Don’t just rant online for a better world. Love your family. Be a good neighbor. Practice kindness. Build bridges. Embody what you preach. Today. And always.
About a decade ago, at one o’clock in the morning, my grandpa who was suffering from Alzheimer’s got up, got into my car and drove off. Angel and I contacted the police, but before they could find him, two college kids pulled into our driveway with my grandpa. One was driving him in my car and the other was following in their car. They said they overheard him crying about being lost at an empty gas station 10 miles away. My grandpa couldn’t remember our address, but gave the kids his first and last name. They looked him up online, found our address, and drove him home.
I was randomly reflecting on that incident today while sitting near the edge of a beautiful ocean-side cliff in San Diego. As I stared off into the distance, the sudden awareness of footsteps behind me startled me. I turned around to see a young lady who was almost in tears slowly walking to where I was sitting. I jumped up, walked up to her and asked, “What’s wrong?” She told me she was deathly afraid of heights, but was worried about my safety and wanted to get over her fear because she needed to make sure I was okay.
“You were sitting so close to the edge, and with a such despondent expression,” she said. “My heart told me I needed to check on you—to make sure you were in a healthy state of mind.” Her name is Kate, and her braveness and kindness truly warmed my heart.
I’ve spent the rest of the day thinking about what an extraordinary person Kate is, and about those amazing college kids who helped my grandpa, and about what it means to be a kind and giving person. As Kate and those kids found out, being kind isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile, or face your biggest fears, or stand up against your own negative tendencies to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. Let this be your wake-up call today. It’s time to start doing the hard things—the right things—for others…
1. Start being a source of sincere support.
The closest thing to being cared for is to care for others. We are all in this together and we should treat each other as such. The very demons that torment each of us, torment others all over the world. It is our challenges and troubles that connect us at the deepest level.
If you think about the people who have had the greatest positive effect on your life—the ones who truly made a difference—you will likely realize that they aren’t the ones that tried to give you all the answers or solve all your problems. They’re the ones who sat silently with you when you needed a moment to think, who lent you a shoulder when you needed to cry, and who tolerated not having all the answers, but stood beside you anyway. Be this person for those around you every chance you get.
2. Start giving people your undivided attention.
There is greatness and beauty in making time, especially when it’s inconvenient, for the sake of someone nearby.
You don’t have to tell people that you care, just show them. In your relationships and interactions with others, nothing you can give is more appreciated than your sincere, focused attention. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results is the ultimate compliment. It is indeed the most valued gesture you can make to another human being.
When we pay attention to each other we breathe new life into each other. With frequent attention and affection our relationships flourish, and we as individuals grow wiser and stronger. We help heal each other’s wounds and support each other’s growth. So give someone the gift of YOU—your time, undivided attention and kindness. That’s better than any other gift, it won’t break or get lost, and will always be remembered. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of the NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. Start respecting and supporting people who are different than you.
Life’s greatest privilege is to become who you truly are. You have to dare to be yourself, one hundred percent, however anxious or odd that self may prove to be. The people who support you in doing so are extraordinary. Appreciate these people and their kindness, and pay it forward when you’re able.
Never bully someone into silence. Never victimize others for being different. Accept no one’s close-minded definition of another person. Let people define themselves. You have the ability to show people how awesome they are, just the way they are. So act on this ability without hesitation; and don’t forget to show yourself the same courtesy.
4. Start being willing to be wrong.
The mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work when it’s closed.
It’s okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by others. But that doesn’t give you the right to immediately reject any sense they might make. Nor does it give you a right to accuse someone of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you don’t like what they are thinking and saying. Learn to recognize the beauty of different ideas and perspectives, even if it means overcoming your pride and opening your mind beyond what is comfortable.
Healthy relationships and human interactions are not a power struggle. Be willing to be wrong, while simultaneously exploring your truth.
