do random acts of kindness. The world can be a hard place sometimes and if we can can reach out now and then...it's a beautiful thing. Thanks for the reminder!

I certainly enjoyed the "treat yourself with kindness" tip. It appeared that I need to practice more of that. I realize that I am my own harshest critic. It has been easy for me to understand about why I need to be kind to others but when I tried to apply the same to myself some weeks ago, I was in trouble.

Stephen - Thanks! Great point about the difference between a random act and an unexpected act. I like that!

Caroline - Thank you. I agree that it's a really beautiful thing if we can reach out to others every now and then and offer kindness. Small things can have big impacts!

Evelyn - I think one of the hardest things is treating yourself with kindness, but it's also the most important. It's something I'm working on all the time and I find that the nicer I am to myself, the nicer I am to others.

This post is right in line with the changes I'm making in my life. I particularly like - Go out of your way for others. While I never believe you make other people the priority in your life, I do think it's important to find ways to go out of your way for other people. -

I love doing this because it happens to me often enough to give me a warm glow, yet it's always out of the blue. The people come to me and I don't mind going out of my way for them. Because I'm always able to fulfill their specific need.

And I also believe that if people really want help, they would ask. Because let's get real here, no one would know that someone is in dire straits if the person or persons don't give any indication. Unless their situation is "in your face".

People like to keep their dignity and self respect. As you say, kindness is also contributed with a genuine smile or stopping to chat for a bit. It says I see you and acknowledge you.

I'm particularly leery about - looking out for the underdogs suggestion. I don't buy that one. However, a kind word or gesture does go a long way. And actions to help them feel more included is also quite telling.

Good post and good ideas.

Thank you.

Catherine - Thank you for your feedback! :) It really does make you feel good to go out of your way for others. It's hard to find a balance sometimes between helping people out and getting on their nerves, but I think it really is just a matter of paying attention and really listening to what others are saying. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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