Have you ever had someone say or do something good that made your day?
Perhaps it was a sales assistant at the clothing store who told you that the outfit you were trying looked really great on you and then went out to get you the right matching accessories. And you sensed that she was not simply trying to make a sale.
Or you had a favorite dish and your mother made it for you when you visited even though she has arthritis and cooking is not easy for her?
Most of us can recall many such instances.
In my course – Creativity and Personal Mastery – I have an exercise called “The Other Centered Universe” where you are required, for one week, to go out and “make someone’s day.” You do something that brings the stars to someone’s eyes. You can choose to do it anonymously, but this is not a requirement.
What is required is that you have zero expectations. You help someone purely and simply because you can. If a thought flashes through you like “I did him such a favor and he didn’t even say ‘Thank You’,” you have just blown the spirit of the exercise.
When I was teaching at London Business School a senior entertainment executive commuted from Belgium to London just for my course. The Eurostar was the most convenient way to do this and, one day, he came into the cavernous lobby at St. Pancras to see a group of teenagers who were chattering and turning out their pockets.
He eavesdropped. They were tourists and wanted to go someplace and were not sure they had enough money for the train ride. He suddenly remembered that he was supposed to have been working on his Other Centered Universe exercise and had been negligent. On an impulse he went to the ticket counter and bought tickets for all of them. He explained to the clerk that someone from the party would come to buy the tickets and he was to give them the tickets as a gift from an anonymous donor. He covered all bases by asking the clerk to call the students to him if they showed signs of leaving.
Then he went to the exit and waited.
Soon enough one of the party went to the counter and was handed the tickets. His jaw dropped. Then his face lit up and he beckoned the others. Their faces lit up. They chattered excitedly and looked around but there was no obvious benefactor to thank.
The executive came to my class and reported. He said, “You know, Professor Rao, I cannot recall the last time I felt so good.”
There is a great power in helping someone with no expectations. You probably do it all the time. You remove a large stone from the walkway so others don’t trip on it. You right a sign that has fallen down. You point out that a stranger has dropped their wallet.
Just do it on a larger scale. Do it consciously, deliberately, mindfully.
And report on how you feel.
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