Sharing is caring, as I am sure you know, and today I am going
to share some more tips and tricks to get you off to a flying
start in the kindness challenge. Specifically, we need to discuss
how, sometimes, we may be stuck in our comfort zones and not
quite knowing how to get out of them. Especially if the reason
we need to leave them is that we have to venture out onto thin
ice and deal with family, friends and acquaintances, as well
as perfect strangers in new ways. Sounds familiar?
Then you are the one I am writing this for.
TAKE OFF IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST PART
Today is day three of seven in Theme: Kindness. If this is your first time here at the Coaching Couch (welcome!) you may have missed the first two articles in this series. If tahtäs the case, I suggest you start by reading the articles about how random acts of kindness can help with pain and stress relief and 50 good deeds you can do today. Starting from the beginning will probably give you a better idea of where we are going with this theme.
Regardless of when you first arrived here, and how many of my articles you have read, I hope you will find something that resonates with you here. And I hope that it will inspire you to one, or more, of my weekly and monthly challenges. I will introduce you to the first one, the one-week kindness challenge, at the end of this theme week. But now, I think it is time for us to get on with our day. Come along, and let me tell you more about how to get started with a new habit, or everyday routine.
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Have you ever been in a situation where you were about to start something new, maybe even something you were really excited about; yet when it was time to get going it was like your mind was blank and you had no idea what to do? Or even how, or where, to start?
Have you been in situations where you looked forward to doing something, and knew exactly what to do and how/where to start; and yet, just as you were about to get to it, you felt like something was holding you back?
I know from experience, that many people think trying to practice or plan kindness is silly. It is something that makes them uncomfortable. They believe that this whole idea of being kind  and giving people gifts is something that applies to special occasions like Christmas, Easter and birthdays. Maybe some candy for Halloween. And, of course, if something special has happened such as childbirth, marriage, illness or death. Those are also acceptable times to come bearing gifts or offering helping hands.
What I hear, behind all these words, is a person who worries about what people say, think and feel about them. They worry about likes and comments. And they begin to question everything and come up with reasons why they cannot possibly do it. Not today. Not right now.
“What if they think I’m looking for something? That I’m just trying to score brownie points?”
“What if [my partner] thinks I have been unfaithful ?!”
These concerns are understandable and perfectly normal, especially if you have been very set in this rut where gift-giving is tied to special dates. I understand that changing this, and beginning to do something people in your circles don’t do, can make you feel anxious, uncomfortable or even a little scared. I understand that you may feel like you’re being asked to face the world with a whole new focus and set of values that are still so fragile that you’re not yet ready (or able) to explain or defend them. And the fact that most people tend to confuse being kind, being nice and being good does not make it any easier in the early days of this change when people may be questioning your motives.
Here’s my suggestion: Start by revisiting the answer you found to the question why when you decided to make this change and/or take on this week-long challenge. Hold on to that answer and think about it every time you need an affirmation. If it helps, you can pretend it is my hand and that we are walking down this path together. You and me. Hand in hand, like two merry maidens (or whatever you want us to be) on their way to the market. Come on, my friend, off we go!
BECAUSE SHARING IS CARING
Sharing is caring, we all know that, right? But what do we actually mean by those words? Is joy measurable? Is joy something that can grow bigger and greater? I remember how, growing up, I always considered joy an abstract and highly subjective concept. But many moons have passed since then and I have learned that joy, indeed, can grow and become all-compassing even, as is often the case, if it’s just for a brief moment. It can take us from discreet smiles to hysterical crying laughter and anything in between.
The tiny, discreet, smile is something we usually keep to ourselves. Something brought on by a fleeting memory, a stray thought or an amusing sight, perchance. But the uncontrollable belly-ache laughs that make us fall in heaps with snot and tears all over our faces? Those laughs are more of a social engagement. They tend to occur in situations where one person’s joy somehow reflects and confirms that of another. And when two people begin to laugh, their joy becomes infectious. Because people look for confirmation, affiliation and friendship. And when we find it, even in the briefest of encounters, our senses are heightened and we experience everything more intensely.
The situations we find ourselves in become more bearable. Our food tastes better and our prospects look more promising while we’re in good company. Life itself seems to light up and right there, in that space, we may experience a sense of peace and belonging. And we may even experience something like a physical manifestation of kindness, making us want to reach out and start sprinkling this goodness all over the place. Like a toddler sprinkles sugar over their food when they think no one is looking. Because sharing is caring, and apart from when we get to eat our besties ice cream, the best part of sharing may just be the shared laughs. And the kindness that is born out of them.
