Do you know this Ted Talk?


It’s by SHAWN ACHOR. And while it would be difficult to say that any one TED TALK is my favorite of all time– this one is certainly up there!

I encourage you to watch it!

SHAWN — an advocate of Positive Psychology — recommends five actions, which when practiced every day for three weeks will help us to a more positive mindset and happiness:

1. Keeping a Gratitude Journal — Teaches the brain to scan the world for the positive, not for the negative.
2. Journaling about Positive Things that happen each day — Allows the brain to relive those positive experiences.
3. Exercise — Teaches the brain that our behavior matters.
4. Meditation — Allows the brain to get over the cultural ADHD that comes from multitasking, and Teaches the brain to focus on the task at hand.
5. Practicing Random Acts of Kindness — He does say when opening one’s Inbox to write one positive email praising or thanking someone in our social support network, but I had missed that specific direction.

This turned out to be a particularly vexing month, and thus a very good time to be taking action toward staying positive.
Always, Taking Action is the Key!
Action Before Inspiration!

I took a screen shot of SHAWN’s list, printed it out, and drew a chart so that I could check off each practice, each day.
Here is some of what I learned along this Journey of Positive Practices…

The work was JoyFULL!
My biggest challenges were in staying true to Exercise and Meditation.
No surprise there, as these tend to be challenges even when I am not engaging in such a conscious and comprehensive effort. I understand their value and I feel better doing them, but in the negotiation of time allotted in a given day, they do not always win.
I came to realize that “Exercise” does not denote a specific routine. (Weight Watchers counts ten minutes of brisk walking as one exercise point.) While most days, I did my whole workout routine, I take away from this the lesson that each day — even days we cannot get in an entire workout — we can still commit to doing some form of exercise, and thereby make a statement to ourselves, and the World, of Self-Respect, Self-Care, and Self-Love!

Meditation each day was mostly a 20-minute routine, although there were a few days it was shorter, or just a small part of a yoga class (Yay, Shavasana!), or even just ten minutes at the office before anyone else arrived.
The Big Takeaway: doing some is better than doing none. And any of it can help!

I have kept a Gratitude Journal on and off throughout my life, and I always like it better when it’s on. The requisite here is three items per day, but I wrote five, as that is how I have always kept mine.
It just feels So Good to stay Grateful!
It is not about having what we want; it’s about wanting what we have!
And a state of Gratitude helps us to see how Blessed we are!

SHAWN suggests doing these things every day for 21 days — I am on Day 30 — and while my process has been somewhat imperfect — I am still going strong.
I have found these practices on a daily basis to be wildly and unapologetically beneficial! In fact, the Journey toward finding in myself the Willingness to continue them may be one of the most valuable Gifts of all.
I welcome any opportunity to mud wrestle with the Angel.
That is the Best of Life!

Journaling about Positive Things was equally satisfying — there was always more than one positive thing that happened in a day, so I would write all of them out.
Even on the most trying days — the days that left my Soul feeling steamrolled or somewhat bereft of Hope — I still would find a surprising number of Positive things, perhaps unrelated, that happened in that very same day! And while acknowledging those did not eradicate the thorny and difficult experiences, it did help me to rise above them, and see a fuller picture of all that a day may contain.

Years ago, I had a laminated poster on my wall titled “Practice Random Acts of Kindness & Senseless Acts of Beauty,” which listed many, many ideas of things one could do…
This fifth practice became the Surprise of the entire experience, for me.
I had not realized how far away I had drifted from actively practicing Random Acts of Kindness. Kindness is an important Value that I hold. And I enjoy that!
But to Actively Practice something is different. It is more about seeking out the Opportunities to Practice, and then embracing those Opportunities.
I have learned over time that anything that involves Embracing Life is Generally Good!

And when we see a man in his anger throw over the newspaper kiosk…

…we can pick it back up, and set it right again.

Rushing through the Times Square Subway Station, I became aware of a woman from Gabon, Africa, struggling with a very heavy hot pink colored suitcase, and looking more than slightly daunted by the vast distance of the station before her.
I offered to help her, although I had just paid my MetroCard swipe, and if we went out, I would have to pay again to get back.
She was emphatic in her Gratitude. I carried her suitcase up to street level and pointed her toward Port Authority so that she could get the bus to Newark Airport, as she was headed home. We had a nice chat, at the end of which she looked deeply into my eyes and proclaimed “Bless You!”
Feeling in most need of Blessing lately, I was happy to receive this.
When I got back down to the token booth, instead of giving the MTA an additional $2.75, I explained to the attendant that I had already swiped my card and turned around almost immediately to help a woman with her suitcase. He nodded, and without even checking my MetroCard — perhaps he had noticed us, as her hot pink suitcase may have been difficult to miss — he unlatched the Special Entry turnstile for me to proceed. And so my Random Act of Kindness had provided for him an opportunity to do one, as well. I began to see more how this worked… the chain reaction of it all…

In my knapsack, I keep Clif Bars to give to the Homeless — it was my partner’s idea, and we have adhered to it for quite awhile now. We pick up a few cases every time we go to Trader Joe’s where the bars sell for 99 cents each, and we keep them by the door of our apartment so we remember to take a few with us every time we head out.

