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The best gift you can give yourself


You owe it to yourself.

Give yourself time.

Time to create, to explore, to dream, to vision, to get lost, to do nothing, to write, to play, to imagine, to be alone, to be with others, to meditate, to feel inspired, to remember, to reflect, to forgive, to move on, to set goals, to change, to grow, to rest.

Ten minutes a day at minimum.

An hour for yourself each weekend at best.

Schedule it.

Not only is time the best gift you can give yourself, but your families and communities will be better for it.

Surprise and delight

Seth Godin first plopped these two words into my mind many years ago. Since then, this has become something of a personal mantra: How can I bring more joy into the world? How can I surprise the people around me?

It’s not enough to simply show up.

It’s about pushing boundaries, testing assumptions, and bringing intentional kindness into the communities in which you live.

Tweet me and let me know how you’re adding surprise and delight into your life.

Leading isn’t a grandiose gesture

The smallest actions can have the greatest impact. Lead by example may sound trite, but it’s true.

Trying to encourage others to follow a set path? The way you act and exist in the world either endears others to you or creates boundaries between who you say you are and the goals you hope to achieve.

The small, daily actions are the most difficult. Yet these “little things” can also be the most rewarding:

A pause before a response.

Treating others with respect.

Making breakfast for a loved one.

Creating platforms for others to succeed.

This is how you show leadership. Day in and day out, through actions and words.

My kindness birthday initiative

On August 6, I will turn 35.

Aging seems to get a bad rap in some circles, but I’d like to think I’m becoming a stronger, wiser, more patient, more grounded, and overall more confident person.

Leading up to my birthday, my goal is to complete 35 acts of kindness. I will make them public in hopes of inspiring a few of my friends to look for ways to spread kindness and love in their own communities and friend circles.

Kindness should be the norm, not the exception.

I think we can all do our part to make neighborhoods around the world more accepting, more tolerant, and more loving. That would be the best birthday gift, really.

H/T Kristina Kuzmic’s 40 for 40.

Here’s my list:

  1. Reconnect with a family member or friend. Send an email, a facebook message, make a call.
  2. Give something useful. I gave a friend a tub of Whey Protein. Daily use.
  3. Surprise someone with a “local” present. I chose to support a local entrepreneur who makes small batches of peanut butter.
  4. Send flowers. A simple way to say thank you and express appreciation.
  5. Gift a plant. Succulents make wonderful anniversary presents.
  6. Post-it notes. Stick notes of inspiration at your office, gym, or home.
  7. Leave nice comments on Facebook for an old friend to see. Sometimes less is more: Short, sweet, from the heart.
  8. Recharge 5 people’s phone. (This is a thing in Nepal, but I’m sure there are international equivalents; pay someone’s phone bill?)
  9. Pass a book. I love Steal Like An Artist.
  10. Gift a gratitude/dream journal. Inspire someone’s writing habit! Plus, handmade journals are beautiful.
  11. Baked goods. Bring brownies to the office. Or make something for a neighbor.
  12. Celebrate something. Throw a party for a friend.
  13. Food. Bring a snack for someone who is working.
  14. Write a thank you card. A real deal handwritten note.
  15. Bring a cake to someone. Maybe it’s their birthday, maybe it isn’t. Any day is a good day to celebrate.
  16. Compliment someone. Recognize talent, skills, or hard work. Say it to their face.
  17. Sweet treats. Bring cupcakes (or fruit) for students.
  18. Schedule a massage FOR YOURSELF. When your cup is full, you can better give to others.
  19. Encourage someone’s career or education. Help them sign up for an online class or just give a warm hug if they’re feeling down.
  20. Support. Send five encouraging text messages.
  21. Motivate. Encourage a friend to plan a vacation.
  22. Talk to a neighbor. Really, take time to have a conversation with people who live nearby.
  23. Send 5 encouraging texts.
  24. Bones for a furry friend.
  25. Give a kid a ball — soccer ball, basketball, whatever. 
  26. Send someone a song (youtube) in the morning to brighten their day.
  27. One Simple Wish
  28. Surprise a friend who is stuck at work with chocolate, snacks. 
  29. Coffee coupons. Make “vouchers” to give to friends for coffee dates.
  30. Send a birthday cake to a friend in a different city.
  31. Buy movie tickets for friends.
  32. Volunteer at a local school (bring school supplies while you’re at it).
  33. Be kind to yourself. Join a gym, eat well.
  34. Support a friend’s business. 
  35. Throw an epic theme party and invite your closet friends. 

Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret.

This isn’t easy.

Before I posted notes all over my gym, I was anxious as all get out. Is this silly, is this Too Over The Top, am I being childish?

We have to get comfortable with stress. In fact, we have to work to create it.

Not many people know this about me: I’m a Pretty Freaking Anxious Person. I worry. A lot. I get nervous. But with time and practice, I have learned to manage.

(My mom deserves some cred here for encouraging me to join various musicals and stage performances when I was a kid. Years as a street performer forced me to tackle anxiety head on.)

What do I tell my students? Fake it ’til you make it. I tell them this because this advice has gotten me through more situations than I can count: Entering a prison to interview a convict, switching careers and landing a job at a Manhattan ad agency, organizing my first 500+ person seminar, cold-calling famous people to invite them to events, starting crowdfunding campaigns to build something from scratch.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to better manage my anxiety. I’ve also learned that when I don’t feel stress, I get bored and restless and am probably not pushing myself in ways that I should be.

True evolution and meaningful growth come from those places you want to run and hide from: Tension and Discomfort. It is a worthy challenge to learn to settle into these moments. Instead of running away, ground down. Pause. Sit in silence.

And then go. Give.

Here’s to 35.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson

BONUS, if you’re still here:

  • Tell me about a surprise you’ve received OR given. How did it feel?
  • Last, and certainly not least, how do you manage discomfort and anxiety?

Add a comment on Medium or tweet me @redheadlefthand. I’d love to hear from you.

The perfect gift

Before worrying about what to give a friend or loved one, first consider your intention. Do you want to provide laughter or joy, comfort, or maybe a moment of calm?

The art of gift-giving is less about the gift itself and more about your motivation. When your heart is in the right place, the perfect present will follow.

Whether a kind word, a listening ear, a gift wrapped in homemade paper, or a voucher for a date night, your gift matters for two main reasons:

1.) You are taking time to show another that you care

2.) You have the opportunity to momentarily change someone’s world

Lead with love and stay grounded in kindness, and your thoughtfulness will be received with gratitude.

The what matters less than the why.