Why Things Don’t Always Work Out

Being human is messy. We say things we shouldn’t, even though we know better. We lose our tempers over the smallest of things. We react to people and events that are none of our business. We are an imperfect breed.

But I think the imperfectness of being human is intentional. If life were perfect, there would be nothing to learn, nothing new to invent, a lack of excitement in any new experience. So, built into our messy, unpredictable and challenging life is the continual opportunity to make things better.

I always struggled with understanding why tough and difficult things happen in life, particularly when you work hard to be good, charitable and supportive. Should it be that when you are good, life just works out? Though that just isn’t true, there is a silver lining: it is in these tough situations that we have the opportunity to find a way to make things better. The tough situations help us make ourselves and our world better.

When I was younger, my father had a rule for my five siblings and me: to learn to be more present and tuned in, to really pay attention to ourselves and to the people, things and events around us. And with greater awareness, we were to look at the situation and ask, “what could I do to make this better?”

My dad shared Chinese philosopher Mencius’ thinking; Mencius believed that the world was fragmented, in perpetual disorder and in the need of constant work. Instead of being disappointed by this, he saw this as an opportunity and obligation for everyone to have a role in continually making things better. This thinking was in line with my Dad’s guidance for my siblings and me – stop and notice yourself and your world, then focus on making something better.

Many of us have been trained to think hard work leads to success and negative things get you punished. But we know this isn’t true for a very simple reason:  there is free will in our world. Because of this, there is always the opportunity – in every situation we encounter – for us to make a positive difference.

It could be within ourselves in how we talk, care, support or engage with ourselves and others. It could be in our environment in how we respect the planet, our efficiency with resources, accommodating others on the highway, sharing what we know with someone who is struggling. There are so many opportunities to make one small difference in our messy, capricious and unpredictable world.

As you start small, you find that your actions inspire others and our world gets better. It won’t ever be perfect, but it can always be better. And that better starts by watching yourself and your world for the places to make a small action that inspires another to do a small action that inspires another to do a small action. Pay kindness forward. Pay concern, care, love and support forward. Though we are imperfect, we are great at seeing others make things better and being positively affected by it. 

Take Action
Stop and really notice yourself and your world. Don’t be upset by the challenges, meanness and disappointments in your life and in our world. These are reminders that our world is always ready for some small actions to make things better. These are for you to do – they are for me to do. And as we do them, we don’t change the entire world, but we change the piece of the world we touch. When we all do this, we do make a difference.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Is Follow Your Passion Bad Advice?

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Kindness Spoken Here

In places where multiple cultures are prevalent, or if it’s a frequent vacation destination, it is not unusual to see signs that say si parla Italiano, se habla Espanol, or even English spoken here. It is a welcome sign when you are in a place that does not speak your language. You know this is a place where you will be understood.

This had me thinking. What if in every household, workplace and commercial location, there was a sign posted, Kindness Spoken Here. Here, we watch, listen, care and respond with kindness, concern and respect.

Imagine how things would be different.

I travel during many weeks every year, so many weeks that Southwest Airlines and Marriott really like me. But it’s not the reward points that I review at the end of each trip, it’s the behaviors of those around me. In all of my trips speaking to groups, organizations, parents and CEOs, I routinely have the opportunity to witness how we interact and communicate with each other. Most of us are moving through life on a mission – head down and pushing ahead or looking at a phone walking in a way that would not pass a sobriety test. We are unaware of others, bumping into them, racing to beat them to a line, ensuring that we get what we want before assessing or responding to what they want. Rarely do we watch for the places to help others, let alone even acknowledge them. If one of the most important things we can do in life is to notice, encourage and support the greatness in others, it can’t happen if we aren’t aware of and committed to kindness in our interactions. Kindness is the key to the door to connection and relationship.

How do you develop the Kindness Spoken Here mindset? Here are three ideas.

  1. Don’t be cheap with a smile. This is the best and most inexpensive value builder on the planet. When you smile, you positively affect the moods of others. It is called emotional contagion. When you smile, you subconsciously invite others to join you in a positive and supportive emotion. As you smile and receive one back, you are also benefited from your action. And another benefit: it has the power to relax or undo a negative emotion in someone else.
  2. Don’t be cheap with a greeting or kind word. After a simple smile, offer a kind word. Express interest in them by asking how they are, how their day is, or, my favorite, what is the best thing that has happened to you today? Silent smiles are good, but smiles accompanied by a kind greeting are better. Connecting through actions and words improves the quality of connection with others, whether friends or strangers.
  3. Don’t be cheap with a simple act of kindness. Hold the door for someone. Let someone in ahead of you in traffic. Help someone with a bag, box or suitcase. Chat with them while waiting in whatever line you find yourself in. Express an interest in the lives of others and you will notice how similar we all are: looking to do our best in world that moves fast and can be impersonal.

With a focus on kindness, it’s more likely that you will see the greatness surface in others. As they respond, you are changed for good.

Take Action
Post Kindness Spoken Here at your home, office, car or school. Use the sign as a reminder to always watch and focus on how you speak, connect and interact with others. Lead with kindness.

This week, make a commitment to smile more, use kind and supportive words (instead of critical words), and do things to help others. It will be appreciated and will be paid forward. Great things always start small and catch on because they are great. Kindness can start small and grow into a family, company, school, town or even country that leaves others and ourselves better.

Speak the language of kindness and you will change yourself and your world.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How Your Memories of Childhood Can Improve Your Future

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