This Is How You Never Forget to Be a Good Person
As a huge advocate of building morning routines, I’ve written extensively about it to share the insights I’ve gained from my research and personal experience. From the sea of homogenous morning advice to the routines of famous leaders, there was one ritual that particularly stood out.
This was how Benjamin Franklin started his day.
He began with a prayer (Address “Powerful Goodness”), reflected on and planned the day ahead (Contrive day’s business and take the resolution of the day) and dedicated time for individual learning (Prosecute the present study).
Meditation, planning, and personal growth — Most morning articles preach these things as well, though in a far less poetic style. But what struck me about this was how he chose to frame his day. He consciously asked:
What good shall I do today?
Almost everyone, including myself, build morning routines out of the desire to increase productivity and make time for self-care. Ben Franklin did, too. But he succeeded in including something even more powerful and essential into his days.
His routine was extraordinary because he put goodness into the agenda.
A simple mental note hardwired goodness in me.
When I encountered this, I didn’t write it down, nor did I formally reflect on it as Ben Franklin did. But out of its brevity, I simply took a mental note.
I began to remember it every morning.
Then it would bug me for the rest of the day.
I found myself succumbing to the question and realized two things.
1. There is always an opportunity to do good.
My mind started to recognize more opportunities to do good. The question became an alarm clock that sporadically rung throughout the day, signaling me to practice kindness because, in that certain moment, you actually can.
To illustrate: Normally, I’d go back to work right after lunch and my mom would be the one to take care of the dishes. But one day, “What good shall I do today?” crossed my mind at lunchtime. I couldn’t do the dishes because I had work, but I found myself wanting to do something that would ease the burden from my mom. So I insisted on clearing out the table.
Now I know it’s not life-changing. But here’s the thing. After that, I felt more inclined to clear out the table after every meal.
I realized that in every moment we interact with some other person, there will always be room to do good, no matter how “shallow” the action may be. The opportunity almost always hands itself on a silver platter. All we need to do is to be more mindful, be more considerate of the other person, and take the chance to make her life easier.
In times that we can’t brighten up their mood, we can always do something to lighten their load.
2. Being good doesn’t take much effort.
The question “What good shall I do today?” doesn’t ask us to break the mold and change the world. It only asks that we reach out to the person beside us.
In the Philippines, when you do a simple favor for someone and that person says thank you, we often greet them back with “maliit na bagay”, which literally translates to “small thing.” It’s basically saying, “I helped, but really, it was nothing.”
Because most of the time, being kind or doing good doesn’t really require much from us. And when we do have to go out our way, I’m willing to bet that the “extra” effort doesn’t take up that much effort. Here are just a few of those ways:
- Call & check up on a friend.
- Buy from a small, local business instead of a global commercial brand.
- Tip your delivery guy just a little bit more.
- Help in household chores.
- Give a genuine compliment or words of encouragement.
- Make that birthday greeting a little bit more meaningful.
- Let the pedestrian cross the street.
- Give up your seat.
- Let the elderly go on the elevator first.
- Hold the door open.
There are a thousand other ways to be good that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. And these little, intimate acts are more empowering than we think. The receiving end feels the thoughtfulness, and the giver is able to grasp the weight of his actions more quickly.
We need goodness now more than ever.
More people now are struggling. A former employee is hanging by a thread after losing his job. An employee working from home is dealing with the loss of boundaries between personal and professional life. An entrepreneur is trying to start and run a business on her own. A friend is battling anxiety and worse mental health. A teacher is burning the midnight oil after spending almost 12 hours in front of a screen. A chef is struggling in the kitchen as he cooks with protective gear. A parent is anxious for her daughter who’s constantly at risk at the frontlines. A child is raising funds for a sick aunt. A front-liner continues to fight, despite the exhaustion and fear.
Someone is isolated. Someone has no means of going home. Someone is still grieving.
We may have started to adjust to the new normal, but that doesn’t mean people have fewer personal battles. And at a time when connecting & reaching out have been physically restrained, it’s even that much harder to understand what people are actually going through.
It has never been more important to be good to others. To light up someone else’s day in any way we can.
If an industrious polymath and Founding Father of America managed to inject goodness into each day, I don’t see any reason we can’t.
Despite leading busy lives, hacking productivity, and chasing dreams, let’s put just as much emphasis on practicing goodness. Let it be our mindset that the day is not complete without doing some kind of good for at least one other person.
Let our waking thought be, “What good shall I do today?”