WHAT'S HOLDING YOU BACK?
Please note that the kindness I keep referring to in these articles goes beyond simply being nice. Anyone can be nice when they want to, but to be kind you need to be selfless. Kindness expects you to want to be kind. It demands a level of selflessness, and a deeper understanding of your own values, beliefs and motives. Kindness asks you to consider your lot in life and compare your situation to that of your fellow human’s. Kindness wants you to develop your empathic ability and demonstrate that you appreciate the fact that we all have our burdens to bear.
Simply put, kindness, as the name suggests, comes from being good kin. Good friends. And this is the ultimate goal of the kindness challenge. That we learn to treat ourselves, the world we live in and the people in it as our friends. Even if they show no discernible interest in being friends with us. Simply put, indeed, but far from simple.
We live in a time where most people are struggling to solve their daily puzzle. We are drowning in hectic schedules and far more commitments than we can possibly juggle. This can make it difficult, not to say impossible, for us to look beyond our own little bubbles to understand the needs and struggles of our peers. In fact, we may very well have been suppressing our own needs for so long that we no longer recognise them for what they are in ourselves, let alone anyone else.
I will never forget a conversation with a coaching client who came up with one excuse after the other to my questions “What is holding you back? and What are you afraid of?
As I kept poking holes in her defences, she turned to anger and retorted: “So, you’re saying I should take on an even bigger load, so that someone else can feel better about their life while I’m drowning?” 
My answer to her, as it is to you now, is no. No, you should not. The whole point of laying a new foundation is that (if done right) you know it will make your house stronger, safer and more energy-efficient. It is entirely possible that you have to start this challenge by forming a friendship with yourself. That the person you must choose as the recipient of your first random acts of kindness is You.
Regardless of who the person you have chosen is, and what acts of kindness you have decided on, this whole challenge depends on you being able to step out of your comfort zone. To make that jump. If you cannot see yourself doing that, however, it is important that you know that there is still hope for you and help to be had. You could, for example, take a leaf out of my youngest daughter’s book.
When Soph was a wee lass of about six summers, she wanted to jump off the pier like the big kids. She’d be standing on that pier watching them all have fun as they ran off that pier, plunging into the sea and cackling with laughter. Soph tried and tried. She’d count down and run towards the edge, willing her body into that jumping motion. But each time she ground to a halt a split second before takeoff. (For the record, I have never braved that jump myself. It is a long drop down to the water!) The more she tried, the more upset she got, and, in the end, she hatched a plan. She turned to one of my younger sisters, who was but a teen at the time, and said: “You have to toss me!“
And so it was, that Soph’s first jump off the Lörudden pier, was no jump at all. Instead, my sister, in perfect Aragornesque fashion, tossed my small child into the sea with reckless abandon. But from that day onwards, Soph jumped off that pier without assistance.
There can be many factors that are holding you back from taking that first plunge, but the important thing is that you work out what it is. You cannot fix a problem you don’t know is there. When you do know where the problem is, however, plans can be made, assistance can be sought and “tossers” [3 ] can be found.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling anxious or insecure at this stage. It takes courage and (at least a smidgeon of) self-confidence to open up and allow oneself to be vulnerable enough to live in kindness. To freely give and receive without agendas or ulterior motives.
STEPPING OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE
Most people who take on this (and the following) challenge(s), and take the process seriously, eventually end up leaving their comfort zones for good. I have come to believe, that those who succeed all have one thing in common. They learned to take the baby steps I keep mentioning. They started by practising, making small efforts and random acts of kindness here and there. Then they proceeded to do the 7-Day Challenge and, a while later, they returned to do the full 30-Day Challenge.
A vital component of that challenge is journalling, aka keeping a record, to keep track of a number of “vital statistics.” I like to think of it as putting an invisible fitbit on to monitor your wellness levels. In that process, many participants discover a hidden issue behind all those obstacles that initially held them back. A kind of fundamental attitude that they weren’t even (fully) aware of. They felt unworthy. They didn’t believe they deserved the kind of positive response and gratitude that their kindness could lead to. They felt, on some level, that it would be presumptuous of them to assume that they could ever do something to change somebody’s life for the better.
