Gretchen Rubin says that one of her secrets of adulthood is “One of the best ways to make yourself happy, is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy, make yourself happy”.

I’m not an expert in making myself happy but I thought I’d share a few of the things that I’ve done to develop relationships with friends, make acquaintances smile and to ‘pay it forward’ (like the movie).

Pay for the stranger two people behind you at the coffee line

Adam Robinson provided this random act of kindness – he often goes to coffee shops, gives the cashier a $20 for his coffee and tells them to pay for, not the person behind him, but the person behind the person behind him and to give him all the change. Then, as he enjoys his coffee, he sits back and watches the confusion and then the smiles that come from that stranger.

Distribute books to coworkers

As you probably know, I am an avid reader and so I have a huge collection of books from used book sales. One of the best things is to randomly choose a coworker, think about what they might like and then drop a book in their mailbox, anonymously. You get to share a bit of wisdom and knowledge and then smile at their slight annoyance that they cannot figure out who gave them the book. It doesn’t have to be books either, it can be whatever your favourite thing is that you want to share with others.

Provide frequent and detailed recognition

At our company, we have a recognition awards centre where we can recognize when employees have gone above and beyond in their duties. Employees receive a written recognition, a gift card or monetary rewards depending on how they went above and beyond but the important thing is that they are receiving recognition for their extra effort. I think it is an awesome way of making sure that your co-workers have the recognition that they deserve.

Connect with those that you haven’t connected with for a long time

We all have friends and coworkers that we may not have connected with in a long time. Reach out to these individuals. Catch up over a 30 minute call. Provide an update on what you’ve been doing and ask them for what they have been doing. It’s up to you whether you want to stay connected in the long term but I’m willing to bet that you will want to after re-connecting with good friends.

Respond to an e-mail that you haven’t responded to

James Altucher likes to do this – he’ll look through his inbox to find an e-mail that he has not responded to in years. He may not even remember the reason why he did not respond – maybe he was too busy, maybe he forgot about it but he will then respond to that e-mail as if there wasn’t a gap. He’ll reply as if the e-mail was sent to him yesterday. And surprisingly enough, the original sender will respond to him.

Buy gifts for loved ones in your life

It’s especially good if you do it during non-special occasions – just a random Tuesday or Friday and that you thought of them. One of my best friends said that the best gifts are things that you want to get for yourself but feel like the gift is too expensive, or that you aren’t deserving of the gift and I liked that reasoning. One thing that I’ll do is take note of what my friends or loved ones will want or wish they had and then figure out how to get them that exact gift in the future.

Give people a killer compliment

I wrote about this in another post but a great way to give people a killer compliment is to ask them about what they value the most in the world and what they want to be remembered for, fast forwarding many decades in the future. Wait a few months or a few years and then hit them with a compliment that directly touches their values or what they want to be remembered for.

Find a good joke or stand up bit and tell it to others

The best jokes are those that flow through normal conversations but there are times where I like to bring up particularly funny standup bits or jokes in conversation (though it is rare). Another way of introducing some humour is to find inside jokes among coworkers, friends or loved ones – sometimes it can be based on a shared experience and other times it can be based on shared loves or hatreds of certain things. Some day I might write a book about killer questions for all kinds of situations but one question I like to ask of my close friends is when was the last time they remembered laughing so hard that they could not breathe and what were they laughing about. It’s a good way to get an inside joke going too.

Pass along good articles to others

Given my penchant for reading articles on personal development, I like to send particularly meaningful ones to my friends though often times with a note or a discussion point so that we can both get more out of the article. It’s easy to just send an article over to someone so I’ll often take the extra effort in summarizing it for them or in discussing the nuances further when I see them next.

Ask what you can do to help

Simple questions can often lead to great answers. One simple question that I like to ask as a manager is “what can I do to help?” In fact, I was asked this at a coffee once and I was very much surprised at the question – it was quite an ingenious way of getting to the crux of the conversation right away. Every time I ask this question, I always get a great response or a specific thing I can do to help that person – in both of these scenarios, there are positive outcomes.

If the secret to making yourself happy is to making other people happy, then I’m sure there are even more ways than I listed to make yourself happy. Perhaps the secret to it all is to find out what is important to the other person and to value that above other things.