Do you ever get to the end of the day and feel like your day lacked purpose? Like you didn't do anything that really mattered? A simple daily practice can make sure you go to bed each night feeling like you made a positive difference to someone else, each and every day.
Each day do something small
Let me rewind to around a year ago when I started a practice of daily journaling. I began to write a few lines each night in my journal. I'm talking a handful of dot points. A mini-brainstorm of my day. What did I do well? What didn't go so well? What can I do that matters tomorrow that will move me forward?
I'm not talking about pouring my heart out. I wouldn't stick with it. Just a few quick thoughts. Anyway, through my journaling I identified that on many days I was being pretty selfish. Sure, I was completing things - but only for myself and my immediate family.
So I decided that going forward, I wanted to make sure that every single day - amidst all the administration and activity of life - I did something that mattered. Something for someone else. Something I wasn't asked to do. Something that would make someone else's day a little easier or a little happier.
Like many people, I find that I need processes & systems to make sure I stick with things. To make sure I follow through. So I began to include a small prompt in my Daily Planning book to make sure my goal to do something daily for someone else actually happened.
The 7 Steps of the Something for Others System
1. Include a heading in your daily to-do list
When planning your day each morning include a Something for Others category (I use actual paper - an A5 Moleskine notebook). Just the process of writing it down will solidify your intention. I tend to simply write S4O.
2. Choose a person (or group of people)
You'll know who to choose. It'll be the person or the group that you feel you can contribute the most to that day. This is not something you would ordinarily do. It's something that requires a bit more thought & effort. For example, at the moment I have a very special friend who is unwell. I want to do things for her as much as I possibly can. This is important. I can't fix her, the doctors are doing that, but I can try to give her a little boost every now and again. So that means she features a lot in my Something 4 Others category.
You might not just choose one person, it could be a group of people. For instance, you may feel that a bunch of your friends hasn't got together for a while. You might be missing the connection and the friendship. They probably are as well. It may be time to organise something. Everyones bound to appreciate it.
3. Decide what you'll do
Identify one small thing you can do. Something that's not urgent or expected. Something you don't expect anything in return for.
4. Actually complete the activity
Ensure you make time to complete the task you identified. Make it a priority. Often it's something you've shunted from one to-do list to the next, something you've been avoiding. Contacting a person you've lost touch with can be one of those things. And you know what? Once you've done it, you'll find it wasn't so hard.
5. Complete it without any need for thanks
Complete the action and enjoy it. Do it selflessly and with genuine kindness. Don't make a song and dance about it. Don't draw attention to what you've done. Simply enjoy doing it quietly on your own.
6. Reflect and plan for tomorrow
Each night, reflect on the Something for Others action you took. Think about the feeling it gives you. You may find you did more than one thing. The practice of integrating this simple step into your daily routine can give you such a boost that it becomes addictive.
7. Repeat. Everyday.
Ideas of actions you can take
Of course there are endless possibilities to do something for someone else each day. Here are a few thought starters
- Give some things away. Things you don't need anymore. Don't sell them for a few dollars online. Give them away.
- Call someone you haven't talked to for a while
- Organise a group get together to celebrate a friends achievement
- Make a meal or bake a cake for someone who is unwell
- Arrange a group thank you present for one of your children's teachers
- Pass on a book or magazine to someone else who would enjoy it
- Scan some old photos from your partners childhood as a surprise.
- Handwrite a card or note to someone - it shows you've really taken the time to think about them.
- Organise to babysit a friends children so they can go out with their partner
- Plan a lunch for a friends birthday
- Do something practical for a someone who's having a hard time. Tidy a cupboard, go with them to do some errands, mow their lawn.
- Send positive feedback about someone to their boss or organisation
- Write a positive blog post comment. It will make a bloggers day.
- Put your hand up to help at your child's school. Don't rely on everyone else.
- Donate $5 or $10 to a charity
- Get your children to make a card or draw a picture for someone special
- Pick flowers when you go on a walk and take them to a friend
You might find you feel happier.
If you ever get the feeling like you're not sure what life's all about you might like to give the Something for Others System a try. You may find that it adds a new layer of purpose to your life.
Question: What ideas do you have for your Something for Others system? Your ideas may help someone else get started.