The Dalai Lama has said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Kindness can be a guiding principle that will always provide you with the right choices. When faced with a difficult decision, ask yourself, “What would a kind person do?” A few years ago, life served up major crisis after major crisis into my life—some of them fraught with heavy duty emotions. There was ample opportunity to seek revenge or spread the hurt. It was during this time that a wise friend told me that what I was facing was a “defining moment,” and that what I chose to do with that moment would determine the direction of my life.
In that moment, I decided that I was a kind person and that I would only act in kindness. That thought and that decision helped me maneuver through difficult times with a grace that surprised even me. The decision to be a kind person guided tough decisions, and it was always the right decision.
A kind person learns that, just because one feels hurt by the words or actions of another, they do not have to respond the same way. They realize that spreading hurt and negativity does nothing to make their world more peaceful or to reduce suffering. On the other hand, kindness is innate and it makes us feel better about ourselves. Researchers have demonstrated that children begin to help others at an astonishingly early age. For example, a 14-month-old child seeing an adult experience difficulty will automatically attempt to help.
A kind person doesn’t judge others, realizing that every person is living their own life, facing their own demons and handling their own fears.
When we decide to regularly perform random acts of kindness, we experience enhanced feelings of well-being and enjoy the natural flow of feel-good endorphins. In my presentation, “How Full Is Your Bucket?” I cite how Harvard researchers confirmed that people helping people experience a higher feeling of well-being and happiness. When you are feeling and down, a great way to improve you mood is to go to a drive-through at your favorite fast food restaurant and buy the meal for the carload of people behind you. Guaranteed feel-good move.
A University of Michigan study in 2003 found that people who help others and show kindness behaviors actually have a lower risk of dying. That’s right—kindness can actually help you live longer. An interesting aside to this study is that those receiving the kindness showed no reduction in death risk.
People are likely to pay it forward. When you are kind to others, they are more likely to act with more kindness as well. In other words, kindness is contagious. Actually, researchers have found that just seeing someone else demonstrating kindness produces good feelings and makes others more likely to do something altruistic. When you are kin, you help make the world a kinder place.
“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy,” said the Dalai Lama. “Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
What does this have to do with success? I could remind you to always be honest or always be dependable or to take responsibility. But if you decide to be a kind person, the other virtues will follow.
Try it. You’ll find happiness and you’ll spread it too.