In 2014 I started the 'I Choose Kindness' project. Why? I really wanted people to be intentional with their kindness. I personally don't do 'random acts of kindness' as I set out each day with the intention to be kind. To be kind to others and to be kinder to me.
So, I started asking people to send me selfies holding a sign that said 'I Choose Kindness' and where they were from. What I found surprising (and still do to this day) is how many people say they always choose kindness. Now I am not a fan of using words such as always or never as I suspect each of us has broken that vow of always doing this or never doing that. It really made me see that my kindness project was just as much about educating people on kindness, or at least my version of kindness, as it was about choosing to be kind. If you don't know what kindness is, then choosing it is a word rather than an action.
When people say they are always kind, I'm 95% sure that isn't true. They aren't intentionally lying about it, they just aren't aware of the subtly of kindness and those moments when unkindness happens. I've dedicated my life to choosing LOVE, kindness, and compassion. I coach on it, I speak about it, and I do my best to LIVE it and be the example. Guess what... I am not always kind. I catch it quicker because of my kindness practice, but I suspect on a daily basis I have unkind thoughts or words. Because of my diligence, I don't have that many unkind actions, but they too happen... and usually they are directed toward me when they happen.
As with most things that we are good at in life, it's because we have practiced it. Practicing kindness is work and honestly can be hard, especially at first. When I decided to commit to kindness, my world has changed. I had to shift out of some personal relationships and leave some professional relationships as well. It wasn't easy in the moment, but my life is far more peaceful because of those hard decisions at the time. Because of my daily practice, kindness is my default setting and I've learned to be gentle with myself when I allow fear (unkindness) to get the better of me.
Moving forward, I encourage you to create a kindness practice by:
Being aware of your thoughts, your words, and your actions. For the next week without judgment, just pay attention to what you are thinking about, what you are speaking about, and what you are doing. Each day write down how the day went so you can review it at the end of the week. It is when we are aware of our behavior we can make adjustments if desired.
Knowing that choosing kindness is kind. When faced with unkindness and you choose to blame, shame, or complain... then you are stepping out of kindness - even when it feels justified. I'm not talking about defending yourself, I'm talking about how you choose to defend the unkind situation you find yourself in.
Asking yourself 'who do you want to show up as daily in your life?' Do you want to be calm, content, and peaceful? Or do want to be frustrated, disappointed, and angry? All of these emotions are at your beck and call to choose from in any situation. The more you practice asking yourself who you want to be and how do you want to feel, the more you will begin to choose the path of calmness, the path of contentment, and the path of peace. This one, in particular, comes in handy to choose kindness when faced with unkindness. It's still a choice YOU get to make.
Starting your day off in kindness. Before you get out of bed, think of, write about, or speak it out loud at least three kind things about yourself. End your day as you get into bed about at least three things of kindness you experienced or witnessed in your day.
Taking kind actions daily. They can be little or big, you get to decide. However, rather than being random, be intentional. Choose to have eye contact and smile at people you see. Send a kind email (snail mail gives you bonus points), write them on social media and let someone know what they mean to you. Leave a 'you matter,' 'you've got this,' or any kind note on someone's car. Little kind actions have a far bigger positive impact than you know.
Knowing that kindness is not a weakness but truly a great strength. Kindness can and does stand up to unkindness, it just doesn't throw more salt on the wound. Kindness focuses on peaceful solutions rather than hurtful problems. Kindness is your superpower!
Making kindness a moment-to-moment choice. It's certainly easy to be kind when things are going well, but it's still a choice to make in moments when you are faced with unkindness. In those moments of unkindness, do you want to let fear take the lead or LOVE? I promise, practicing daily will make the hard moments easier...but it takes practice!
Being gentle with yourself and others. You aren't going to be kind 100% of the time. The hardest days may look like 51% kindness is a great day. Most of our unkindness is directed at ourselves, so practice self-LOVE daily too.
Avoiding being on autopilot. Don't let life live you. I encourage you to LIVE life as life is to be experienced. It's to be breathed in. It's to be honored. It's to look around you and within you and see how precious life is.
Mostly, I want you to know a kindness practice will change your life for the better. Just like other things we practice, at first, it's a lot of work and eventually, it gets easier. Much of my life has been about kindness, but when I made kindness one of my core values... well then, that was a life-changer. Remember, you are worthy of kindness. You are worthy of receiving it and you are worthy of delivering it.
Until next time, let LOVE, KINDNESS, and COMPASSION be your guide. I promise you won't regret it.
In LOVE and kindness, Carol
PS. I'd LOVE to hear about your kindness stories on either receiving it or giving it, so leave it in the comments below.
I choose kindness for myself and others.
Words to LOVE by:
"You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force." - Pubilius Syrus
"Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom." - Theodore Isaac Rubin
"Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate." - Albert Schweitzer
Sounds for Your Soul: