Whenever I think of a random act of kindness, I always think back to the time I first watched the movie Pay it forward with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osmont. The movie is about a teacher (Kevin) who talks about this concept of paying it forward which one student (Haley) decides to do.
The concept of paying it forward is simple: do something kind for someone else and then if you are the person that received such kindness, pay it forward by doing something kind for another person. That kindness should be something that they cannot do themselves.
And strangely enough, ever since that movie, I’ve been looking for how I can conduct random acts of kindness for those around me. And it doesn’t have to be something crazy expensive or time consuming either – but here are a few things that I would challenge you to do the next time you’re looking to inspire some happiness and kindness around you:
Grab coffee for someone having a hard day
The next time you grab coffee with a close co-worker, find out what kind of coffee or drink they like. Ask them what drink they normally order and then here’s the important thing: note down what kind of drink that is so that you can order it for them next time.
I do this with coworkers, clients that I work closely with and friends that I regularly eat out with. It doesn’t take up too much extra time but the payoff from ordering that perfect drink at the right time is phenomenal.
I like to do this when I sense that my coworker is having a stressful day – I can see it on their faces, in the way they talk or if they have shallow breathing.
Take the initiative to contact someone you haven’t talked to in a while
Message that friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Message your parents and tell them that you love them. Find that best friend from back in elementary school and figure out what they have been up to since your paths have diverted.
Let that car in
You would think that this would be normal and not an act of kindness but from what I see when driving, it’s not. It can be incredibly frustrating to wait until there’s an empty space for you to change lanes or to get onto the highway and if it’s incredibly frustrating for you, why not make it less frustrating for others? This requires foresight and perception and it will not only make that person’s life easier, it may ripple back at you in the future.
Buy that small gift that you know someone needs
A coworker of mine is always forgetting her iphone charger – so as a result, she is from time to time, asking to borrow other people’s chargers. This doesn’t bother me at all but since I know that she needs a charger and that it would be such a great way to boost her day AND that the charger costs less than $15, why not get an extra charger for her so that she can stash it at work and not have to borrow other people’s chargers?
Go for a ‘run’
My roommate in university would often, after studying for long hours at his desk, turn to me and say “we need to go for a snack run”. I, trying to be social, would agree and then we would run to the late night store in our residence and purchase chips or other junk food.
I thought this was a great idea so I started to try to start a thing on the projects that I’m on: coffee runs are common but if we are close by a bubble tea place, I also try to start bubble tea runs (which is where either a bunch of us or a few of us go and get bubble tea for the rest of the team). It’s a fun way to get away from work, build rapport with the team and to learn something new about your team members (what they like, what they may be allergic to, whether they enjoyed bubble tea when they were younger, etc.)
That seems like a weird act of kindness for others by making yourself happy but here, I think about a quote by one of my favourite authors Gretchen Rubin who says this as one of her secrets of adulthood: Make yourself happy by making others happy. Make others happy by making yourself happy.
When you are positive, enthusiastic, happy and approach things with gusto, it’s infectious and it creates similar positive effects with others around you.
Another one of my favourite thinkers often say that when taking on a new job or project, the best thing you can do is approach it with incredible enthusiasm (of course this is assuming that the base is learning the skills required, having the experience, aptitude, etc. to do the job).
Secretly celebrate birthdays
Something that we started to do in our project team was to buy cakes for people’s birthdays. We would find out when their birthdays were, wish them a happy birthday on the day of but then secretly go out and buy cakes for them so that we could celebrate as a team. It’s now become a tradition of sorts but one that helps give the team a break from things and to eat something sweet.
Provide recognition to a friend or a coworker
I’m sure your company may have something similar but at my company, we have a way of recognizing team members that go above and beyond their job duties to do something outstanding. This can then turn into public recognition, gift cards or monetary cash rewards for outstanding achievements.
The best time to provide this recognition is all the time – otherwise the team may feel that they are taken for granted.
Offer to help
Once, one of my coworkers was tasked with writing a significant blurb for an internal initiative. I offered to help given that writing is one of the skills that I was okay at (and wanted to get better at) but I also knew that my coworker took a very long time writing (and editing and perfecting).
Is there something that you can do to help out a friend? Coworker? Stranger? One that doesn’t require a lot of time, energy or effort from you but would significantly help that person out?
Make an observation
The other day, I was in the elevator heading to a meeting on another floor when a woman suddenly chimed in and told me that she liked my pocket square that I was wearing. I said thanks and that ended up making my day.
If you can make a compliment and make someone’s day without spending a ton of time on it, why not?
This world needs a bit more positivity and while I’m not suggesting paying it forward, I am saying that even small acts of kindness can go a long way in increasing the happiness and moods of people around you.