British author Aldous Huxley, most famous for his dystopian novel Brave New World, spent his life digging into the world’s problems and through that experience inevitably became quite a spiritual man. It seems to be more common than not that people find the life’s greatest lessons in the midst of difficult experiences. Late in his life during one of Aldous Huxley’s final public speeches he said something illuminating, “It’s a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research & study, the best advice I can give people is to be a little kinder to each other.”
What would life be like if we each practiced being 10% kinder each day?
10% kinder to ourselves.
10% kinder to one another.
Would we be a bit more giving and forgiving? Would we feel a bit safer? Would we be a bit happier? Would we feel a greater sense of belonging? This is certainly what Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and weekend edition of Good Morning America found out through his practice of mindfulness meditation. He inevitably authored the NY Times bestselling book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.
There’s a power to kindness and it seems to have some emotional contagion to it as well.
When you’re driving by the toll booth and you choose to pay for the person behind you, it seems to bring a smile to their face. Something about that act was contagious. They then feel a bit more inspired to be kind and generous as the day goes on.
Being a bit kinder doesn’t have to take much effort and it feels good. Have you ever noticed how smiling is also contagious? Even the simple act of smiling is practicing kindness.
The wonderful thing about kindness is that it’s portable and it’s free. We can do it anywhere and anytime.
We can extend this same kindness to ourselves too.
Consider all the moments of the day when your self-critic arises telling you that you’re not good enough, or that you’ll never get ahead, or something is wrong with you. This is a moment of difficulty, and if you heard someone talk to a friend so critically, you might move in and to comfort them. That would be an act of kindness.
We can practice this self-kindness or self-compassion in four steps:
- Recognize the critic is present and this is a tough moment
- Understand that life gives us all kinds of difficult moments and that this is a common human experience.
- Ask yourself what you need. Is it to feel loved, to be at ease, or maybe to accept yourself just as you are?
- Place your hand over your belly or heart and say to yourself, “May I feel loved, be at ease, and accept myself just as I am.” (or put in whatever it is that you need).
Remember, the immediate outcome isn’t the point; it’s more about giving your brain practice in kindness. If there’s one thing we know about the brain, it’s that when you intentionally practice and repeat something, over time it starts to feel more natural as it becomes automatic.
What would the world be like if at the tip of people’s moment to moment intention was to be a little kinder? What would the world hold for future generations?
What’s going to be your 10% kinder act today?
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.