Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Harvard's Kindness Pledge and DH@School

Hello Optimists,

We all know that optimism and positivity is a universal thing. We all need it. We all want it. And we strive to make it a part of our lives. But over the last two days, I have read about two new initiatives to incorporate optimism and kindness not only in our every day lives, but into the curriculum and experiences of students.

As many of you know, I am a big fan and advocate of the company Zappos for their work on promoting happiness and for their commitment to spreading positivity and happiness in the world, as well as around their workplace. They even have classes for their employees about the science of happiness. Awesome! I have written about the company a few times and reviewed the CEO's book in a previous post here on OO, and I continue to follow all of their great initiatives surrounding their "Delivering Happiness" project.

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to learn about their newest project: bringing the curriculum of happiness into schools with DH@School. To spark the interest of many educators to bring the study of happiness to the classroom, they are planning an inaugural "PHD", or Pursuit of Happiness Day, where they will challenge educators to discuss the study of happiness with their students. This is a great idea that I know will catch on around the country and around the globe and has already gotten a lot of attention in the few days after its launch.

As if that wasn't enough good news on the Optimism front, today I read an article about Harvard's Kindness Pledge which was put into effect at the start of this school year. Incoming freshman are required by the administration to sign a pledge that is an attempt to promote kindness on the campus and in the world. This official document requires students to "stand ready to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society... to act with integrity, respect, and industry, and to sustain a community characterized by inclusiveness and civility," as well as to "commit to upholding the values of the College and to making the entryway and Yard a place where all can thrive and where the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment."

However like most things, the pledge has been up for debate - some are opposed to the implementation of the pledge and think that it is against the traditions of Harvard and will put those who didn't sign "on the spot". Regardless of whether everyone signs this pledge or not, I think it's a great idea and will allow those who want to participate and sign the pledge to start off their college careers on the right foot. 

I certainly think we are on to something here with integrating positivity and happiness into schools, but I would love to hear what you think about this. Do you agree or disagree with the initiatives put forth by Zappos and Harvard? Did any projects like this make their way into your classrooms at school?

Keep Smiling,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Paying It Forward, Literally

Image: Google

Hello Optimists,

I came across a great article the other day about the power of random acts of kindness. Earlier this year I wrote a post called "Mark Your Calendars" about this same subject, and it seems that today it has reemerged.

The article that I read was about a man who decided to pick up the tab for some soldiers dining at a table nearby, just because, and the subsequent reactions and domino effect that his little, random act of kindness created. The soldiers, inspired by this man's generosity, decided to pay it forward, and chose another table at random and picked up their bill. This other table did the same, followed by the next, and the next, and this pattern continued for nearly 4 more hours! No one knew each other, or had reason (other than getting that "feel good" feeling) to do this, but they had been inspired by another's generosity and decided to do their part to make someone else feel happy.

It's amazing what just a little kindness can do. But this takes kindness to the next level, doesn't it? This wasn't a "thanks for helping me move" action of kindness, or a friendly gesture to a new neighbor. This was a purely random act - something totally unexpected that left everyone involved feeling happy, a bit more uplifted, and with an overflowing feeling of pure goodness.

Just reading this story made me smile and also made me think about how little things like this can make the world a better place. I can't think of a better way to make great new friends than by extending a word or an action of kindness.

I often wonder how it is that people extend their circle of friends, beyond the reach of their family, their "inner circle", or their "friends of friends", and now I think I know a great way to do it. Today's quote is a  reminder that not only answers my question, but goes perfectly with the lesson we learned from the random act of kindness story.

Don't wait for people to be friendly, show them how.  ~Author Unknown

I hope this story keeps on giving and inspires you to perform a random act of kindness, or to pay it forward when one is given to you. What better a way to spread the message behind OO than to participate in such an event and to inspire others to do the same?

I'd love to hear about your part in a story like this...have you ever been the happy recipient or giver of a random act of kindness? Tell me about it in the comments below or, even better, share it with the OO team on Facebook!