5. Start giving recognition and praise for the little things.
A brave, extraordinary soul recognizes the strength of others. Give genuine praise whenever possible. Doing so is a mighty act of service. Start noticing what you like about others and speak up. Having an appreciation for how amazing the people around you are is extremely rewarding. It’s an investment in them that doesn’t cost you a thing, and the returns can be astounding. Not only will they feel empowered, but also what goes around comes around, and sooner or later the people you’re cheering for will start cheering for you too.
Also, be sure to follow this rule: “Praise in public, penalize in private.” Never publicly ridicule someone when you have the option not to. If you don’t understand someone, ask questions. If you don’t agree with them, tell them. But don’t judge them behind their back to everyone else.
6. Start giving people the space to save face.
What others say and do is often based entirely on their own self-reflection. When someone who is angry and upset speaks to you, and you nevertheless remain very present and continue to treat them with kindness and respect, you place yourself in a position of great power. You become a means for the situation to be graciously diffused and healed.
A spiritual teacher once told me, “When somebody backs themselves into a corner, look the other way until they get themselves out; and then act as though it never happened.” Allowing people to save face in this way, and not reminding them of what they already know is not their most intelligent behavior, is an act of great kindness. This is possible when we realize that people behave in such ways because they are in a place of great suffering. People react to their own thoughts and feelings and their behavior often has nothing directly to do with you. (Read Buddha’s Brain.)
7. Start being a bit more gentle.
Be gentle and compassionate with those around you. Mother Nature opens millions of flowers every day without forcing the buds. Let this be a reminder not to be forceful with those around you, but to simply give them enough light and love, and an opportunity to grow naturally.
Ultimately, how far you go in life depends on your willingness to be helpful to the young, respectful to the aged, tender with the hurt, supportive of the striving, and tolerant of those who are weaker or stronger than the majority. Because we wear many hats throughout the course of our lives, and at some point in your life you will realize you have been all of these people.
(Note: Angel and I take a deep dive into the aforementioned points with our students in the Relationships module of the Getting Back to Happy Course & Coaching.)
Now, it’s your turn…
The bottom line is that it’s time to be less impressed by your own money, titles, degrees, and looks. And it’s time to be more impressed by your own generosity, integrity, humility, and kindness towards others.
Don’t you agree?
Please leave us a comment below and share your thoughts.
What part of this post resonated with you the most?
(Finally, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.)
What a moving and touching story about your grandpa, and a remarkable young lady you met today.
Even though social media is bringing our lives closer together in one sense, it is also becoming harder and harder to find people who will really reach out in the real world to a stranger to see if they are all right.
It is an excellent example of the value of attachment free giving.
As for the reasons that make a person extraordinary, I would take one right from your example:
The willingness to overcome your personal fears to “do the right thing”
That is becoming a rare commodity in modern times.
Anyway, thank you. I’ve been enjoying your emails, blogs, and books over. the past year. Looking forward to your next live event too.
Great reminders! It puts a check on our actions to think and act before we react. Appreciate you more than you know!
Vicky Williams says
I am moved by your grandpa story, it tells me not all young people are uncaring. We just need to understand and appreciate people.
Your work is always uplifting and inspiring. I know I have not yet
buy your book, but I do read your info which I enjoyed.
Please take care and continue to help with your words. Really the
26 letters of the alphabet can transfer info of all kinds , and it never get boring. Everything we read and write need letters from the alphabet to do so and you both have the skills to show and help people all over the world. Thank you.
Some years ago it became clear to me that when all is said and done, it comes down to how much benefit and love you bring into the lives of others.
With that realization I started cultivating in me the ability to love all unconditionally.
And I have been amazed by how things have turned out, and how much it has changed me.
#5 really resonates with me. Most people seem to be waiting for permission to step into their greatness. And you can only give it through motivation ad inspiration.
I need to work on #7.
Thank you for the thought invoking post, Marc and Angel. 🙂
Since I just read it, I will quote page 101 in the Relationships chapter of your book: “Instead of trying to change others, give them your support and lead by example.”
I think this is what makes a person extraordinary – those who lead by example and help us be our best selves.
Thanks for another inspiring, thoughtful post, M&A.
This article really touched my heart 🙂 it reminded me to be compassionate and to remember that what truly matters is how we share our lives with others. I saved this in my bookmarks folder. Loved it.
