The other day I came across a book I’d never seen before. Always on the lookout for a new self-improvement read, the title caught my eye, and I couldn’t resist thumbing through The Fred Factor: How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. I mean, who doesn’t want to live the extraordinary? I opened it up to the middle — rarely do I start anything at the beginning — and randomly flipped back a few pages. The first words I read in Fred were, “Did you wake up this morning intending to change the world?” Somewhat taken aback that this complete stranger who had written these words years ago had on this very day read my mind, I continued reading.
The premise of the paragraph was that we can, on a daily basis, truly change the world of everyone around us. We can share good vibes and make positive improvements, or we can give off negativity and cast black clouds over the grocery store clerk, the garbage man who didn't close the lid on the dumpster, the dog and even our families.
I, for one, am all about spreading good tidings year-round, so I’m going to choose to wake up every day and change the world — for the better. And I choose to make it a family affair and have my kids join me in this crazy trend. And so can you! Even if your children are too young to talk, you can start changing the world now so that by the time they can, they won’t have any unlearning to do. If, on the other hand, they’ve been talking (and talking back) for years, it’s never too late. Be a trailblazer, and they’ll eventually catch on and blaze some trails of their own.
Remember, it’s baby steps to start. Change takes practice, but fret not. With the whole family involved, your kids will be sure to call you out — er, remind you — if an old habit shows up a time or two. You can lovingly return the favor, of course. The key though, is to keep talking. Sharing the ups and downs of your world-changing stories with each other sparks creativity and might even fuel a little healthy competition in the process.
So let’s get started!
1. The Thank You Wave
Remember back in the day when people had the time and the tact to wave “thanks” for letting them scoot into the lane in front of you while you were driving the kids to school? I propose we bring back the Thank You Wave and take the streets by storm with our kindness. Shock the driver who let you over and offer him up all five fingers as a gesture of gratitude. The kids will catch on without a word being said, and you’ve effectively changed the world of at least three people in a matter of two seconds.
Still kicking it old-school, let’s reflect on a time when people actually had to push or pull on doors to be able to go through them. Now that we’ve got those walk-right-up-and-they’ll-open-all-by-themselves doors, the opportunities to practice being polite are slim to none. However, if you happen to get caught in a time warp and have a chance to hold a door open for someone, do it. And actually acknowledge the person walking by if you really want to make an impression. Set the tone for the rest of their day by speaking to them as you hold open the door, and see what kind of reaction you get. And if your kids open the door for someone? Forget about it!! I’m betting they’ll be so impressed that they have a few kind words to share with you and your young’un. In turn, your kids will be so impressed by the reaction that they’ll want to keep doing it. Brilliant!
3. The You Matter Look
Really want to throw someone for a loop? Regardless of their appearance, look them in the eye for more than a half second. Don’t just give them a glance and a half smile as they walk past you. Actually catch their attention and focus as if to silently say, “I see you and you matter.” (Hint: A look lasting longer than three seconds might be considered creepy and could get you smacked in the head, so make good choices when using this method of changing someone’s world.)
Another way to show respect and demonstrate the lost art of good manners is to stand up when you’re meeting someone for the first — or 50th — time. Give them a good hearty hand shake and mean it when you say, “It’s nice to meet you.” These two simple examples of respect teach your kids that everyone truly does indeed matter.
4. The You Have a Name Game
All the time you're coming in contact with people who have, for all intents and purposes, thankless jobs. The girl working the drive-thru window, the floor mopper at the mall, the receptionist in your office building. These folks who rarely get a thank you, if they even get noticed at all. Next time, try using the drive-through girl’s name and thank her for doing her job. And as for the mopper and receptionist? Same thing. If they’re not wearing name tags, ask for their names and make a point to greet them personally every time your paths cross. You and your kids might just make a life-long friend in the process.
This list is clearly a short one, so do something even more wacky and spend time with your family coming up with ways of your own to wake up wanting to change the world — and then do it!
Danica Trebel is a mom to two AMAZING teenage sons, a recovering perfectionist and a Life and Family Dynamics Coach. She specializes in helping families tune up their relationships through perspective, communication and faith www.danicatrebel.com