Be, Have and Do Something Out of the Ordinary

“Between you and every goal that you wish to achieve, there is a series of obstacles, and the bigger the goal, the bigger the obstacles. Your decision to be, have and do something out of the ordinary entails facing difficulties and challenges that are out of the ordinary as well. Sometimes your greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it…” ~ Brian Tracy

Around this time of year most of us find ourselves reflecting on the previous twelve months, the ups and downs, the successes and “failures”, the things we have gained and those we have let go. And it was in this reflective spirit that about a week ago a very wise person asked me this key question: What was your proudest achievement in 2011? I didn’t have to think about it very long. Of course, it was completing nine months of kindness. And it didn’t only provide my proudest achievement, it also gave me my most joyous moments (like high fives at central station), my biggest life lessons (like loving the rain), and the most incredible friendships (like the lovely Faye, and a lonely neighbour, and some brand new kindness army recruits including many of you reading right now).

All of a sudden I could not remember why on earth I had ever thought I should let any of the Year of Kindness go, not even a little bit. I was overwhelmed with excitement for what the next four months of kindness could bring. And I wanted to get started right away. I called one of my most beautiful and talented kindness recruits Agent K and we set out with a special Christmas Kindness mission. Part one was as many positive post-it notes as possible amongst the rainy blur of Sydney CBD at night.

And Part two was a little more difficult. Agent K had spent about a week creating a whole bunch of absolutely adorable hand-made soft penguins. The plan was to leave them around the city with little labels saying ‘Take me I’m yours!’ for little people to find – its part of an incredible project called the Toy Society (http://thetoysociety.blogspot.com/). The lucky one to find the toy can log on and describe where the toy was found and by whom. Very cute! The only problem was that the penguins were so adorable and the weather so gloomy that Agent K was feeling decidedly unenthusiastic about abandoning them in the dark rainy night! What if no one found them? What if they were thrown in the rubbish? Or soaked in the downpour? I really felt that given the situation we should try to find some children to give them to in person, but where would we find children at ten o’clock on a weeknight?

As we wandered around brightening up the city streets with colourful, love-filled post-its, my instincts told me we should head for the huge Christmas tree in Martin Place. And sure enough as we turned the corner and spotted the tree, I also spotted two young children posing infront of it while their mother took their photo. I couldn’t help but exclaim, “There! Those are the kids! Let’s give them the penguins.” I really felt without an ounce of doubt these kids were meant to get the toys, but since they were Agent K’s it was her decision. After a few minutes of deliberating the family began to walk away and she hurriedly called after them and explained what she wanted to do. The children broke into wide smiles and emphatic thankyous and carefully took one penguin each. The mother thanked Agent K and said, “Wow, they’re really beautiful! That is so nice of you. That’s the true spirit of Christmas.”

A few days later I decided that Christmas spirit must start at home, and I had not yet done any kind deeds for the neighbours. Infact, my two housemates and I hadn’t ever spoken to anyone in our street. We all decided that needed to change. So I baked some home made ginger bread and we went around to each of the houses in our street, offering the cookies and having a chat. Most were very confused at first, thinking we were selling something or preaching, and then pleasantly surprised to discover we didn’t want anything from them – quite the opposite. The most memorable neighbour was an elderly French man who was in great pain from a ciatic nerve and had few friends or family in Australia. He seemed genuinely touched by our offer of humble gingerbread – even though he himself was a pastry chef! – but as always it was clearly more about a human connection, sharing smiles and conversation. I know my housemate and I will make the effort to drop in and say hello from now on.

I hope that your Christmas has been truly kindful. And that your new years resolution is to continue to be, have and do something out of the ordinary next year. I know mine is! Thankyou for all your love and support during my inspiration downturn. I feel so very lucky to have found so many kindred kindness crusaders. I’m back on the bandwagon with bells on, and I already have some brilliant plans for 2012, so stay tuned for many more kindness adventures!

When Life Gives You Lemonade…

Life is full of lemonade. Joyful smiles. Music that makes your heart sing. The laughter and comfort of good friends, of knowing there is a soft place to fall. Everything in life that is hard, overwhelming, beautiful, meaningful, pushing you to expand out beyond your current self into something bigger and better.

Right now my cup of lemonade is overflowing. I am so grateful for it, but I have also come to realise that when anything overflows it means something else is lost. The Year of Kindness has indirectly lead me to take on many new adventures that constantly provide moments of real challenge and real joy.  But these new adventures have left very little time for blogging, and so I haven’t written a Year of Kindness post in a while. I’m still doing kindnesses but rather than being conscious decisions they are more often then not things that just seem to happen while I’m busy making other plans. Things that have somehow become second nature without me even realising it – paying for someone’s bus fare when they don’t have change, stopping to talk to the homeless man down the street, positive post it notes anywhere and everywhere, volunteering for causes I really believe in, money in expired parking metres, buying organic, chatting to the bus driver, trying to actively listen and really be present for friends and family, just saying yes.