Keep Smiling,

Friday, September 9, 2011

Think, Speak, Act...All in One

Image: Google
Hello Optimists,

I was reading an article today about Caroline Kennedy's new book which features interviews from her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, just a few months after the President's assassination. I heard about the release of these interviews just a few weeks ago, and have been anxiously awaiting more information on them ever since. Turns out, not only will the new book be released in a few days, but there will also be a special on TV that shares clips of the former First Lady's interviews.

For some reason, I love learning about the Kennedy family and was reading through the article today out of pure curiosity to see if there was anything "new" or profound in it that I had never heard in previous interviews. As I was reading, I was sort of disappointed in its contents, and ended up skimming through most of it. But, as it turns out, the very last sentence of the article, a direct quote, was just what I was looking for. As with most words spoken by history's greats, this was something I immediately knew I had to share, and it goes right along with the message behind Optimal Optimist.
"If you start to say or think that you hate someone, then the next day you'll act as if you hated him." -Jacqueline Kennedy
This is sad to say, but from personal experience I know this to be true. I think we all might. No matter how hard we try to keep our actions separated from our thoughts or beliefs, they always have a way of reflecting one another. For me, I guess it may be attributed to the fact that I can sometimes wear my emotions on my sleeve, and can't seem to conceal my true feelings when I am upset about something. But in general, I find it to be true that once we start talking or thinking about something in a negative way, we can't help but reflect those feelings in our actions.

That, of course, brings us back to the importance of keeping positive thoughts and trying only to speak kind words. If it is true that when we start thinking negative thoughts and they begin to negatively influence our actions, then it is also true that when we starting thinking positive thoughts, they will begin to positively influence our actions. Now that's what we're all striving for. All of our behaviors and actions start in our minds, where we formulate our opinions and thoughts about certain people, places or even things. If we can learn to look for the good in things and keep a positive mindset, then perhaps we can learn to act out only on those positive thoughts.

So what do you think? Can you separate your thoughts and words from your actions, or do you also believe that they are connected?

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Lovely Labor Day

Image: Google
Hello Optimists,

This weekend gives us an extended break here in the U.S. for the celebration of Labor Day. Though this day has been dedicated to celebrating the social and economic achievements of American workers, we also use this time to mark the last of our summer celebrations and the start of a new school year for those that are still studying. This is one of the last-chance efforts to head to the beach, host a cook out or lounge by the pool with an "umbrella drink" in hand.

A day off from work is usually a welcomed vacation, and Labor Day should be spent doing nothing other than relaxing and resting from our "labors", whether those are in the office or at home. I think it's good to take some time to rest and unwind once in a while, and I'm sure glad our government thinks so too. 

I have read numerous studies about the benefits of regular vacation time and about the ill benefits of overworked employees whose long hours at the office leave them unproductive and inefficient in the long run. Unfortunately, I think this plagues a lot of American workers, and our less-than average vacation times combined with our overtime hours in the office account for our ever-present rushed and hustled lifestyles. But that's what we're accustomed to, so when a break like Labor Day comes around, we hardly know what to do with ourselves.

According to this article, vacations promote creativity, stave off burnouts, keep us healthy, promote overall well-being, can strengthen bonds, help with job performance, and relieve stress. Now those are some great perks!

If you're like most Americans fighting the urge to do something "productive" on Labor Day, remember this quote and think twice how it can affect your output.
Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.  ~Ovid
I just love this one, and it's quite true. The reason for a federal holiday like Labor Day is so that we can go back to work refreshed and ready to go after a short "breather" from our otherwise hectic workweeks. 

We are always striving to be the best, to produce the best, to make sure that we're on top of our game, but if we don't take time to rest, we will probably never be at the top of our game. We all need time to unwind, so please, take this extended weekend and just do nothing that pertains to your usual job. I'm sure, if nothing else, that will put a smile on your face!

Have a lovely Labor Day!

Keep Smiling,