“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” has been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Although that’s not literally what Gandhi said, the spirit was just the same.
Regardless of the words, the quote isn’t simply a suggestion—it is an instruction. Gandhi is telling us that we have the power to change the world by changing ourselves.
Especially during the holiday seasons, I’ve chosen to take that inspiration to heart by deliberately focusing on where I can affect change in a positive way. How? By paying attention to actions that create peace and well-being within me and then passing those actions onto others.
In other words, I’m following The Golden Rule—to treat others as we’d like to be treated.
My first instinct was to brainstorm deliberate acts of kindness: donate to a food shelf; sign-up for another Habitat for Humanity; or volunteer at the local soup kitchen.
But then I got a nudge to do something more spontaneous—real-time acts of kindness. By being conscious and aware of my actions, I could help spread the kindness, peace, and goodwill I was looking to experience.
When I was faced with a decision that included other people, I could choose actions that were in their favor—thereby “being the change”.
Want to join me? Here are a few suggestions from my favorite acts of kindness for the holiday seasons and beyond:
Yield to others in traffic. When someone is trying to get into your lane of traffic or waiting to pull out from a side street, be the car that stops to let them in. You can even make it into a game: How many people can you yield to today?
Express your appreciation. We often forget to express our gratitude to the people around us, so take the time to say thank you. In addition, taking time to be grateful for what you already have—food, clothing, and a roof over your head—can put you quickly into a spirit of appreciation.
Smile at strangers. I know this is sooo Minnesotan, but it’s really quite easy. Instead of looking down when people pass by, give them a smile instead. And just a kind smile—not an over-exuberant toothy grin—is enough. Even if people don’t smile back, there is great power in acknowledgement.
Think calm; be calm. Whatever you focus on expands, so if you’re thinking peaceful thoughts you will act in peaceful ways. If you find yourself getting worked-up, stop and take a deep breath. If you’re still having stressful thoughts, find a healthy distraction to help redirect your focus.
Pass it on. You know how when someone does something nice for you, you feel like doing something nice for someone else? Kindness is catchy. I wonder how many people on the receiving end of these gestures decided to do the same for someone else in return?
Maybe little acts of spontaneous peace do help change the world one step at a time. And if I choose to believe as Gandhi did, then I believe that they do.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
Happy New Year!
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is a career coach, best-selling author, and founder of The White Box Club™—live coaching and resources for people in career transition. Find his syndicated blogs on Thrive Global, Medium, and The Huffington Post. Learn more at connect.michaelcreative.com
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