Interestingly, these same people soon discovered that their acts of kindness were chipping away at old, limiting self-beliefs. The further into this new way of thinking, and behaving, they got, the better they began to feel about themselves. And the better they felt about themselves the more they wanted to do. This, essentially, led to a neverending spiral of kindness and increased wellness.
As they engaged in random acts of kindness and experienced the feedback they got from the recipients and the people around them, caring for others began to take on a new role in their lives. It lead to appreciation and gratitude in the form of positive feedback and increased well-being. Which, again, made them want to engage in even more acts of kindness.
Perhaps the most interesting experience of all, was that the fear of drowning in a sea of overwhelming chores and responsibilities, while somebody else got to feel better, had come to nowt. Instead, those who initially had been carrying excessive burdens felt that the experience had lead to increased energy levels, opportunities for personal growth and a sense of being connected to the world around them in a whole new way. They were happier in their own lives and the gratitude they felt made them want to continue spreading kindness around them and paying it forward.
I realise I am waxing lyrical here, but I was once one of “those people myself.” I strongly believed my burden was so heavy that I couldn’t possibly shoulder even a slice of somebody else’s problems. Sure, I was nice as often as I could, but I was not kind. In fact, I spent a good portion of my life being angry and I allowed that anger to eat away at me. I speak from experience when I tell you that once you allow yourself to start putting a few of these ideas into practice, you will notice a change.
Your kindness and good deeds will help create small paths leading out of your comfort zone. These paths will help you leave your own little world and lead you into a completely different one where the magic happens. It will put you in a completely different context where you will meet, and interact with, other people in new ways. And it will, most likely, have a profound effect on your recipients, on your self and on every single person fortunate enough to witness your actions and their effects. Very soon, your efforts will begin to shoot new sparks of kindness into the world around you. Because kindness is contagious and almost all of those who have been infected invariably want to pass their affliction on to others.
For the record, it is extremely rare that you get negative feedback. Provided that you think about the little tips and warnings regarding tact and tone I issued in my previous article. The vast majority are delighted when someone cares for them. I promise!
So, what do you say? Do you think you’re ready to start practising? How about giving it a go today? Just pick one small item from the list and see what happens.
I hope this theme week will inspire you and give you some traction to get you out of your comfort zone. Furthermore, I hope that you will get to feel the enthusiasm and joy of personal growth. Discovering the different ways you can improve the lives of those around you, and by extension, your own will do that for you. And you deserve to feel that joy. The joy that stems from caring for, and sharing with, others.
You’re worth it.
Next time we meet, we’ll talk about 13 baby steps you can take to get out of your comfort zone and be kind to yourself, and others, in your daily life.
- I will be addressing this further in a future post.
- Today she coaches her own students and clients. That makes me feel pretty good.
- Excuse the pun. In Britain, a tosser is probably akin to what an American might call an obnoxious jerk.
After 25 years of amateur blogging on various free platforms, Evalena Styf decided to go pro. She would endeavour to piece together over 40 years (!) of writing and decorate an entire wall with her texts. An interesting project, for sure, but, as it turns out, a single wall cannot bear thousands of texts. But if you think this was The End of her dream, you do not know Evalena very well.
The M/S Resilience, the fantasy pirate ship where everything fits, everything is possible and everyone can participate, was born out of a life in tatters. From the Captain’s Quarters, Evalena now curates her content that is largely focussed on personal and professional development, following your dreams and how to go on living, and loving, when everything seems to be falling apart.
From the stormy seas of her life, she fishes out a wide range of topics, memories and stories. She seasons them with care, cooks them in her love for the written word and serves them up on the various blogs that together make up the imaginary ship that bears the name of one of Evalena’s main character traits. Resilience.
YAY, YOU MADE IT ALL THE WAY HERE! NOW, WHAT DO WE DO?
HAVE A CUPPA AND A CHINWAG?*
Is something keeping you stuck in your comfort zone?
Do you know what it is? If you have a minute, please slide into my comment section below and let’s talk. If you don’t want your response to show up on the site, just start your message with the word ANONYMOUS and it will be our secret.
*A cuppa is what we call a cup of tea (or any other hot beverage at a stretch), and a chinwag is nifty little word for what you do when you’re making your chin wag = a talk
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