Kindness Project Rules
1. I must do at least one intentional act of kindness each day, beginning January 1, 2012 and ending December 31, 2012. While this one candidly intimidates me, it’s the very reason it’s so important. If my goal was smaller, say one per week for example, it might not force me to alter my mindset. I could probably accomplish it with little change. But to accomplish one act per day will require a mindful focus, a tuned-up sense of awareness and, I believe, the development of very new patterns of behavior.
2. The act of kindness should be something that forces me to step outside my normal patterns of behavior. Here again, I’m looking for personal growth. If the act is something I would normally have already done anyway, then it doesn’t force me to expand myself.
3. Though some acts may have a financial component, the majority should not. When a financial component does exist, it should be more than simply making a donation. For example, sending a check to the Red Cross does not count (though it’s obviously still a good thing), but buying some cans of food and delivering them to a family in need does. I want to make sure that I see kindness as an act of helpfulness and decency more than simply one of financial charity. While financial charity is certainly important in helping those who are less fortunate, it’s not what this project is principally about.
4. Acts need not be large or “significant.” In fact, simple is often best. My goal is not to see how big an impact I can have on others. Rather, it’s more about cultivating my own mindset of kindness. Some acts may indeed have a big impact, and some may be quite simple and small. Both are perfectly fine. It’s also important to recognize that the majority of the time I will likely have no idea just how my act impacted another.
5. While the majority of my acts of kindness will be directed outside my immediate circle of friends and family, acts within this circle still count. This is another rule designed primarily to force me out of my comfort zone. Still, I don’t want to overlook the opportunity to be kind to those regularly around me. The important thing here is that the act be something out of the ordinary for me—something I would not typically do.
6. Each act should be done with an “honest spirit.” Having an honest spirit means that I’m focused on the other person and how I can help them. While I expect there will be days in which I am searching for an act of kindness simply to cross it off my list of things to do, in the moment in which I do the act I want to stay focused on the kindness “connection.”
7. Each and every day, I will write about my thoughts, feelings, observations, and reflections; and I will write with honesty. I expect that I’ll experience a wide range of thoughts and emotions and that I’ll see many changes take place over the 12 months. Only by recording these experiences with candor and regularity will I be able to gain the most wisdom.
8. It's OK to repeat an act. While I'd like to do a huge variety of different things, I realize that 365 days is a long time and there's nothing wrong with doing a good thing more than once. The goal is more about kindness than it is about variety.
Intentionality vs. Randomness
There’s one final “housekeeping” issue I’d like to address before I begin to record my first thoughts – and that is my use of the phrase “intentional acts of kindness” rather than “random acts of kindness.”
While I suppose it may have other meanings, for me, the word “random” suggests a haphazard approach based on luck and happenstance. From one perspective, a random act of kindness may have greater “merit” in that it could be more genuine in its unplanned nature.
However, since one of my goals is to cultivate a mindset of kindness, I want to be much more purposeful or intentional about what I’m doing. I don’t believe the fact that an act was planned and carried out will make it any less genuine or meaningful. And of course, to do it for 365 consecutive days will require a good deal of intention.
So from here forward, I’ll be using the phrase “Intentional Acts of Kindness” when I describe my project.
December 29, 2011