According to a Cigna study, 46 percent of surveyed Americans suffer from feeling alone. In the work world, despite all the focus on employee engagement, many employees are still unhappy. We live at a time when we are more connected than ever digitally, yet loneliness and unhappiness abound. Where are we missing the boat?
After working with leadership teams and organizations for over four decades, I believe I have found the answer. The answer is not about greater employee engagement — rather, it’s about greater human engagement.
How I uncovered the happiness secret for myself
In the darkest moments of my life, a wise mentor told me that the greatest antidote to fear, anxiety or frustration was to go help someone else. After a rough 2018 on a personal level, I found this sage advice to be a game-changer. Here’s how it all began.
At the end of every year, I find myself feverishly searching for client holiday gifts. In the past, I would send gifts such as leadership books, audiobooks, inspirational mugs, journals and charitable contributions just to name a few. This year, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to give back in the most compelling way possible.
I remembered a nonprofit organization with whom I connected 10 years ago about random acts of kindness. I revisited their website and was so inspired by reading their kindness stories, I could see enormous possibilities. What if a company were to build small random acts of kindness into its daily culture? What impact would it have on its employees, customers, reputation, competitive advantage and bottom line?
That question inspired me to gift 1000 smile cards — like business cards, but which you leave behind after a random act of kindness to act others to pass it forward. Plus I set up each client company’s first 21-Day Kindness Challenge. My ultimate goal was to generate so much excitement, inspiration and heartfelt connections from simple acts of kindness, that they becomes contagious within the organization.
The more I focused on kindness programs for my clients, the more I became addicted to random acts of kindness in my own life. I now wake up every morning, wondering, What simple act of kindness can I do today? Whose life can I help? How can I be kind to myself?
In a digitally driven world, it’s easy to forget that we all need connection as human beings to thrive in this world. All the texts, Facebook likes or tweets will never substitute for one real human moment where, even if only for seconds, we matter in someone else’s eyes.
Within weeks of performing daily acts of kindness, my life was altered in profound ways. Here’s here’s how my kindness practice got started.
It took just one smile and a thank you to get me hooked.
It was the middle of December last year. The stores were crowded. The parking lots were full. You could feel holiday stress in the air.
As I walked to my car with a cart full of groceries, I noticed a young male approaching me to return my cart back to the store. As I was unloading my groceries, I made small conversation asking him how his day was going. He seemed rather startled although smiled, as if I was the first person in his day to make a human connection.
For whatever reason, I asked a simple follow-up question: “Do you spend your entire day chasing the carts?”
He replied, “Most of the day I spend chasing the carts. The rest of the time I am in the store getting yelled at by my supervisor.”
In that moment, my heart sank. Working with leadership teams and organizations that strive to treat their employees with respect and appreciation, I was reminded of the harsh reality that some businesses still mistreat their employees.
Yet his smile and his eyes said it all – the gratitude for genuine human connection, even if just for a few moments.
One small act of kindness, even just a conversation in a parking lot, can make such a powerful difference. Here are five reasons why it makes a difference in my life.
1. I get a shot of exhilaration for the entire day.
One simple act of kindness — or merely thinking about kindness — excites me throughout my day. After a single act, I feel less pain and stress, greater well-being and even a rush of euphoria, just like a runner’s high without the sweat. Plus, friends even tell me that I look younger!
2. I experience more gratifying relationships.
Kindness acts have inspired me to reach out more frequently, especially to long distance friends and family. Even if for just a few moments, I want them to know that I care.
I find myself expressing that same caring attitude to people I barely know, signing my emails with such words as “hugs” or “lots of love.” Since performing kindness acts, those words have greater meaning now.
I’m also kinder to myself. Having grown up in an alcoholic family, I am keenly aware when kindness is missing in my life. Being kind teaches me to be a gentler, more-nurturing parent towards myself than my family of origin was ever capable of.
3. I see more beauty and good in the world.
Kindness acts teach me to see the beauty in myself and others. As I look into a person’s eyes now, I know they matter. My life is richer because of them. The more I focus on kindness, the more kindness I see around me.
I also spend more time reading kindness stories, rather than listening to the fear-driven news of our day. Such stories give me hope for a better world. They inspire me to keep asking, Whose spirits need lifting? How can I change someone’s day for the better?
4. Kindness is the new disruptor in my business.
In today’s zero-sum-game mentality, where somebody wins and somebody loses, kindness acts remind me that there can be another way, even in business. There’s no such thing as being too kind to a customer or to an employee. With kindness, everyone profits!
Kindness acts have become my go-to strategy in building a thriving business. I love connecting every day with a prospect, client or business associate simply because I care. Kindness is not a weakness, as many think. Kindness requires integrity, courage and the willingness to go against the norm.
Kindness acts also guide me in handling difficult business conversations in a more harmonious way. I now find myself asking such questions as, How can I be kind in this situation, yet still speak my truth?
5. I am living a legacy I can be proud of.
Maya Angelo said it best: “Your legacy is every life you touched.” Since kindness has become a daily way of life, I am forever humbled how even the smallest act can impact a person’s life in big ways. I’ve witnessed emotions change from sadness to happiness, from depression to engagement, all because of kindness.
Kindness acts heal. Given all the wreckage from my past, such acts have become a way to make amends for past wrongs toward others. They have a long-term rippling effect beyond my immediate reach.
When performing kindness acts, I know I am doing my part to make our world a nicer, more caring place. I get to be the change I want to see – and experience! — in the world. That’s the world I want to live in!
Plus, such acts inspired me to write this article and share its power with you! Hope you enjoyed it!