We all have narratives we tell about ourselves. There are words that we think pertain to us and other words that we would never use to describe ourselves. For instance: “confident” is a word that I would comfortably claim, and I believe that it’s a word that others would attribute to me, as well. More “Jill words” might include extroverted, candid, and ambitious.
The word “kind” has never been on my version of the list. To be clear: I don’t think I’m unkind. But I don’t believe “kind” is a word that jumps to mind as one of my dominant attributes. And maybe it’s time for me to take small steps to change that.
With this in mind, I made November my month of small kindnesses. Each day, I am holding myself accountable for (at least) one small act of kindness. The kindness must be “incremental”- something above and beyond what I would normally do in my day.
I am also trying to make sure that not all, or even most, of my acts of kindness are driven by money. It would be easy enough to check the box by giving a dollar to a homeless person every day, but I’m not sure I would come away from the month with the feeling that I’ve learned anything.
I was curious to see what effect these acts of kindness would have, both on the people to whom I show kindness, and on me. Two-thirds of the way through the month, I have a few interesting findings.
- Kindnesses are both easy and hard. When I’m thinking about my goal, and looking for opportunities to be kind, they present themselves readily. (Full dishwasher at work? Jill will unload it! Heading out for coffee? I’ll grab an extra for one of my colleagues! etc.) But when I’m wrapped up in my work, or busy at home with the kids, it is very easy to forget to look for ways to be kind.
- Kindness is addictive. I am really enjoying performing these small acts, and I feel more alive and zestful than ever. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
- The kindness feels more rewarding when there’s a direct human impact. This might be specific to my own experience. I’ve noticed that, in terms of the emotional lift they give me, not all kindnesses are created equal. For instance: bringing a smile to our doormen’s faces by bringing them their favorite treats gives me a bigger high than helping unknown anthropologists save time by tagging animals in the Serengeti online.
At the end of the month, I’ll chronicle the 30 acts of kindness I performed, along with any final take-aways. Stay tuned!