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These Simple Things You Do Can Change the World But You Don’t Realize It

These Simple Things You Do Can Change the World But You Don’t Realize It

One of the easiest things to do to help change the world is to spread kindness. Yet so often we forget to take the time and, in fact, take many of our loved ones for granted. It’s important to remember to be kind because life can sometimes be terribly unkind. It can be relentless and often quite painful.

We are all put on this planet to do something with our lives, to make others happy, to help and serve others. With this in mind, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about how you can spread the gift of kindness to those around you. If we can take time out to remember to show kindness to those around us, to strangers and to animals, hopefully it will cause a knock-on effect, so that others can spread the kindness further.

I’ve come up with 20 tips to get you started so we can all change the world—one step at a time.

1. Be thankful

Saying thank you to someone because they helped you, they’ve served you in your local store or they’ve continually supported and listened to you over the years is a big deal. Taking time out to be grateful for the people in your life, your job, your home, and just being able to live and breathe is essential for living a good and happy life.

2. Become non-judgmental

When you judge people and their lives it normally means that you judge yourself just as harshly, which can make it a pretty bad habit to have. No one likes to be judged. To change the world, the less you judge others the less likely others will judge you.

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3. Helping others

If you are like me, it’s hard to ask for help from those around you. So whenever someone is in need, always remember that it was probably difficult for them to ask for your help. Go a step further than normal and offer to help before they ask. Do it with no expectation and do it with kindness.

4. Be kind to those you may otherwise take for granted

Many of us take our loved ones, specifically our partners or parents, for granted. Life is short so remember to be kind and loving to those who are always there in your life no matter what, before it’s too late and they are no longer around.

5. Remember how you felt when others have been kind to you

Take a little moment right now, sit still and really think about how it makes you feel when someone takes time out of their busy schedule to be kind to you. It feels good, doesn’t it? Now is the time to spread that kind of feeling to others. Imagine how this could change the world around us: that feeling that we all have when someone is kind to us. Amazing, right?

6. Be kind to you

To be kinder to others it’s so important to be kind to yourself to start off with. How can you be kind, loving and loyal to those around you if you can’t extend the same courtesy to yourself? So start today, write a list of three things you are thankful for about yourself and write in a journal each day to remind yourself.

7. Think of others before acting

Before you leap into a situation, or try stepping in to help someone who you think may be suffering, try to think of how they feel about the situation first. They may not want you to get involved, or your involvement could cause them embarrassment or, worse, pain. Imagine if a world leader stopped to think first about how their country felt before deciding to start a war, imagine what kind of change that could make to the world? I know that this example is extreme but you can start small. So start with thinking about others’ feelings before you act upon your own.

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8. Encourage rather than criticize

So many times we jump in to criticize someone—which often comes from our own fears and insecurities—but rarely do we encourage as our first thought. Help others see what they do as positive; this will give them a well-deserved lift to their self-esteem, encouraging them to do it more often.

9. Put the shoe on the other foot

So often we are unkind when we only see things from our own perspective. Before reacting to what someone has said or done, ask yourself this: “What would I do and feel if I were in their shoes and what in this person can I see in me?” Being mindful is important: think before you react and you’ll be surprised by the results.

10. Do unexpected things

Imagine receiving a note in your lunch box just to say, “I love you,” or, “Thank you.” How would that make you feel? Try expressing your kindness and gratitude by doing little unexpected things for your loved ones. Make them feel wonderful and you too will feel just as good simply by doing it.

11. Be there

Listen without thinking of what to say next. Be there for someone just because. Take time out to help someone to figure things out. Just be there. It’s that simple.

12. Do the little acts of kindness

We go through our daily lives existing most of the time. We rush from place to place not really acknowledging those around us. So start smiling at strangers, saying hello and thanking them for holding a door open or letting you cross the road in front of them. To change the world we need to continually do the little things every single day.

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13. Give yourself a kind gift

When was the last time you treated yourself to something special or luxurious? It doesn’t have to be something expensive; by all means treat yourself to a lovely long soak in the bath, or a nice healthy meal or a lovely long stroll along a golden beach. Whatever it is, see it as a gift to yourself.

14. Help someone practically

Whether it’s helping them with their shopping or helping them move home, helping someone out practically and not asking anything in return is both rewarding and kind. When someone offers without wanting anything back it is pretty hard to receive, but feels wonderful as the receiver. So start doing things for others, especially those who can’t get out and about like they used to.

15. Encourage positivity and kindness in others

This step isn’t about telling others what to do and how to live, it’s more about noticing when those around you do something kind and then telling them how great they were for doing it. Encourage as much as you can; many of us do things that go unnoticed, then when someone comments on it, it can make you want to do it again and again.

16. Do something for someone without them knowing

One of the biggest ways to show kindness is to do it unconditionally. Many of us do things because we’d like to get something back, and then if it’s not returned we can get resentful. So as you show kindness on a daily basis to those you love, do something kind for them without them knowing who it was. This will make them feel wonderful and help to shape their view of people in general. It will make them believe that there are people who do things without expectation.

17. Do something kind every day

Make it a habit to do something kind every single day. It can be something small, a gesture, a kind remark or a compliment. Anything at all! But make it a habit, like brushing your teeth, and do it daily.

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18. Be kind to animals

Whether you have a dog or a cat at home, or if you don’t care for animals so much, make it a choice to be kind to animals. Animals live on this planet too and have as much right to exist and share this beautiful world with us. It doesn’t matter how you show your kindness. Just don’t be cruel. Understand that animals have to survive too and that they are beautiful, magnificent creatures just like us.

19. Give to charity

When we give to a charity we are helping others fulfill their purpose in providing support in such a way that we could never possibly imagine. When there are massive disasters in other countries, many people flock to that country to help at a moment’s notice without giving it a second thought. If this isn’t you, then do your bit and give to charity to help support them in being kind across the world. What a fantastic way to change the world!

20. Be kind to your enemies

This is important, especially if we want to change the world. Whomever you perceive as your enemy, take a good hard look at them and their life. Think about what makes them your enemy and ask yourself if it’s important to hold a grudge or to continue making your life miserable by being unkind or uncaring?

Start to see things differently, think about why someone could be the way they are. Have they had a hard time? Are they perhaps insecure and full of fear, which is why they react to you in the way they do? Remember, what we usually see in someone else can be what we see in ourselves, which is why we don’t like them. Change yourself and start to be kinder and nicer to those you no longer get along with. You’ll see a huge change, and if not within them, then in you.

So how can you start to be a kinder person from today? What do you need to do more of and why? Let us know in the comments.

More by this author

Paula Lawes

Paula loves people and connecting. She writes about communication and relationships tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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