I recently came to a firm conclusion about human beings. Something I really should have realised a long time ago, but I guess I can be a little slow sometimes.
What came to me, is the realisation that we are all vessels of joy. Each and every single one of us. That some of us are full of joy, and some of us have less joy inside. Like cups randomly filled with water, we each have a different volume of joy. And, within ourselves, our joy fluctuates. Some days we have more joy than other days. Sometimes we are simply bursting with it. Other times we have very little. At times none at all.
Thinking about people this way, as vessels of joy, got me wondering about what increases and decreases our joy. I came to the conclusion that, as relational beings, it is how we are treated and how we treat others, which impacts how much joy we have inside of us. That there is a direct relationship between joy and kindness. That it is that simple.
When you are kind to someone, their level of joy increases. When you show generosity of spirit to someone, their level of joy goes up. A genuine and authentic compliment can build the volume of joy inside the person receiving it. But only if the compliment comes from the heart. False flattery is manipulative and actually decreases the joy.
A kind gesture - as simple as noticing where someone is at, asking if they are OK - increases the volume of joy. Looking after someone, putting their needs before yours or going out of your way to help them, can build joy. And not just for the person you are being kind to, but also within yourself.
Each and every time you show a little genuine kindness, you increase the joy within you. You, as a vessel of joy, become fuller. This is the magic of kindness.
An impression of increase
I came across the concept ‘an impression of increase’ earlier this year. It was a key concept from one of the lessons, which was part of a course I was doing: Bob Proctor’s Thinking into Results, facilitated by Georgia Ellis from BlueChip Minds. I remember hearing the phrase for the first time and being really confused. I couldn’t wrap my head around what ‘an impression of increase’ meant or what it looked like. And then, as it was unpacked during the class and we explored the idea of being a giving person, sending good energy to the people you interact with and bringing to people’s attention what they do well, I realised it was, simply, what I call ‘kindness’.
We were asked, as homework for this lesson, to spend the week noticing when we left ‘an impression of increase’, and to write it down. To pay attention to our everyday actions and when we ‘increased others’. My first thought was, ‘Man, I do this a lot. I am often kind to people. I am going to spend a lot of time writing things down.’ Oh, how wrong I was. Half way through the first day of the exercise, I had nothing written down. I rationalised this (and gave myself comfort) by deciding it was the fact that we were actively doing an exercise, which was getting in the way. I remember thinking, ‘My kindness is organic and being asked to notice it, and write it down, is making me overthink it, and I am not doing it like I normally do. We learnt today that a critical aspect of giving is that it must be spontaneous. The exercise is taking the spontaneity out of it. That is what is happening, that is what is wrong.’ Yeah, you bet I felt much better after that. But, by the end of the first day, I hadn’t written anything down. Nothing at all. Nada. Zip. I went home and that night I had a very restless sleep with many sobering thoughts.
What this exercise made me realise, was that I don’t leave ‘an impression of increase’ as often as I thought. I am nowhere near as kind as I imagined myself to be. This was, of course, the intention of the homework.
Joy is not happiness
Joy is different from happiness. Joy is collective, happiness is individual. Happiness is an emotion, joy is a state of being. Joy is what holds a community together. It is the stitching in the fabric of humanity. And we are all responsible in our lives, as to how much joy is in each of our communities. Every family member contributes to the joy of the household. Each person impacts the joy of a friendship group. Every employee impacts the joy of an organisation. Joy does not come from the top. The head of a company alone does not dictate the volume of joy in a workplace, nor does a parent solely drive the volume of joy for his or her family. Everyone contributes, everyone is responsible. And usually, it comes from the bottom up, where the number of people, relationships and interactions are greater. We all have the power within us to unlock the power of kindness and fill the vessels of joy around us.
Filling the cup
Start noticing how often you leave ‘an impression of increase’, how often you spontaneously give to others and the frequency of your kindness. Do it for a week and then compare the reality to your perception. Make kindness a habit. Watch the joy increase in those around you, in your community and in your own self. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be over the top. It can be the simplest thing, the smallest of gestures.
“When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else's child, do your eyes light up? That's what they're looking for.” Toni Morrison
The beautifully talented author Toni Morrison, who blessed us with such wisdom in her writing, left this earth recently. Thankfully her words live on. This inspirational statement, these very real words apply to everyone, not just children. When someone, anyone, walks into your home, your office, your workspace, your life, do your eyes light up? That is what we are all looking for. It is how you leave an impression of increase. It is how you fill the vessels of joy. It is the power of kindness.