Hanging on our Doorknob

I rushed out one day without one, as I was not carrying my knapsack. A Homeless man asked for help as I dashed by him. I slowed down, ducked into a store and paid twice the price for a Clif Bar — Chocolate Chip — and retraced my steps to give it to him. His eyes lit up as he held his prize in the air! “Oh, I Love These! Thank You! I Love this Kind!” he smiled and shouted with Glee!

Sometimes it could be simply a Kind Word. A Waitress at our regular Coffee Shop who usually greets us effusively, ignored us the other morning. Instead of being offended at this treatment, I called over to her with a smile, “Good Morning!” and waved her over to our table to ask how thing were going. Turns out that a customer had reacted badly to her typically overenthusiastic Greeting and she said that she was trying to be more mindful that sometimes people just want to be left alone, or have their mornings quietly. I advised her, “Fuck ‘em!” and praised her uniquely enthusiastic energy and affirmed that what she brings is Beautiful and Unique in all the World! She seemed to appreciate that and it reset her day.
We always have the Power to do that for Somebody!

And then there were the swans…
I was in Ocean Beach, Fire Island, with a friend. She was on her phone. I noticed three swans by the dock.
Does being Kind to animals count? I would think so!
So, I popped into a market and bought some hot dog rolls — the cheapest bread I could find, and even at that, almost five bucks (Such is Fire Island!). No sooner had I returned to the pier and begun to toss little bits of bread to the swans than little kids appeared around me, thoroughly enchanted by the idea of feeding the swans, and wanting to so very much. I gave some bread to a child. The others fervently reached out their hands, the way children do in those moments when they light up, seeing that the things they want really can be given to them.
May we all be as Little Children and recognize this!
“May I have some bread to feed the swans, Mister?” they began to ask, with their hands outstretched.
OK, so I’m “Mister,” now.
I gave each child half a hot dog bun finishing the whole bag, and a sudden flurry of Delight ensued… I sat back on the bench and watched their Commotion of Joy!

The few children remaining, after the others had dispersed. At peak, the crowd of children was more like15…

The power we have to Create through Random Acts of Kindness may be one of our Greatest SuperPowers!
These three or four weeks of working with SHAWN ACHOR’s powerful suggestions have put me back in touch with this practice. And it is a Practice! …Like Yoga! …Like Rehearsal! It is something at which we can get Better…
Yesterday, a hot New York Summer Day, I picked up an Office Chair I found on FaceBook Marketplace from a man in a walk-up apartment on the Upper East Side, who was moving to Chicago.
At the same time, two other guys showed up to buy his couch. As we left the building, my Partner asked if I wanted my Random Act of Kindness to be helping them carry the couch downstairs. I stood for a moment calculating the timing of getting the chair back to my office and making it in time for a 7:30 curtain of a show we were seeing, and I did not embrace that one.
I find this morning that the weight of that missed opportunity is a lot heavier and takes a lot longer than it would have been to help them with the couch.

It is a Practice.
We do it well, at times, and at other times, we fail.
The important thing is to keep Practicing!
It takes time. Keep Practicing!
It is like Yoga. …Like Meditation! …Like Gratitude! …Like Exercise! …Like seeing Positive Things in the Day! …Like Willingness!
These are Practices.
Continue Practicing!

“Anything you think there should be more of, do it randomly. Don’t await a reason. It will make itself be more, senselessly.
I used to have fantasies of positive vandalism. Breaking into the school and painting a dirty room bright colors overnight. Fixing broken glass in people’s houses while they’re gone. Leaving full meals on tables in the struggling part of town.”

Wikipedia offers many organizations and resources for Practicing Random Acts of Kindness
Two that caught my eye were:
1. Danny Wallace’s concept of Good Fridays — suggesting the Practice of Random Acts of Kindness every day, but especially on Fridays!
2. Caffè sospeso is a tradition in the working-class cafés of Naples where a person who has experienced good luck financially pays for two coffees, but receives and consumes only one, the second being left until a person enquires later whether a sospeso is available.

This World is a Beautiful Place!
Participate in it!
Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty!

A Charming Book I read years ago

# # #

Leave a comment


  1. Michael Walters

     /  August 2, 2019

    Loved this!! xoxo


    • Thank You, MICHAEL! I so appreciate that! I know it’s right to do these practices. I sometimes wish it were easier…Well, no I don’t. 🙂 Love You! XXOO

  2. I feel happier just reading this, Arnold, and so appreciate all these reminders.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: