Archive for October, 2010

Tales from the Dovecote …
October 11, 2010

Get the ‘make a difference’ habit

Let me tell you what happened to me a couple of weeks ago.  The train arrived at Charing Cross, packed as usual.  Everyone, me included, seemed to be in a rush to get somewhere.  People piled out of the train, not really paying attention to anything other than putting their best foot forward.  It was cold, wet, slippery and miserable. As I stepped off the train, my foot slipped and I fell over in a quite undignified way.  I ended up with a wet bottom and a very red face! 

As I sat there, stunned, most people hurried by, ignoring me, but two complete strangers stopped, helped me up, asked if I was OK and even offered to walk with me.  Wow!

That simple act of kindness, that cost nothing, made my day, put me in a great mood (even though I felt bruised) and made me want to help other people. When people help you, you want to help them back – it’s catching! And, although outwardly there was nothing in it for my two good samaritans, I rather suspect it made them feel good too and made a difference to their day.  

 It made me think.  Small things really matter.  A lot. 

When there’s a real crisis, people amaze me.  Haiti is a fantastic example of people pulling together and being astoundingly generous – a case of lots of small donations turning into millions of pounds worth of aid.   

The problem is, when there is no perceived crisis  –  nothing to pull us up sharp – we carry on doing what we’ve always done, and the result of our habits just seem to creep up on us.  So we have just one more biscuit with our tea and several months down the line we’re overweight! 

I wonder what difference it would make if we got into the habit of being just a tiny bit kinder to each other.  By the way, this doesn’t involve a complete personality transplant, or going too overboard.  It might just be letting someone go before you in a queue when they’re obviously in a rush, or giving up your seat to a pregnant woman on the tube, or stopping the person driving the car you’re in from going through an enormous puddle and so preventing an innocent pedestrian from getting soaked!

Now, I know that sometimes, randomly being kind to a stranger can backfire.  For example, a colleague of mine, when travelling on the tube, noticed that the person next to her kept looking at her newspaper.  So she gave it to him – and he got all huffy!  That’s probably because we’re not used to people doing something for nothing.  We assume they’ve got an ulterior motive – what a cynical society we’ve become!  So, for the whole thing to work we need to learn how to accept acts of kindness politely too. 

My challenge then is for as many people as possible to take up the ‘make a difference habit’ and invest in making small changes to your daily lives that would make a positive difference to others and noticing the effect that has.  Let me know how you get on …

Jacqui Dove is a coach whose aim is to help you become as successful as you want to be