I know there’s normally an Other Perspectives on Monday but it’s the start of a month and while I kicked this off on the weekend, I wanted to give it an official start on the first workday of the month. Welcome to Relax and Succeed‘s March Kindness Challenge.
The readers that turn my work into verbs always do best. They’re not philosophically bantering ideas around, they’re looking for routes through the confusion. And so they very practically do what I suggest and then they write to me about the wonderful benefits that accrue when we make happiness a priority, and when we really do try to see that life is lived inside out, not outside in.
So what’s our verb for March? We have to stop trying to Succeed and we have to start Relaxing. We have to see the victory not as winning the game, but playing it at all. We must learn that our internal experience is the only life we’ll ever know, and so we’re far better off to be tuning that. And by tuning into kindness we guarantee ourselves a day filled with joy.
So: I know it’s a habit that will be hard to break at first. But that’s why we’re doing it. To make that barrier lower and lower until it’s not there at all. So 31 days (and if you start today, only 29!). 31 measly days. No negative comments about your appearance, your schedule, your children or parents, your spouse or lack of one, your job, boss or co-workers, your social life, your friends, other drivers, the weather, your health, your habits, your past…. none of it. No using words in your imagination to tell yourself a story about how disappointing any of those things are.
Yes, you’ll screw up. Yes your habits will—especially at the start—wreak havoc on your plans for positivism. You’ll catch yourself half an hour into a rant. But that does not mean you have failed that means you have succeeded. Because you noticed. This is not something you’ve historically paid attention to—and that’s entirely my point. Because if you did pay attention to it your life would instantly and easily be much better. Because what a surprise—when you actually prioritize happiness it turns out it’s not that hard to get.
So to make it easier to not slip back into bad habits, instead you should be invested in paying more attention than ever to the good things in life. Focus on what’s in your consciousness. You want fewer criticisms, judgments, or complaints. Those are just crappy ways of asking for something when it would be better to just ask. Criticisms, judgments and complaints suck for you to think. They’re not nice-feeling thoughts for the thinker. But being openly aware feels good right away. And if you direct it with the intention of noticing all that is beautiful about the world you will quickly come to see that a lot of this great big world is absolutely awesome and if you don’t believe me then you haven’t been paying enough attention.
Start noticing the daily kindnesses in this world. Start paying a lot of attention to how good people are to each other. Why would we have built a world where there’s a saying to good to be true but not one that’s too bad to be true? I’m happier than all of you and I’m likely dumber and poorer and more isolated, and for the last several weeks I’ve been in intense pain, but still I’m happier than virtually all of you. Why? Because I love being in pain and I love being over-booked because my friends need me? No, because that reminds me that I’m hardly ever in pain and that I have a lot of great friends that inspire me to help them with their goodness. The choice is mine how I see that. But I have to get serious about changing the way that I make that choice. It has to become conscious if I want it to work. I can’t go into a restaurant and blindly pick any meal/experience off the menu and expect to like it. I at least have to advocate enough for my own life that I’ll show enough involvement to actually look at the menu of thought choices and choose something that I think I at least have a hope of enjoying.
Okay, send this to your friends and get them on board too. Print off the March Kindness Challenge photo and put it up at work, or on your fridge or at your school. And do this seriously. Make your happiness something you actually prioritize. So if you hear a friend running someone else or their life or themselves down—stop them. Remind them that you think they’re amazing and that’s why you’re their friend, and that when they insult themselves they’re also insulting your good taste. Stop gossiping and start talking about how great everyone is. Start talking about the best thing you’ve seen someone do instead of the dumbest thing.
This isn’t rocket science. Think a nice thought, get a nice feeling. But that doesn’t happen by accident. And it doesn’t happen by coming here and reading this blog or taking my classes or meeting with me. I don’t change people they change themselves. Can I guide them? Yes I can and have and it works. But so will the March Kindness Challenge. Just do it.
No more critical, angry, sad, worried or judgmental thoughts about your life or the people and things in it. Instead, for March you’re going to sincerely dedicate yourself to being even kinder, more generous, and more patient and compassionate than you have been. Less time judging what you don’t like and more time noticing what you do like. Share your appreciations. Tell people you think they handled a situation well. Tell them you think they look great or that you’ve always liked their voice. Tell them. You love when you hear it so say it too. Say nice things to everyone.
This really can make a huge difference. In a blog called Mission: Better World #1 I figured out that if just North Americans alone gave one more compliment per day than they do, that we would increase the total number of world compliments by 131 billion every year. And that’s just one small place. Imagine if the whole world was kind most of the day!?
Make a difference first to yourself and then to those around you. But get on board. Put up Post-It notes to remind you. Get your friends on board. Copy the March Kindness Challenge photo or go to the Relax and Succeed facebook page and share the challenge out of the Social Change photo album. Get as many people on board as you can. But stay on it yourself and you will change yourself. And, as Gandhi said, by changing yourself you will have changed the world as well.
I look forward to seeing your smile out there in the great big beautiful world. Until then, you have yourself the very best March ever. I love you.
PS Don’t forget to share this!
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.