Bismark Opoku says
Thank you for helping us be the best version of ourselves. This post is worthy of all the attention. Thank you Marc and Angel!
Thank you for your posts but on this one I do not agree. I was “trained” to be nice and giving to others and have spent my whole life in service to others and it is not hard for me to do and give and I have zero expectation of reciprocity. The problem today is that people have become very narcissistic and people like me are being exploited. People like me are seen as weak and are actually targeted by narcissistic bullies. One of two things happens – burnout from trying to meet unreasonable demands in a culture where the more you do, the less you are thought of or burnout from the constant battle to hold ground against the types like the current leader of the free world. These people will not heed your words and I would like some advice on how to identify and do battle against these predators. Doing and giving is not the issue. I would like to see a system based on units of contribution instead of units of exploitation.
Dana Tetens says
I think making time to pamper and reward yourself will be of greater value than a war on the “predators. It is a shame that leaders often leave much to be desired in the humanity department.
I don’t think that being kind means you have to be a pushover. You can stand up for yourself assertively without sinking to these people’s level. You need to push back but it feels so much better to do it with compassion and goodness than with bitterness and anger.
I don’t think this article deserves or benefits from being dragged into the political arena. Trust me, plenty of kind, generous, helpful, and thoughtful people voted for the “the current leader of the free world”. (Whose name you dare not speak?) In great part, they did so because they feel that he is “kind, generous, helpful, and thoughtful.” It would be kind, generous, helpful, and thoughtful for us all to give way to allowing people with differing political opinions to hold them without their being chastised in every possible venue or forum.
Very well said and I agree wholeheartedly.
We are in a living in a time where people seem to be emboldened by their anger and hatred towards others who have different viewpoints. I pray our political arena calms down and remembers how important it is to be courteous and respectful to others.
It’s ok that everyone doesn’t agree about everything – I feel we are very lucky to live in a free-thinking nation.
Actually i think my answer is that i have to be kind to myself first. Apply all these things to yourself first.
Wow, this post is on target and well timed. We have challenges in our lives and we have usually been given the tools to be successful, though like so many tools when unused they sit in a drawer, a cabinet, or rust in the garage, exposed to the elements, though never used. Thank you for this reminder of what we have and how to use these tools to not only impact our life but the lives we should be reaching out to.
Raymond E O'Neill says
Thank you for your posts. Always drop what I’m doing to read your uplifting words. Last week I was leaving my favorite Gym, (almost 80), and called out my usual “ Everyone have a Great Day”, when one of the female attendants called back “You too, Ray”. Thought I misheard. But No.
Yesterday morning, when I carded in, She said “Good Morning, Ray. Do you prefer Ray or Raymond”?
I’m a 3 year Widower of a 50 year Marriage, living alone, so it’s not often my name is echoed out.
A small gesture that made my day.
Hello Ray or is it Raymond? Thank you for sharing your real life story within another, you warmed my heart today by telling it, as did Marc. Thank you ?
Thank you for sharing this, Ray. It warmed my heart too! Wishing you a wonderful day, all the way from Dubai.
I am just in awe of the depth and knowledge you both possess as well as your ability to communicate it to others through your emails/articles. Thank you for reminding us all of what is truly important in life. I always look forward to reading them!
I have been doing this with someone and it is a black hole….i can do it no longer. Please help.
There are “black hole” people, or as I refer to them-Bottomless pit people. They suck the life out of you and when you can give no more, they move on. It is important, I think, to recognize that not everyone will respond in kind. If you are experiencing a relationship where there is just take, take, take, graciously as possible, perhaps demonstratively-end the relationship. Your kindness and giving is so needed in the world. There are people that are in true need of it. Recognize, recover and begin a new.
Get out of this toxic relationship, sometimes loving someone is leaving them alone, otherwise you continue to allow them to hurt others, you and themselves.
