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11 Small Things Anyone (Including You!) Can Do to Make the World Better

11 Small Things Anyone (Including You!) Can Do to Make the World Better

Do you believe you’re too small to change the world? You have much more potential than you realize! Take a look at these 11 little (but important!) things that you can do to make a difference today.

1. Smile. 

It’s amazing how much a smile can make a difference in any interactions — that’s why we are told to smile before we pick up the phone! When we dig way down, we find that everyone just wants to be happy, and a smile shows just that. Smiles are contagious. What better way to spread happiness to tons of people? It doesn’t cost any money, and it’s not touchy like a hug. So, flash those pearly whites to whoever crosses your path. And if you’re just not feeling it, you know what they say: “Fake it ’til you make it!” If you smile long enough, you’ll find you can’t help feeling great.  (And to take this even farther — laugh!)

2. Listen.

This is such a biggie in this fast-paced, I-don’t-have-time-for-that world. We lend people our “ear,” but are we really listening? To be a good listener, put all of your to-do’s and opinions on the back burner and still your mind. When the person is done, respond with some of what they said, so they know that you were giving your full attention. Not so easy! But it can make a huge difference. A lot of people just want to be heard — we all have a story to tell, and we all want to feel understood. This one may take a few minutes of your time, but if you can make the effort, you can make a world of difference to another individual.

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3. Pick up after yourself.

A clear space keeps a mind clear and just looks and feels better. Have a regular place for things and keep the table and counter surfaces clear. Keep it clean outside, too. Keep your litter in the garbage can, and pick up that water bottle or soda can that someone else left behind. Know that you’re beautifying the space for yourself and others, showing that you care about your environment. How about when you’re out to eat? My family likes to stack up the menus for the waiter so they don’t have to reach around everybody at the table. We’ll sometimes stack up and pass over our plates, too. It shows you care and leaves the wait staff more time to take good care of you and the other customers. And when you’re visiting? Clean up when you’re hanging out or at a party. Offer to help take things down or clean up, and maybe even do the dishes! Work gets done faster with many hands, and an easier cleanup might encourage a host to throw another party!

4. Open the door for someone.

I think it’s so sweet when there’s a double-door situation, and the person going out and the person going in are both holding the door for each other! This is a wonderful, easy way to make someone feel special. Take that extra minute and that little bit of humility and let the other person go through first. It doesn’t matter if the person is male or female, young or old, in a wheelchair or on crutches, or toting a few kids in a stroller — it’s a wonderful gesture for any person.

5. Pay for the person behind you.

This one does involve a little cash, but it’s a wonderful, appreciated surprise when you are able to do it. And it can be as small as a toll or cup of coffee. Think about all the times you’ve had to stand or sit in line. Now think about how much you’ve hated it! Imagine finally getting to the front and then finding out someone has taken care of you. This is a powerful way to start a chain of “paying it forward.”

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6. Say please and thank you (and mean it!).

I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but it can’t be over-applied. However, it’s sometimes overlooked in service situations and in giving commands. Even if someone is serving you as part of a job, say, “Thank you.” When you are directing someone, say, “Please.” I found as a teacher that I had much better rapport with my students when I said: “Johnny, please close the door,” rather than “Johnny, close the door.” Thank the waiter for pouring you more water and for clearing your plate. Thank the cashier for handing you your bags and receipt. Yes, they have to do it —  but it’s all the better when people appreciate it.

7. Learn names and use them.

“Say my name.” They say everyone’s favorite word is their own name. When you use a person’s name you show that 1) you listened, 2) you cared enough to remember, and 3) you recognize that person’s individuality. Of course, you wouldn’t use it in every sentence, but do use it in your greeting, and throw it in here and there — then, watch the other person light up like a firefly!

8. Give encouragement.

One of my favorite teacher gifts is a small plaque that has this quote: “The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they needed to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would prosper beyond its wildest dreams.” How powerful encouragement is! Encouragement can be anything from a simple observational compliment, to a “You can do it!” to an “I believe in you,” and even an “I love you.” The best leaders use more encouragement than criticism. The best parents and educators teach through positive reinforcement, as well as negative. And the very best encouragement we can give is sharing our unconditional acceptance and love of an individual, through all time and all circumstances.

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9. Take time for yourself.

This may sound more greedy than giving, but it’s not. Think about those times when you’ve just needed to recharge, but instead you chose to push on. You spent that extra hour. You did that extra event. How did you feel afterward? Were you really giving your full attention to that activity, to those people? This is why good businesses give their employees extra breaks and extra vacation time. We are more productive when we have a chance to relax and just be for a bit. Give yourself your full attention for a while so that you can be fully present (or attentive) for others later. Read your favorite book, take a nice shower or bath, meditate, go for that walk, or take yourself out — whatever takes your fancy! Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you are also important. It’s not selfish — it’s actually selfish not to!

