I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday, when I came across an uplifting post that made me smile. I can’t remember exactly what it said, but what’s important is that it had a positive effect on my night and overall mood. However, apparently it didn’t lift the spirits of all my fellow Facebookers. Someone left a comment claiming the post (and those of the like) drove people in the wrong direction; it reflected selfish views or focused too heavily on self-help. Immediately, I was annoyed. How could someone possibly bash a post that inspired others to better themselves? I was so annoyed, in fact, that I read the comment thread that transpired from his remark. And after reading the respectful disagreement he had with another woman, I kinda saw his point.
This man’s assertion wasn’t that self-help is bad. It was that we typically stop there. We help ourselves and then we move on—without paying it back. That was the bad part. For example, you see someone being interviewed on the news for losing her job upon a surprising company-wide layoff. You say ‘how bad, so sad’ and use it as motivation to perform better at work tomorrow. But you don’t do anything to help her or other unemployed individuals. The ultimate point here is that while the improvement of our world starts from within, we can’t stop there. We have to see out the rest of the deal and help our fellow earth dwellers. Because while it’s great to improve yourself, there are so many people out there who are a couple steps behind you and desperately in need of your help.
So, here I am again, recognizing that I could use an improvement. And in turn, I make a note to become more aware of those around me. But I don’t stop there. I act. Here are a few simple ways you can help the people around you too, that can actually go a long way:
- Tell someone you appreciate them. Whether it’s the server taking your order at dinner or your coworker who never lets you down. They might turn red and in turn shy away, but that’s because they’re probably not used to being shown such gratitude! Trust me, they’ll appreciate your appreciation.
- Donate what you don’t use. I’m pretty sure all of us have something sitting around our house that we just don’t have use for anymore. I for one, have four big bags worth of clothes that I haven’t worn in years. I know because I cleaned out my closet and have them sitting in my car, ready to be donated to Goodwill! If you haven’t had that eureka moment of ‘oh yeah, I haven’t used that in centuries’, take a second to look around your place and I bet you’ll find something that will of much greater use to someone else.
- Volunteer. Do you love animals? Volunteer at your local animal shelter. Does the trash on the side of the highway drive you nuts? Sign up to help clean up. Whatever you enjoy doing or feel inclined to do, do it! If everybody volunteered just once a week or even month, think of what a difference that would make.
- Stop what you’re doing and help. There’s probably someone near you right now who could use some help. Whether that’s your classmate who’s having a tough time with a math problem, or a coworker who’s obviously letting work get the best of him. Or simply someone with their hands full, trying to get the door open. Look around and help whoever needs it at this very moment.
- Motivate. That friend who’s been wanting to take a leap of faith and move to New York City? Give her a push! Your dad who’s been struggling to start a healthy meal plan, per the doctor’s suggestion? Drive him to make those changes. Motivate those around you to achieve what they’ve set out to. And while you’re at it, motivate them to help others too.
- Spread love and kindness. The simplest thing you can do is be kind to everyone you meet. Offer a smile to strangers you pass on the street. Give the waiter who got your order wrong a break. Tell everyone you love how much you care for them. Live by this simple ideal and you will certainly have a positive impact on the world around you.