Do Good and Be Nice

I’m not talking about being Minnesota nice- that agreeable façade often covering up underlying passive aggressive behavior. I’m talking about the real deal of doing good deeds without expecting anything in return.

The professional services guru David Maister said that doing something for a client, like giving them free advice without any obvious business benefit to you and without expecting anything in return, is a path to becoming a “trusted advisor,” which is the ultimate position to be in if you’re in the business of professional services.

I was thinking of this recently because of something that Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic wrote about happiness. He said that research shows that people who counted their kind actions for a week became happier, and that might inspire people to do more kind actions so they could count them later.

So, I’ve set a minimum goal for myself of consciously and intentionally doing at least one kind personal and professional thing every day and keeping a record of those things, creating a positive feedback loop for myself and hopefully expanding my acts of kindness. The key is not to look back at your day to find something that you did that could qualify as a kind act, but intentionally doing something that you wouldn’t have normally done.

Too often we’re on autopilot and the actions we take get us from point A to point B without much conscious and intentional thought. That’s what author and professor Charles Tart called “consensus trance.” Conscious intention can help create greater awareness about our actions and that in turn can help shape behavior.

I’m reminded of a quote by the Roman poet Ovid who said, “If you want to be loved, be lovable.” When it comes to reputation, if you want to have a good reputation, do good things.