Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

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5 Ways To Be The Peace This Holiday Season

5 Ways To Be The Peace This Holiday Season

MichaelSunnarborg / December 22, 2016 Article, Image, Link / Leave a Comment

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” has been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi—although that’s not literally what Gandhi said.

Regardless of the words, the quote isn’t simply a suggestion—it is an instruction. Gandhi is telling us that we have the power to change the world by changing ourselves.

During the holiday season, I’ve chosen to take that inspiration to heart by deliberately focusing on where I can affect change in a positive way. How? By paying attention to actions that create peace and well-being within me and then passing them on to others.

In other words, I’m following The Golden Rule—to treat others as we’d like to be treated.

My first instinct was to brainstorm deliberate acts of kindness—donate to a food shelf; sign-up for another Habitat for Humanity; or volunteer at the local soup kitchen.

But then I got a nudge to do something more spontaneous—real-time acts of kindness. When faced with a decision that includes other people, I can opt to choose in their favor.

I decided that I am going to “be the peace,” and here is what I’ve experienced so far:

  1. Yielding to others. When someone was trying to get into my lane of traffic or waiting to pull out from a side street, I chose to be the car that stops to let them in. I even made it into a game one day: How many people could I yield to? Within a couple of hours, I was up to five, and that felt pretty good to me—and probably to those people, too.
  1. Smiling at strangers. This is easy. Instead of looking down when people passed by, I gave them a smile instead. It was just a kind smile—not an over-exuberant toothy grin—but a genuine and warm smile. I didn’t think most people would smile back, but I was pleasantly surprised how many people did (maybe it’s because we are Minnesota nice?)
  1. Waving in appreciation. Waving is a quick way to say hello or thanks. Some of the drivers I yielded to waved at me. When I lived in Hawaii, this type of thank you was very common. I’ve made the thank-you wave in my own car several times and also when I was in a crosswalk. Combine the wave and a smile, and you’ve got yourself a one-two punch of peace!
  1. Think calm; be calm. On a recent flight, I waited until the majority of the people seated around me deplaned before I did. By doing this, I allowed the man behind me to get to his connecting flight a bit faster; had the opportunity to help an older woman get her carry-on bag from the overhead compartment; and complimented the flight attendant on her attentiveness and cheerful demeanor. A man watching me smiled and said, “I like your chill-pill behavior.” He saw the peace in action.
  1. Have a penny? I was waiting in line at a store when the woman in front of me was a few cents short. As she looked through her purse, I reached into my pocket and gave what change I had. “That should cover it,” I said. “Oh, thank you!” she smiled. But in order to do this, I had to be paying attention—no phone to distract me from her need.

I wonder how many people on the receiving end of these gestures decided to do the same for someone else? Maybe these little acts of spontaneous peace do help change the world one step at a time.

What I do know is that each deliberate act of kindness had an effect on me. And if I’m going to be the peace I’d like to see in the world, then it certainly feels like I’m moving in the right direction.

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg helps people find better balance in work, relationships, and life—especially during transitions. Find out more at michaelcreative.com

Image: At the Arboretum in Zürich, Switzerland

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8 thoughts on “5 Ways To Be The Peace This Holiday Season”

  1. Margaret Miller says:

    I love this! Thank you! I want to do the same this holiday season.

    1. MichaelSunnarborg says:

      Wonderful, Margaret! Best of luck… I think you’ll really like it.

  2. Jane N. says:

    Michael,
    Thanks for the reminder of how these simple and mostly easy things (I find it hard to wait on the plane but you gave me a challenge so next time I’ll try to stay in my seat.) make a difference not only for others but for us. There is nothing like surprising someone by looking the person in the eye, smiling, and say Hello or Morning as you walk past each other. Everyone wants to be acknowledged. People think that manners are ridiculous but if you think about it, manners are kind acts that take others into consideration.

    1. MichaelSunnarborg says:

      Staying in my airplane seat until the “rush” passes also helps me avoid the stress of everyone watching you try to take your bag out of the overhead compartment in a flurry. Now I wait until there’s a nice pause in the flow so I can calmly step into the aisle, grab my carry-on luggage, and smoothly exit the airplane. Just like boarding the plane, it’s not a race, people!

  3. Jon says:

    It’s altogether too easy to be impatient, discourteous, disrespectful…In other words, the kind of person *no one* wants to bump into. It takes an active participation in the world around you and a big heart to have a positive impact on others. And I, for one, think it’s worth it!
    (Thanks for being a positive ‘nudge’, Michael.)

    1. MichaelSunnarborg says:

      Spot-on, Jon. There’s even a rebound effect that comes back to you when you take time to act out of kindness for others… and then your spirits will be lifted, too!

  4. Karren Sharkey says:

    You are a true inspiration to all of us. Yes, this is a type of “Minnesota” behavior as we grew up this way. More people should be like us. Unfortunately there is not as many these days. But I, too, like to go through life greeting people in the grocery store, etc. with a compliment or just a hello or to help some older than I, not many any more, reach something or find something. Esp. The checkout people with a smile and how are you today. It makes both my day and theirs. Love, Aunt Karren

    1. MichaelSunnarborg says:

      Thank you, Karren! I always appreciate your comments, and I’m happy to know that my writing makes a difference—that’s why I do it!

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