When I started this project I was restless and frustrated and a little lost. I wanted to prove that every individual has the power to create something positive amidst the chaos and cruelty of the world. That there is so much good all around us if only we look close enough. That you can be the change you want to see in the world. Now I know all these things to be true. But in these lessons I’m faced with a decision – do I try to get re-inspired, keep challenging myself with new and different kindness missions and continue to write about these experiences? Or do I accept that it is time to let this blog go, to enjoy the lemonade of small spontaneous kindnesses and stop trying to catch the overflow? Jury is definitely out…

10 Surprising Lessons from 6 Months of Kindness

1. You can only give to people who are open to recieving. (You cannot save people. You cannot change people. Some people will say no and some people will run away. Seriously. You can only give to those that are open and eager to accept what you have to offer.)

2. Kindness to self is the hardest kindness of all. (Life will always contain too many shoulda woulda couldas. Cut out the negative tapes in your head. Speak to yourself as you would your best friend.)

3. Some people just “get it”, love it, support it – no matter what. (These are the wonderful, incredible, beautiful cheerleaders that will provide you with chocolate and rainboots in those inevitable moments of overwhelming doubt. They are the ones like my amazing Kindness Crew who join me on the craziest of missions without question, whether its high-fiving commuters or handing out flowers to hospital patients who speak no English, as we did on Wednesday. More on this later…)

4. Inspiration is fleeting. (Keep on truckin’, put in the perspiration and when inspiration returns you will be glad you did. And while you’re waiting, hang out with your cheerleaders as much as you can.)

5. We all have superpowers. (How are you going to change the world?)

6. If karma exists, it certainly isn’t instant. (Doing anything for the sole purpose of getting something out of it never works. But guess what? You can create your own positive karma by letting go of expectations and enjoying the process.)

7. Every person has a story and a lesson. (When you start to really look and listen, you can find wisdom in the most unexpected places .)

8. You are not alone. (No matter how crazy your journey may seem, there are always others on a similar path. Be brave and shout out your deepest loves, fears and dreams – I promise you will find kindred spirits.)

9. Listen to your instincts. (They always, always know the right thing to do. Always.)

10. Kindness is powerful.

Kindness is not weakness. Kindness is not foolish. Kindness is not the easy option. Sometimes you feel like a lunatic being kind. Sometimes it seems like the world has run out of kindness altogether. But actually, it is everywhere. And it is endlessly powerful. It creates smiles. It brightens days. It builds bridges. It is contageous. It opens up doors to experiences, connections and lessons that otherwise would have been lost. It ripples out beyond giver and reciever in the most unexpectedly wonderful ways. Year of Kindness has not always gone according to plan and that’s a good thing. Despite the unexpected twists and turns (or perhaps because of them) I believe now more than ever in the power of kindness. And you should too.

Kindness Army: We Want YOU!

I can’t quite believe that I am now almost six months into my Year of Kindness. Seems like only yesterday I was stumbling through my very first day, offering smiles to strangers and recieving very few in return. I didn’t like all the negativity, selfishness and cruelty I saw all around me. After a long time of feeling frustrated and helpless, I decided I would do something about it. I wanted to prove (to myself as much as anyone else) that despite all the inevitable bad stuff in life, even the smallest acts of good can be powerful in the most unexpected ways and every single person has the power to make the world a kinder place.

Last time I asked for your help I was overwhelmed by how eagerly and wholeheartedly you took on the challenge, spreading little ripples of happiness and positivity all over the world. Wednesday, October 12th will mark the exact halfway point of this project. And I’d like to once again ask for your help with a collective kindness mission. It’s simple: do something kind for a stranger. It does not have to be big, but on the other hand what have you got to lose? Why not challenge yourself to do a kindness that you wouldn’t normally take on? When buying your morning coffee, pay for the person in line behind you. Instead of walking past a homeless person and avoiding eye contact, offer them a sandwich, a smile, a kind word. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it might seem, and there’s a pretty good chance it will lead to an interesting connection you would not have otherwise experienced.

So go forth and be kind, recruits! And be sure to tell us all how you get on.

Choice vs. Obligation: Intention is Everything

What’s the difference between being a yes-person and being a kind person? I was faced with this tricky question recently. Afer pondering it for a little while, I came to the conclusion that it is all about intention. As I have talked about before, I am a recovering people-pleaser. I used to constantly say yes when I really wanted to say no. I would feel obligated to do whatever would make the other person/people happy, no matter how miserable and resentful it might make me feel. And in my experience doing something for someone else when you don’t want to almost always makes you miserable.

