When I was in Ocean City a couple of weekends ago with my girlfriends, we noticed something new on the boardwalk this year. Next to all the witty slogan t-shirts like “You must be this tall to ride this ride” and “I’m with stupid–>”, came a shirt that none of us had recalled seeing before. They were everywhere. All it said was, “YOLO”. Up, down, sideways, different colors, styles for both men and women. YOLO. ?? After spending a few minutes feeling a combination of dumb, clueless, and totally uncool, I gave in and pulled out my iPhone to look it up. Of course I found the answer right away – “YOLO – You Only Live Once.” According to the urban dictionary, it’s something stupid people say to justify their actions. However, I think there are some fairly lofty and virtuous ways to use the phrase too.
Today’s email from the Tiny Buddha reminded me of the t-shirts I had seen, and it was a gentle reminder of how important it is to live each day to its fullest.
One of the questions the Tiny Buddha suggested asking yourself (and answering!) each and every day is, “What can I do to brighten someone’s experience today?”
What a great question! What can I do to brighten someone else’s experience? It doesn’t have to be much. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t even have to take much time. So many times it’s the littlest thing that can make a huge difference in someone else’s day. If each of us could spend just a few moments in thought each day thinking about brightening someone else’s day, what a lovely world this would become. And then if we each spent just a few moments actually carrying out those things, WOW! We’d be unstoppable!
Whether it’s opening a door for a frazzled new parent carrying their newborn in a car-seat, offering to take a shopping cart off someone who has just loaded their car when you’re on the way into the grocery store anyway, or stopping in to visit an elderly family member that lives alone, these little actions can really brighten someone’s experience. And they will remember it.
You’ve no doubt heard of random acts of kindness. But they’re pretty unheard of, aren’t they? Premeditated acts of kindness…. now THOSE are all the rage! The key difference if of course the premeditation. Remember hearing about “It’s the thought that counts?” It still does and always will, but just think about the power of combining the thought with the act. Now that’s not random at all, and it’s probably 100 times more likely to happen.
Simply putting some conscious thought into the simple little things you could do to brighten someone else’s experience will help you feel brighter yourself. It is rewarding to give, so be a little selfish and start giving! Here are just a few more things I’ve thought of that could go a long way to making someone’s day:
- Give a compliment – and mean it!
- Notice a new outfit, haircut, makeup, or glasses on a friend or co-worker and let them know if you like it.
- Love the shoes or purse on that well-dressed lady in the check-out line? Tell her!
- Think someone’s dog is cute? Or their kid has an adorable hat on? Tell them so – complementing someone’s child (furry or not) is often even more valued than complimenting the person directly.
- See a firefighter, policeman, or an emergency first responder? Thank them for their service. You never know when you might need it.
- Find yourself on an overbooked flight with a soldier on standby? Give up your seat to make sure he or she can get home more quickly.
- Have a ton of extra pens cluttering up your purse? Leave a couple on the counter – they can always use more.
- Share a new favorite recipe.
- See someone totally frazzled and in a giant hurry in line somewhere? Let them go in front of you if you can. You’ve been that person before and how appreciative would you have been if someone stepped aside to let you go through first? This works for the bank, grocery store, gas station, restroom, ticket line, work cafeteria, a crowded bar – you name it! Sometimes it’s a reminder to yourself NOT to be that person! Why are you ever in such a hurry anyway?
- Know someone who could possibly benefit from an introduction to someone else you know? Make the introduction.
- Have a friend or family member who has been through the wringer lately? Invite them for coffee and listen. Leave your own conversation agenda at home, at least this time.
- Phone a friend.
- Drop a note in the mail to someone you’ve been meaning to call.
There are an infinite number of ways in which to brighten someone’s day, none of which are very taxing. More often than not, you’ll be glad to have extended yourself, and the more you do it, the more you’ll think to do it. Adding this little thought to your many other daily thoughts will only add to the brightness of your own experience.
Regardless of your thoughts about living more than once, we can all certainly agree that you only get one shot at each day. So make it a good day – for you and for those around you.
A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. ~James Keller