I’ve always believed that being a good person isn’t about how much money or power you have. It doesn’t take a grand gesture or a million dollar idea to improve the world; improvements are instead forged through the little things we do each and every day. Your actions will always impact someone else, creating a flow on effect that shapes the world around you. So be accountable and be kind – because it truly is the little things that make the world a better place.
Don’t know where to start? Here are 18 quick, easy and inexpensive ways to be the change you want to see:
1. Smile more
To quote Newton Faulkner, “people should smile more”. You don’t have to wander around looking like a dim-witted idiot with a cheesy grin plastered on your face. But when you interact with someone, do it with a smile. Make it genuine and they will notice
2. Think about where you spend your money
Buy your lunch from a quiet little cafe instead of the bustling chain restaurant, pick up a loaf of bread from your local baker rather than a large supermarket, buy gifts from Etsy not department stores and browse local markets and swap meets for clothes. I guarantee the small business owner, artist, local producer or family company will appreciate your money more.
3. Acknowledge courtesy
Whenever someone lets you pull out into traffic or stops to let you cross the road, give them a wave (and a smile) to let them know it’s appreciated – they’ll be less likely to begrudge you and more likely to do it again for someone else.
4. Tidy up after yourself
Think of the person who will have to clean up after you (at a cafe, at the movies, at work, wherever) and do what you can to make their job easier. This can be as simple as gathering all your wrappers and putting them in one place, stacking your empty plates, refraining from putting napkins in a glass that still had liquid in it, or taking your dishes to the kitchen (rather than leaving them on your desk).
5. Put your phone down
In a meeting, at lunch with a friend or watching a performance? Put your phone on silent and preferably keep it in your handbag or somewhere else out of the way. Very few people are so important that they can’t go without checking their phones for an hour.
6. Be generous with life’s little essentials
Be the person who always has a spare tissue, band-aid or bobby pin ready to hand out to those in need. Giving someone these small things (hair ties, painkillers, tampons, chewing gum, safety pins) can avert a disastrous occurrence.
7. Praise freely
Don’t withhold compliments. Actively seek opportunities to thank bus drivers, barristers, shop assistants, receptionists and assistants. When someone does a good job, tell them. Tell your co-workers, friends and family why you appreciate them. Tell a stranger if you admire something about them. It’s doesn’t have to be a big deal, just be genuine about it.
8. Write it down
A complement can might someone’s day but a written thank you or note of admiration could make their week. Revive the lost art of handwriting and jot a ‘thinking of you’ note to a friend, pen a quick love letter, send a card with a sweet message, or leave a post-it note with a compliment. No idea where to start? Alexandra Franzen’s got you covered.
9. Put things back where you found them
At the shops, in your workplace, at your best friend’s house –it’ll make someone else’s life that little bit easier when they don’t have to go looking for what they need.
10. Make eye contact
With every conversation, every transaction and every interaction.
11. Acknowledge emails
Shoot off a quick response – stay away from “OK” and instead let someone know you have received their email, what action you intend to take, and when. They won’t have to waste time calling you to double-check and you’ll be able to get on with your other tasks much faster.
12. Pick your shit up
There is no excuse for littering, ever.
13. Be a gentleman
This goes for you too, ladies. Hold a door for someone who has their hands full, let elderly people on the bus first and hold the elevator door.
14. Wear deodorant
Seriously – you shouldn’t be able to smell someone unless you’re being intimate with them.
15. Use a grown up email address
Z instead of s, extra ‘e’s, random numbers, things that sounds dirty but aren’t, and words that scream teeny-bopper are not your friend. Follow the standard first.last, minimise underscores, dashes, and any other confusing symbols and you’ll look much classier when giving your address out. Bonus: there’ll be less chance of a typo or mistake stopping you from receiving important emails.
Give freely whatever you can – be it time, money, goods, ideas, knowledge or inspiration.
17. Be kind to yourself
Change starts at home, so take a load off and treat yourself right. Invest in yourself, seek happiness, and watch the flow on effect it has in the rest of your life.
18. Always strive to be a better person
Don’t be so quick to judge, don’t let your short fuse get the best of you, give people time, always be kind. You won’t always know the circumstances of other people, or why they’re doing that thing that’s pissing you off. Remember, most people aren’t actively trying to annoy you. Everyone is just trying to do their best.
Not everyone thinks the way you think, knows the things you know, believes the things you believe nor acts the way you would act. Remember this and you will go a long way in getting along with people.
– Arthur Forman