How a 102-year-old woman and kindness can change your life!

She was in her 60’s and walked into my seminar where I was speaking on how to change the way you think … which will change the way you behave … and that will, in turn, change the world. Her name was Margaret Pederson. She listened intently to everything I said, furiously taking notes and actively engaging in every activity. She was  most interested in kindness.

At the end of the seminar, she asked if I had a recording of my presentation. She wanted to listen to it again. I gave her a copy, not knowing what she was going to do with it or how it might influence her life.

Time passed. A lot of time. Then one day I received an email from Margaret. She wrote,

“Dear Dr. Zimmerman: I am 90 years old and heard you speak at Fairview Hospital decades ago. You spoke on ‘affirmations and positive attitudes.’ It was the most powerful presentation I have ever attended and it has colored my life for the better. I put your affirmation principles into practice and have seen amazing results ever since. Now I want to attend your two-day Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program.”

She came, sitting in the front row for two days, once again furiously taking notes, engaging with every participant, and learning as much as she could. This time she especially tuned into the section on clarifying and living out your purpose in life. (So if you haven’t got your purpose all figured out or you’re not doing much about it, it’s not too late for you!)

She left the program certain that her purpose was to spread kindness, which she consciously and deliberately started to do in her community. Her work began to grow. So she came back to my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program at age 98 for a “refresher.”

Her kindness work caught the attention of other communities, then a British podcast, and just this last week as a 102-year-old keynote speaker for World Kindness Day. You can check out some of what she said at this YouTube link.

I realize that’s a long introduction to today’s Tuesday Tip on the topic of kindness. But I wanted you to know the backstory. Like Margaret Pederson, I also believe that kindness is a super important topic, that’s it not only good for you, but it’s also good for your family, your team, and your business. So let me give you some tips from her and myself to make kindness a stronger force in your life.

► 1. Do something.

Too many people cop out. Because they can’t do something big, they do nothing.

The great Irish statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke said it best. “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

The truth is you can always do something … kind.

You can always do something … now. As William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, said back in the 1600’s, “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

And you need to do something kind … before it’s too late. I was reminded of that last Monday when I attended the funeral of a 22-year-old who died in a motorcycle accident. Too many people at the funeral were saying, “I wish I would have …” Instead, remember the advice of the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, “You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.”

Of course, there are some people who wonder what’s the point. Why bother with kindness? What difference does it make? Barbara DeAngelis, a relationship researcher, answers that question by writing, “Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them and they bless you, the giver.”

► 2. Practice random acts of kindness.

It doesn’t take any planning or pre-thought. Just do it. Hold a door for a stranger. Do the dishes even though it’s not your “turn.” Smile at someone who passes you in the hallway. Show interest in the salesclerk as a person.

The great thing about being kind is you don’t have to “feel like it” to do it. As Samuel Johnson wrote in the 1700’s,

“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”

There’s been a movement to encourage random acts of kindness. That’s great. It makes the world a better place.

But your relationships are built on conscious acts of kindness, not random ones you occasionally remember or do.


► 3. Use conscious acts of kindness.

In other words, decide that you will find some ways to be kind today and every day. Be deliberate about it. Don’t wait until the “mood” strikes you or you have the “time.” Consciously look for ways to spread kindness.

For example, instead of taking your partner for granted, decide to treat your partner as your best friend. You remember things that are important to your best friend. You do things for your best friend. And you would never use sarcasm, utter put downs, or forget promises you make. Those are all conscious acts of kindness.

If you attend an off-site conference that had significant value for you and would also help your coworkers, offer to teach them some of the highlights of what you learned. It could be a real gift, as well as another conscious act of kindness.

Still another tip. Take time to show appreciation. People crave it and never get too much. In fact, the number one job complaint is the same in all the companies where I speak. People say, “You can do a hundred things right and not hear a darn thing about it, but do one thing wrong and they’re right on your back.”

That is not a very smart or effective way to lead or motivate anyone. Simple recognition and appreciation are small acts of kindness that can go a long way in bringing out the best in others.

Look for three people you can recognize, praise, or encourage this week. It’s a conscious act of kindness that will be a win-win for everyone involved. And you don’t even have to be a 102 to pull this off!