10. Be a giver and a receiver.

First — simply put — when you can give, give. The world has a circular ebb and flow, and generosity has a way of coming back to you. This doesn’t just mean money; all of the above suggestions are different ways of giving. Holding back stops the flow. Giving starts it up again.

Just as important — receive! If you don’t accept gifts from others, you are also cutting off the stream. Every giver needs a receiver, or they can’t be a giver. If someone smiles at you, take that in and smile back! Give someone a chance to listen to you, to serve you, to open the door for you, to pay for you, to thank you, and to encourage you. Let yourself feel great for the attention, and let that other person enjoy being able to do something for another.

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11. Be yourself.

The greatest gift you can give to the world is being your true self. We get so lost in who others and society want us to be that we forget who we really are. Your presence is a gift, and you are here on this earth for a reason. Invest in discovering who you really are — what do you think, what are your passions, what excites you? And then share with the world. Giving yourself permission to be yourself allows others to do the same. Imagine how much easier and more pleasant life would would be if people would spend less time forcing themselves to be what others wanted them to be and could spend more time being who they actually are, doing what they really want to do? It can start with you!

Are you ready to make a difference? Start today!

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live a Stress Free Life in a Way Most People Don’t

How to Live a Stress Free Life in a Way Most People Don’t

Learning how to live a stress free life may seem impossible, but the truth is that there are specific things you can do to begin eliminating sources of stress.

No, it doesn’t look like a made-for-television movie. No, it doesn’t look like something only people with extra time and money can do. It looks like your life—but without any self-created stress triggers.

Here are 11 ways to help you live a stress-free life:

1. Stop Overanalyzing Situations That Haven’t Happened

The first step to living a stress-free life is to stop overanalyzing imaginary scenarios. It’s easy to spend time in the world of worst-case scenarios. People tend to cultivate this world for one of two reasons.

First, because if you know what the worst-case scenario is, then it won’t surprise you when it happens. Second, if you know what the worst-case scenario is, then you can do everything in your power to control the universe so the worst case never happens.

If that’s really the world you want to cultivate, then become a professional risk assessor. If not, then ask yourself how you are benefiting from continuing to live that way.

Does it make you feel better about yourself and your life? Does it make you want to leap out of bed in the morning, eager to embrace the worst-case scenario? Does it bring you joy or fulfillment?

If your answer to these three questions is no, then stop living in the future and bring yourself back into the present.

2. Don’t Take on Other People’s Problems

The whole advantage of other people having problems is that they aren’t your problems. When you frequently take on other people’s problems, you get into the habit of enabling.

Let’s get crystal clear about the definition of enabling: enabling is the art of continuing to take responsibility for other people, thereby disallowing their personal responsibility[1].

It is of no service to other people to take on their problems because they can’t/won’t/don’t know how to fix the problem.

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It is of service to empower others to take responsibility for themselves and their lives, to encourage, teach, and motivate others to address their own problems. So stop enabling, and start empowering.

3. Get Present in the Moment

Being present in the moment involves being in your body and feeling your feelings—two things that lots of folks actually don’t know how to do.

Ask yourself these two questions: What does fear feel like in your body? What are you afraid of?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you probably aren’t present in the moment. Being present involves vulnerability, humility, and openness[2].

How to live a stress free life by being present

    The past and the future stop being so relevant and intriguing when you’re able to get in your body and feel your feelings. When you can do these two things, you actually want to be in the present moment.

    To get started, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and watch your stress levels drop. Then, try these tips: How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying.

    4. Focus on What You Have, Not What You Don’t

    The easiest way to stop focusing on what you don’t have is by not watching TV commercials. Marketing teaches us to focus on what we don’t have, and advertising campaigns spend millions of dollars convincing us that we must have what we don’t yet have.

    Can you think of a marketing campaign that teaches you to enjoy what you already have without buying something to enhance it? Odds are you can’t.

    In a world dictated by Super Bowl commercials and Facebook ads, it takes stalwart focus to recognize what you have more than what you don’t. If you want a stress-free life now, get stalwart, and stop letting other people dictate your focus.

    In order to do this, try cultivating a gratitude practice to help refocus your mind toward what is good in your life. You can get started with this guide.

