The whole world feels like it’s trending ‘radical’ right now. As I watch the stories unfold around me, I have hope that high passions, raw questions and strict accountability will herald real social change. But, we’re being asked to adapt quickly – which is always uncomfortable. I’m finding the high level of energy over the past months challenging to absorb and process. I’ve been feeling alternately invigorated and exhausted, sometimes moody and a bit disoriented.
So where do I turn when I’m processing a lot? First, l always check-in inwardly to observe what’s resonating and why…. Then, I like to seek out ‘the experts’ who’ve been-there-done-that and might have wisdom to share (I’m very much a ‘why reinvent the wheel?’ kinda girl). How serendipitous then, that a book called Radical Kindness appeared on my suggested reading list just last week. How could I resist? I found the easily-presented ideas of author Angela Santomero just what I needed to re-settle my jangled nerves in these anxious times and remind me that at my core (with my core beliefs), I know how to navigate my way through. I thought I’d share some of the ideas the book sparked:
Perhaps because I grew up thinking he was genuinely one of my best friends, I’ve always especially loved the famous Mr. Rogers idea about looking for the helpers in scary times (they’re always there, even if rarely focused on). I was excited to have Radical Kindness introduce me to another great Mr. R quote – “There are 3 ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind”. I was recently talking to a group of friends who live in various parts of the United States: as we shared and commiserated about how we were each navigating the uncertainty of the pandemic, they were shocked at how well and cooperatively Canadians seemed to be treating each other. If numbers, mindset and mood are your measuring stick, I’d say that qualifies as proof that Mr. Rogers was right. Kindness goes a long way. His 3 ways fit the triple-win model – a win for self, a win for other, and a win for community… kindness, kindness and kindness.
The second lesson I re-learned with Radical Kindness is, ‘radical kindness means Action not Reaction’. Without diving too deep into the explanation the book provides (read it, it’s good!), I’ll say that it suggests that Reactions (especially negative ones) are learned and reinforced habits rather than our true inborn nature. They can therefore be re-trained once they’re noticed. This is how you choose thought-ful Action instead. What if instead of getting insulted when someone doesn’t respond to you as expected, for example, you paused to consider what might be occurring (or not) from their perspective? If you knew they were tired, or stressed, or had a headache… would you be more lenient? If the answer is yes – maybe waiting a beat to figure that out and then Acting with information would be to both of your benefits. Being generous with your thoughts is kind to others and kind to you because it provides a sort of rebounding goodwill – it just feels good to the giver.
The last thing I’ll share from the book (there are so many more), is an especially pertinent reminder for the emotionally heightened times we’re in. It’s that kindness (especially the Radical variety) starts at home. And I mean the deepest home – yourself! You can’t pour from an empty cup. Generosity of action and thought is most powerful when turned inward first before spreading it out. Nurture yourself – no self-care isn’t necessarily a spa day; it’s sleeping well, eating well, moving well etc. Speak kindly to yourself – if you wouldn’t allow your kids to say it to a play-ground friend, don’t self-talk it. Forgive yourself – in this generous universe you get to start fresh every day, doing better once you know better. Champion yourself – you’ve gotten through every tough day you’ve experienced so far – proof that you rock!!
These are radical times for sure. But radical isn’t code-word for bad. From the Latin, radical means ‘root’ and refers to an attempt to explore something from basic principles or foundations. I encourage you to join me in taking ‘radical’ and infusing it with abundant kindness… and let’s watch where that takes us next!