Have you ever said yes to a party invitation when you really desperately just wanted to veg out on the couch? How much did you enjoy that party? And how much did you add to the party for the host and other guests? My guess is not much on both counts. So it wasn’t a kindness to the other party-goers and it certainly wasn’t a kindness to you. Saying yes to everything and anything is just not healthy.

So how could a year of kindness (essentially consciously trying to make someone else happy each and every day) actually be good for a chronic yes-person? Because for me it meant that giving is no longer an obligation, it is a choice. A choice that I make over again each day. I decide to look out for opportunities to be kind, and then if I am sure it will be no skin off my nose, and that I expect nothing from the recipient, I take the opportunity. If it feels like an obligation or a chore, I simply don’t do it. If I have a day when I feel so overstretched that I don’t have anything left to give, I decide to take it easy and be kind to myself instead.

After starting this project I quickly realised that if I’m feeling obligated to be kind then I am far more likely to take it personally if the recipient of my kindness is ungrateful or unappreciative. Giving with a negative intention (because you feel you “should”, to get something out of it, to make someone think better of you) is not really a kindness to anyone. Because eventually you will feel so resentful you’ll explode, or you will burn out, or you will simply forget that you actually have any wants or needs of your own. And all of these scenarios will actually prevent you from giving fully to others.

So the next time you are about to say “yes” to something, please stop
and ask yourself, is it because you feel obligated or can you genuinely say is it an easy and happy choice?

The Power of a Post-It


One of my favourite children’s books is When I’m Feeling Sad by Tracey Maroney. There is a line in the book that describes sadness as something which makes the whole world seem grey and dull and droopy. A perfect explanation of how our mind can shape our reality. And a perfect description of how things looked to me (and probably many others) on September 11th. I didn’t want things to look grey on that day – I wanted to see colour and resilience and joy everywhere. I didn’t want to feel sad, either – I wanted to feel inspired and motivated to perform a beautiful act of kindness on the anniversary of the most unkind act imaginable. But there it was: everywhere I turned, there were grey buildings, grey faces, grey thoughts. Sometimes the sadness and the greyness is just too big.

And then a few days later I remembered that whatever I wanted to see in the world, I could help to create it. If I wanted to be reminded that we live in a beautiful, colourful, joyful world, the best way was to remind others. So armed with some sparkly pens and pretty post-its, my friend K and I waged a kindness campaign against all the most grey and dreary objects we could find. We put love in phone booths, smiles on tables, positivity at bus stops and happiness on park benches …

We imagined people as they sat down at the table, stepped into the booth to make a phone call or sat down to wait for a bus, each one stopping for a moment as they found a little handwritten note. We knew at least some of them would smile. And suddenly, just like that, the world seemed a lot less grey.

Spreading the Blogging Love …

Well, the blogging world is just full of surprises! I did not realise there was such a thing as blogging awards, but apparently there is and another lovely blogger has been kind enough to award one to Year of Kindness. It is called the Irresistably Sweet Blog Award and there’s a bunch of steps to follow after you’ve been awarded. So, here we go …

Step One: Thank and Link the Person who Nominated You
Thank you Maggie, lovely author of Polite and Paranoid. Thanks for nominating me and for writing your awesome blog which is so much fun to read.

Step Two: Share Seven Random Facts About Yourself
1) I’m an only child. Yes, really!

2) Sometimes I sleep walk. Most people grow out of it but apparently I’m in the 2% of adults that didn’t…

3) My favourite colour is purple, partly because my cousin once told me that lots of good things happening at once is called a “purple patch”.

4) I’m vegetarian.

5) I have travelled to over twenty countries.

6) I’m an Aries.

7) I don’t really like talking about myself this much!

Step Three: Pass the Award Along to Five Deserving Blogging Buddies
It’s impossible to pick only five! I did a post a couple of months back listing my fave blogs at the time, so with that in mind I will pick five irresistably sweet blogs I have found (or that have found me) since then.

1) Kindnessgirl – this blog absolutely makes my heart a little bigger just by reading it. Whenever I’m feeling a little lost on my own kindness journey, I read about hers and I am instantly reinspired.

2) The Mindful Foodie – this is a beautiful blog dedicated to being mindful of your body, animals and the planet. Including lots and lots of incredibly delicious, creative and mindful recipes to try!

3) Enermazing – a blog about living a more creative, energised and self-aware life.

4) In Other Words and Pictures – a very creative blog exploring life through a very unique and beautiful lens!

5) Pocket Perspectives – a gorgeous little blog that combines two of my favourite things: inspirational quotes and beautiful images.

There are many, many more amazing blogs out there and I apologise if I missed you this time around!

Step Four: Contact Those Bloggers to Congratulate Them
Congrats to all those very sweet bloggers! You’re doing an amazing job – keep it up.

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