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10 Small Ways to Make the World a Better Place

10 Small Ways to Make the World a Better Place

An important part of our growth and motivation as people lies in contributing to the greater good, being part of something greater than ourselves. While “making the world a better place” often calls to mind images of great leaders at the head of mighty social movements, white-coated researchers developing new medicines or energy sources, or geniuses dreaming up theories that explain the world around us, there is plenty of room for less lofty acts that create small measures of happiness in the lives of those around us. Little gestures can create or strengthen our sense of community and of shared humanity, lightening our burdens for just a moment and giving us something to smile about. And that’s no small matter.

Here are ten little gestures, all of them easily within our grasp, that can spread goodwill in our own communities, as well as increase our own sense of mindfulness about the people around us and our relationship to them.

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  1. Tip generously: As often as you can afford, leave a tip of 25%, 50%, 100%, or even more. (Obviously this applies mostly in countries where 15% tips are the norm.) Unless the service was simply awful – and even then, it might pay to consider what your server goes through – leaving as large a tip as you can afford not only puts a little extra extra money in your servers’ pocket, it tells them that they’re appreciated, a message that often slips our minds in our demanding, service-now society.
  2. Compliment someone: Tell someone how much you like the job they’re doing, their outfit or new haircut, their singing voice – whatever. Be honest and sincere. I like to practice “drive-by compliments”, sending an out-of-the-blue email to someone whose website, post, or comment on a post I really liked. Don’t expect anything in return, just let someone know that something they’re doing works and move on.
  3. Be totally open with someone: Let someone know exactly how you feel about something on your mind (though not something negative about them – there’s a different “protocol” for that sort of thing). We often keep too much to ourselves; letting someone into your confidence can be a great way to show your trust and appreciation of them. Of course, you have to judge what is and isn’t appropriate – it is possible to move past openness to dragging others into your problems, and that’s not making the world a better place.
  4. Give someone a book you’ve read: Making a gift of something you’ve read and enjoyed is more than just a nice gesture, it’s a way of showing someone that a) you think of them, b) you understand them, and c) you want to share something with them. The moment doesn’t end when they take the book – once they’ve read it, you can talk about your reactions together. Don’t do this with people around you who don’t read, though – you’ll build up an obligation that will be painful for them to discharge.
  5. Make something for someone: Bake an extra batch of cookies, draw a picture, decorate an extra Christmas ornament, and give it to someone for no good reason. Like giving someone a book, it tells them that you were thinking about them and wanted to do something nice for them, and that it’s something you made adds a nice touch. Give without expectations – whether they return the favor or not, whether they like it or not, whether they’re nice to you or not, these are all irrelevant.
  6. Send a letter, email, tweet, or text message out of the blue: Email someone you haven’t spoken with for a while, or text someone you see every day just to be nice. Maybe they’ll respond, maybe not – it’s beside the point. They just need to know that they’re important to you.
  7. Commend an employee to their manager: It’s one thing to tip or compliment someone for their service, it’s another to contact their manager and tell them what a great job they’ve done. If you don’t have time at the time of service, note the employees name and call, email, or write a letter later.
  8. Teach someone how to do something: Share your skill or talent with someone by showing them how to do something. Not so they won’t bother you with it, but so they can move a little bit towards improved mastery of the world around them. Have patience and respect for the person you’re helping – you’re giving them a gift, not compensating for some lack in their character.
  9. Let someone shine: Put a spotlight on someone else’s talents by letting them take over a presentation, deferring to their wisdom, asking them advice, or otherwise flex their “talent muscles”. Especially if they are junior to you, giving them a chance to strut their stuff shows that you trust them and appreciate them, as well as allowing them to get the attention they deserve (and which might often be obscured by your own shadow).
  10. Connect like minds: Introduce two friends or colleagues who you feel have something to gain from each other. You’ll be letting them know you value them – and maybe creating a partnership that will make everyone better off.

You’ve probably heard the saying “Practice random acts of kindness”, and that’s basically what I’m talking about here. Anything that shows people you care about them – something we can be mighty stingy about most of the time – has the potential to make the world, or your small corner of it, a better place.

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Do you have anything to add? What little gestures do you do, or have others done for you, that have brightened the world even just a little bit? Let us know in the comments.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2020

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

  1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
  2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
  3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
  4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
  5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
  6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
  7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
  8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
  9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
  10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
  11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
  12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
  13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
  14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
  15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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