Cathy Ross says
I had a very dear friend for years. At one point in our friendship, her partner died. I did everything I could to support and help her, but she expected way too much. She would call and expect me to stay on the phone for hours at a time. Not only that, but I came to realize she was an alcoholic who wouldn’t get help. All her friends were alcoholics too. She would spend hours telling me about all the risky behaviors she engaged in due to her illness. I got to a point, I realized, that she needed much more than I was capable of and encouraged her to seek professional help, but she didn’t. I sent her a long letter explaining that I couldn’t continue to support her unless she got professional help. I told her that I loved her and this was very difficult for me. I just had to take back my life. Perhaps you need to do something similar.
Angela Ware says
Not sure how I first stumbled upon your articles but they often appear right at a time that the message truly is needed to give me a new prospective or assure me what I’m feeling is ok. Not only have I’ve benefited from them but I have now passed them along to my three sons. One who is young and facing some challenges but who truly found some good direction and prospective . You have truly found your calling and are reaching people probably more than you know! Thanks
I woke up this morning feeling lost and unsure how to approach kindness with those I care about the most. This article is exactly what I needed as a reminder. Thank you
Barbara Regenspan says
As an activist recently involved in public protest of an incident of racially motivated police violence against two African-American friends protecting themselves from an out-of-control and drunk white man threatening their friends, I am recognizing how attention to 1 thru 7 above would make the work of social justice inspired activists much more effective. There are ways to pursue social justice with compassion, even while demanding change in oppressive behaviors and policy of those in authority.
I am very fortunate to have a friend who, as I always tell others, is the kindest person I’ve ever met. He is a great example of how you should treat others, even if they don’t reciprocate. The only problem is that it is difficult to show him appreciation, as it is hard for him to accept a kindness done for him. When I see the news stories that show all the horrible things people do to each other, I feel very blessed to have a friend who shows me there is still kindness in the world. We need many more people in the world like him. I’m trying my best to be one of them, but I admit it isn’t easy.
Thanks, Marc and Angel. This is truly a timely post. Just this week, UCLA announced that they are opening an institute to scientifically study the effects of kindness, thanks to a $20 million dollar donation from a business entrepreneur. And the press for the “Subway Soprano” in LA and her words have touched many hearts, including mine, and hopefully will lead to real social change.
I am very curious to see your response to Mary’s post from October 8
Shirley Kaye says
In the immortal words of Sir Paul McCartney:
And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love
Nothing to do with sex, as we giggled hearing it back in 1969. It summarizes a philosophy of life, that you get what you give, what comes around goes around, if you are kind and loving to others love and kindness will come to you. Words to live by.
I appreciate your posts! They are always full of good “food for thought!”
Janice Jones says
Such great wisdom Being Present for those around us is our gift We are Practising this daily At church recently we were asked Who is your Neighbour (teaching on the parable The Good Samaritan) Answer Whoever God puts in your path So True Be Present Listen Observe We are early retirees and that’s now our purpose Thank You for affirming and encouraging What we are now doing
I spent today in a meeting with two people so full of their own importance, one proudly stating “I’m bolshy!” like it was a good thing. I’m so glad I’ve learned to not try and change these people but to accept that there big ‘me’ attitude is more about their lack than their abilities.
When I meet people, and find out if they are okay, if they needed help. I really try my best to help them out. And make sure they are doing fine after I supported them on somethings that they needed or things that Bothers them.
David Watson says
I agree. The way we treat other people in the world can have a big impact on our own happiness. Do something nice and unselfish for someone and you will likely feel pretty good about it.
Sarah Kirabo says
I agree that its important never to ridicule people when one has an option not to plus , its a good practice to praise in the public and penalize in private
I think I needed to read this. I had begun to feel like going the extra mile for people isn’t worth it anymore. But maybe it still is. Thank you 🙂
Oh man! #2 is soooo good.
I definitely have some work to do on that. Thanks for the reminder!
Do you have any specific hacks or tricks for practically being a better listener and friend? It’s so easy to get lost in my own thoughts when I’m with someone else and I wonder if there’s a mantra or something that would make this easier. Meditation probably helps!
Anyways, off to share! Thanks for the great article. 🙂