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    5. Stop Surrounding Yourself With People Who Don’t Make You Happy

    Honestly, what kind of people do you really like to be around with? People who get you, who see you clearly, who accept your flaws and all; people you can be yourself with; people who have shared interests?

    How many of those people are in your life? What characteristics do all of the other people in your life have?

    If you find that the people in your life aren’t adding anything positive, it may be time to make some changes. If you find that other relationships you have are downright toxic, start working to cut out those relationships immediately.

    6. Find a Job That Makes You Feel Good

    You don’t have to stay at a job just because it pays the bills. Most people spend more time working than sleeping. The average person spends 40 to 80 hours a week—or 2,000 to 4,000 hours a year—working. That is a significant investment!

    If your best friend or child told you that they were going to spend 4,000 hours giving their emotional, mental, and physical energy to something (or someone) that wasn’t going to value them, give anything back to them, or pay them what they were worth, what advice would you offer? Give that same advice to yourself. You won’t be stress-free unless you don’t learn this[3].

    Here’re 11 Signs That You Should Leave Your Job.

    7. Only Take on What You Can Handle

    Busyness is an addiction. Slowing down can actually be terrifying because it causes you to notice that you have feelings that you now have time to feel.

    I get it.

    By the time I slowed down, I had decades of busyness under my belt. I went into a tailspin depression because I didn’t understand how to be in the right relationship with my own emotions.

    When I finally figured out that feelings are just feelings and allowing them to express themselves is healthy and natural, I stopped experiencing withdrawal from my addiction to busyness and started figuring out the pace of life that felt best for me.

    Remarkably, I discovered that I don’t actually like being busy. What will you discover about yourself?

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    8. Let Go of Grudges and Anger

    For me, it took 20 years of adulthood to figure out that holding on to grudges and anger only hurt me. Lucky for you, though, you can benefit vicariously from my experience just by reading one short paragraph!

    No one is holding your feet to the fire, demanding that you hold on to grudges and anger. The energy of anger slowly eats away at your body, mind, and spirit, until one day you wake up more resentful than optimistic.

    One day, people no longer want to be around you because the stink of negativity is oozing out of your pores. One day, you even get tired of hearing yourself get angry. And the person or people you are angry at or holding grudges against probably haven’t been affected at all.

    Who gets hurt the most in that process of repeating negative thoughts? You do.

    Some good advice for you here: How to Let Go of Resentment and Anger

    9. Stop Reliving Your Past

    To live a stress-free life, you have to stop reliving your past. I know it seems like fun to compare everything in your present to your past, and to experience the present through past-colored glasses, but it actually isn’t.

    When you wear past-colored glasses, you can’t truly experience the present for what it is. Your boyfriend or girlfriend gets compared to a list of expectations and failed relationships rather than recognized for the unique blessing they are in your life.

    Your boss gets compared to all the bosses who came before her/him. Your friends’ ability to parent gets compared to your parents’ ability to parent.

    People, including you, deserve to stand on their own past-free merit.

    10. Don’t Complain About Things You Can’t Change

    There are always going to be people elected into office whom you don’t like, taxes that you don’t want to pay, idiot drivers who refuse to move out of the left-hand lane, and a person ahead of you in the check-out line who won’t stop chatting with the clerk.

    The great benefit of being human is that we get to experience all of what life offers us. To live stress-free is to learn to deal with this fact.

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    Dwelling on your frustration with something that can’t be changed doesn’t do anything other than drag you down. You are the only person who will ultimately decide how to respond to what is.

    11. Stop Living Through Other People’s Lives

    Someone else’s life is not your life. Your life is your life.

    What that means is you get to live your life in the way you want. You get to make ridiculous mistakes, take leaps of faith, and stuff things inside your handbag of fear just as much as the next person.

    Going through stuff is the whole great messy adventure of being human! Being alive and living life is terrifying and glorious and everything in between.

    Stop living through social media, trying to soak in all of the experiences everyone else is having. Focus, instead, on what it feels like to be you in this moment. You may find you like it.

    Final Thoughts

    An astounding thing happens when you reduce stress and anxiety, get into a relationship with your body, mind, and spirit, and just be yourself without judgment.

    Your life literally slows down. You stop wishing for the weekend. You begin to live in each moment, and you start feeling like a human being. You just ride the wave that is life, with this feeling of contentment and joy.

    You move fluidly, steadily, calmly, and gratefully. A veil is lifted, and a whole new perspective is born through improved mental health. And this is how you live a stress-free life.

    More Tips on How to Live a Stress-Free Life

    Featured photo credit: Drew Coffman via unsplash.com

    Reference

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