I know…I know. You read that title and, if you’re already stressed, you might be plain annoyed by it. But it’s true. I’ve recently spent time reflecting on where I’m at, what my sources of stress are, and how those sources of stress are influencing my parenting and leadership. Usually I have lists for everything, a plan when I need a plan and unstructured time when my kids and/or I crave the freedom to do whatever we want. Something has shifted recently, however. I’ve noticed something within myself – restlessness and annoyance at all my lists, and even – gasp – shortness with others.
Then came a moment of much needed rejuvenation – time with my kids and family in Hawai’i. I’m the first to preach about the importance of vacations. I do think the act of taking a break in and of itself is important. This trip was different however. I was intrigued by what seemed like an aloha miracle that happened: my kids didn’t fight the entire time! Now, any of you with multiple kids close to pre-teen years and only 2 years apart can fully appreciate what it means to go SIX DAYS without a fight. My kids laughed and played together. They offered help and spent time talking with our family. They had a special calming affect on my mom and stepdad’s new wild puppy. My extremely energetic and extroverted kids had a calming effect on something else. Wow. All of this is, in my book, reason to claim that I’ve witnessed a miracle.
So what was it that led to this? I’ve been reflecting on our flight home and really think that it’s due to the fact that my kids were truly surrounded by the spirit of aloha these past few days. My family, our friends, the aunties and uncles with whom we interacted were all smiling and kind to my girls, and they shared in that kindness by returning it.
I know this sounds “hippy-ish”, but think about it. Energy is contagious. When someone comes to you to gripe about an annoyance with a co-worker, what do you do? Usually, you reciprocate the same energy. You might have even realized at that same exact moment that you were also annoyed with that person. Yikes.
Conversely, think of a time when you were crabby and someone came up and smiled and offered you something small just to be kind. I’m not talking about the “HI! HOW ARE YOU DOING? ISN’T LIFE GREAT!” type of greeting. More of a “I noticed you didn’t seem as energetic as you usually are so I stopped by the coffee shop and got you this latte. I hope everything is okay.” That’s non-intrusive kindness. That’s just sharing positivity with others – with a smile – and giving them the space they need to process whatever is going on.
When I think about the toughest conversations I’ve had at work and at home, by far the ones that were more successful were the ones I intentionally approached with kindness. Even tough messages can be delivered with intentional kindness and profound respect for others – and in some cases that intentional approach can transform the result of the conversation.
While it seems easy to do, I think many of us can use a reminder of how to be intentional about kindness, so here’s a short list of tips (because I love lists 😉
- Start with being kind to yourself. Wake up each morning and say one kind thing to yourself. Just as important – catch yourself being unkind to yourself with negative self-talk and redirect that into a positive comment
- Start your kids’ day off with one kind act. A hug, a complement, a helping hand can go a long way to spreading positive energy in the chaos which is the morning shuffle.
- Pause throughout your day to take a few deep breaths and think about a kind act you’ve seen. Pausing and noticing the good around you can inspire you to multiple it.
- Visualize approaching a difficult conversation with kindness before you have it. I use this one a lot – and it really helps the flow of the conversation. I tend to find that even in difficult conversations most people can align on intent or purpose – and in cases where they can’t, it’s kind to actively listen to what the other person’s intent is, and as a result for that listening, they usually are more engaged in the conversation because they know they were heard.
- Listen to kids laughing. This one always transforms my energy and makes me want to spread joy – and spreading kindness spreads joy.
As my to-do list grows at home and at work, you might be wondering what called me to write this blog post now – when “I’ve been too busy” to write one in such a long time. Maybe I too experienced a little bit of grounding in the aloha spirit this holiday weekend. Truth-be-told, I wrote this post just as much for me as for anyone else that is reading it. It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle that we forget how we want to show up in the world. On this trip I was reminded of the power that kindness has on myself, my kids, my workers, and others. A little kindness goes a long way.
Mahalo for being so kind to take the time to read this….