For Those About to Yoga, I Salute YouDecember 15, 2012
What Do You Make of This…January 21, 2013
How the act of giving helped me make a change in 21 days.
This holiday season I wanted to do one thing different—everything. I accomplished this by setting the intention to carry out random acts of giving for 21 straight days in December.
At the onset of December I wanted to think different, act different, and most of all get different results. Despite being surrounded by amazing family and friends, the holiday season among my inner circle was losing it’s meaning in my heart. I’ve grown away from passing and receiving physical gifts to the same people just for the sake of passing and receiving physical gifts to the same people. I’ve grown closer to providing or sharing experiences that endure longer through emotion and memory than anything material.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.
To find more meaning and expedite this desired feeling I had to mix it up and partner up with like-minded people to make it a reality. My friend Chris Boyd (Registered Clinical Counselor) and I teamed up to brainstorm how we could create more meaning and give back.
As a duo, Chris and I have a rich and comical history in collaborating to serve our community. We co-founded the 12th Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party in Vancouver, a yearly benefit that raises money for various charitable causes. This year aside from producing an event on December 21st that unfolded over one evening we wanted to spread the fulfillment out to an audience beyond our guests. To turn our December 21st bash into a campaign we agreed to make the days of December leading up to the party as significant in giving as the event itself.
Typically, our nature is to show big spirit or go home. At first we budgeted a large sum of money to fund both planned and random actions we intended over 21 days. Realizing, that bigger wasn’t necessarily better as we’re so used to—we ditched the budget and just kept it simple. From December 1st to 21st we carried out random acts of kindness in our community. Our deeds were not extraordinary in comparison to others who give day in and day out. They were just deeds.
Our deed like acts varied and included giving away a favorite pair of shoes, donating to a telethon, handing an umbrella to someone soaking in the rain, providing a hot meal to a man who held the door for us, donating tickets to a cancer benefit silent auction, contributing to a clothing drive and so forth. The acts were not monumental or front-page headliners; in fact they were just a sample of what some selflessly dedicated people do everyday.
The point here is they were acts. Regardless of their nature or magnitude they created waves of motivation to keep pursuing the end goal; to create more meaning during the holidays by doing something different. I found this 21 day endeavor to create a personal shift in my attitude. At times when it is easier to be selfish it forced me to be selfless. Some days I had to plan to make sure it happened but over time the ideas and opportunities to give manifested themselves right before me. The decision to give became ingrained in me and a new habit gradually took formation. The meaning of the holidays soon changed, as did I.
Peter Legge, an inspiring businessman, author, speaker, and philanthropist wrote:
“To unlcock your inner potential you must set very clear, challenging yet realistic goals and then make specific plans to accomplish them. You need to work, step by step, everyday, in the direction of your dominant aspirations. Often, that involves developing new, more productive habits. As you come up with new habits to replace old ones, write them down and practice them on a daily basis. Remember, it takes about three weeks for a new habit to take hold, so don’t get discouraged and don’t give up.” – Peter Legge, The Runway of Life
As the days progressed closer to the 21st, Chris and I talked about the feelings being unlocked in each of us. I shared that I felt more simplistic, grateful, and content. These were the direct results of our actions. Whether we knew it at the beginning or not, we were walking down the path to create a new habit.
We talked about how in the psychology realm as Legge speaks of, 21 seems to be a key number and what a coincidence that the date of our event landed on the 21st of the month. Our opportunity to create change for ourselves was expressing itself brightly through the blink of a neon sign. Obvious or not the three week initiative was going against the programmed grain within me. To fulfill my aspiration of becoming increasingly selfless on a daily basis I learned that I had to break it down into simple acts one day at a time. Additionally, having an accountability partner like Chris was the difference in seeing it through to the end.
“Research has shown that it typically takes 21 days to create a new habit. Research has also proven that if you want to increase your own wellbeing, you should actively try to increase someone else’s. Therefore, our giving campaign was significant in a lot of ways! Although the idea seemed daunting at first, it definitely became the highlight of my holidays. Whether it be picking up garbage, buying homeless people lunch, donating clothing, or hugging 21 people in one day, I found the experience extremely beneficial.”— Chris Boyd
Reflecting back on this experience I have such respect for those who seamlessly treat everyday as an opportunity to give. There is no reason why we can’t sustain this breakthrough and continue to develop the habit beyond December.
So, what aspiration are you longing for and what is the habit that drives it?
Start by looking at what you already do naturally and can improve on. Choose a habit you can adopt over 21 days to support you to get there. Team up with someone who can expedite the process and aid in its application. Together you can break it down into small manageable steps and share in the joy of what it feels like to make it a reality.
By the 21st you’ll look at things differently. You’ll have stopped counting and see that the things you were looking at have changed.
Jordan Birch, CPC, ACC MSc. Life Coach
Jordan is a Certified Professional Coach living and working in greater Vancouver. His passions drive him to empower natural born leaders to eliminate self-limiting behaviors so they can breakthrough insanity—doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. In his private practice ‘Get Out Of Doors Life Coaching’ he fuses transformational Life Coaching and a partnership with nature as a catalyst for the true entrepreneurial spirit to soar.