Kindness Habit Vision

My Pursuit to Create the Habit of Kindness

My high school journalism teacher was a fierce woman, and I wanted to be just like her.  At my all-girls high school, Mrs. McCoy was direct and never tiptoed around our emotions; she had high expectations of us and made them very clear.  Mrs. McCoy laughed loudly, shopped compulsively, and intrigued us with her life stories.  She taught me how to organize my thoughts and always strive for excellence.  Instinctively, when I was thinking how I could explain my current pursuit – she came to mind.  

Our school newspaper consistently won state awards and for good reason.  Looking back, I now understand that Mrs. McCoy taught us sound journalism.  Every article we wrote started with the fundamentals: the 5 W’s and H.  This series of questions systematically takes you through anything you are trying to assess or organize.  I’m going to use it here to outline my personal pursuit to create the habit of kindness in my life.

WHY am I doing this?

I’m at a crossroads.  I am practically an empty nester, with no career to fall back on because I gave all that up by staying home with my children as we moved around the world.  We haven’t lived in this country for over 20 years, so I’m seriously lacking local connections and relationships.  I have an empty slate, and I want to do something that I enjoy and creates meaning in my life.

After a year of “discovery,” I realized that one of my greatest passions is Positive Psychology, which is basically, “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (Peterson, 2008).  I think that hands down, kindness is one of the greatest ways to make life worth living – for anyone.  Acts of kindness have been proven to positively impact our physical and mental health: slowing down our ageing, protecting our hearts, lowering levels of stress and anxiety and simply making us feel happier.  It is an invaluable resource and every single person on this planet has an unlimited supply.

Working through this question, why, was a great exercise.  I’m sure you’re familiar with the buzz words: vision, mission, objectives, goals.  While it can definitely seem like semantics, contemplating each of these, understanding their slight differences, helped me to home in on exactly what I was trying to accomplish.  This article by Britt Skrabanek clarified the difference between mission and vision and gave examples of those used by famous businesses, such as Tesla and Google.  It helped me identify the style that was most appealing to me.  

“Your mission statement focuses on today; your vision statement focuses on tomorrow.”

-Britt Skrabanek

My Mission Statement: 

To instinctively think and act with kindness towards myself and others.

My Vision Statement: 

To build a world where our natural inclination is to be kind to each other, thereby improving our health, well-being and level of happiness.

WHAT is the goal of this pursuit?

In one of my favorite books, Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, Tal Ben-Shahar defines happiness as “the overall experience of pleasure and meaning.”  This definition lent an ideal framework for my mission and creating a habit of kindness.

Overarching goal of this pursuit (to fulfill my mission and vision): 

To increase the happiness of others and myself through thoughts and acts of kindness.

WHO is involved in this pursuit?

This seems like a straightforward answer.  Obviously, I’m driving the pursuit, and first and foremost, I know it is essential to be kind to myself.  However, the essence of kindness involves interaction and connection.  If you google kindness, there are a multitude of definitions that come up.  This one, from, resonated most with me.

“Kindness is the sincere and voluntary use of one’s time, talent, and resources to better the lives of others, one’s own life, and the world through genuine acts of love, compassion, generosity, and service.”

The WHO Diagram

Keeping this definition in mind, I designed this structure to represent who would be involved in my pursuit.  The most important aspect to note is the interconnectedness.  Kindness is contagious.  When you smile and hold the door for someone, they’re more likely to do the same for the next person.  I believe kind acts foster symbiotic interactions and relationships.

“My Rings” are relationships I’ve already established in my life, from my husband and children to my grade school friends.  I discovered this idea in an inspirational book by Eugene O’Kelly called, Chasing Daylight – How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life.  

Moving out from my own inner circle, I wanted to be more engaged with the people and surroundings of my daily life – thus, neighborhood.  Finally, I feel I have a responsibility to do more for the world – both the people in it and the environment we inhabit.

WHEN is this pursuit due?

You might find my choice of the word, pursuit, questionable.  Actually, I thought a lot about which word to use to describe this endeavor.  Was this a project?  Gretchen Rubin was clearly onto something with The Happiness Project.  I was drawn to the feel of a project, because I really like finishing things – that feeling of completion.  But, I think the importance here is to enjoy the actual process.  I am pursuing kindness to become a way of life, continuously improving – not to cross a finish line.

WHERE will I conduct this pursuit?

Living around the world has helped me understand the profound effect kindness has on anyone’s life, transcending any differences we may have.  While this pursuit is personal on a base level, my vision states that I am hoping to affect the greater world – not just my world.  I have created a website,, to reach out.  I want to share my journey and create an opportunity for dialogue with others in their pursuits of kindness.  The more we share our stories, the more we will inspire each other to keep doing more – building the habit of kindness into our lives.

Of course, I have to start with my own stories and that starts at home.  What I find mind boggling is that I can happily volunteer at a food pantry for 4 hours but the moment my husband asks me, “Can you please get me a glass of water?” my instinct is to roll my eyes and let out a sigh of exasperation.

I can happily volunteer at a food pantry for 4 hours, but the moment my husband asks me, “Can you please get me a glass of water?” my instinct is to roll my eyes and let out a sigh of exasperation.

I obviously have some work to do.

HOW will I tackle this pursuit?

How do we create a new habit?  There is an endless amount of research on this subject.  I don’t think there is any one perfect method, because it depends on a person’s personality and what type of accountability is most effective for that individual.  However, clearly defined objectives supported by small, measurable tasks is a necessary component for anyone’s process.  Not only does this clarify the actions needed to achieve your goal, but it also keeps you on track and provides a way to measure your progress.

Personal Objectives of my pursuit (to achieve my goal):

  1. Increase meaningful engagement with people and organizations within the WHOs of this pursuit.
  2. Build new relationships and create new friendships; renew and strengthen my current relationships.
  3. Create new opportunities for myself that support my passion of Positive Psychology and the role of kindness whilst adding value for others.
  4. Test, refine, and report the progress of my pursuit to continuously improve the process for my own benefit and for others to apply in their own lives.

Objectives define the steps you want to take to achieve your goal.  But, breaking it down just one more level into tasks makes the real difference in mapping your path to success.

Consider this easy-to-understand example:

Goal:  Improve my health so I have more energy to spend time with my family. 

Objective:  Run a 10K by December 31st.


  1. Buy running shoes by Jan 5th.
  2. Jog 20 minutes, 3 times/week in January.
  3. Do stretching class with spouse 2 times/week.
  4. etc.

Tasks can be completed without having to do 10 other things first; tasks are manageable, concrete and have a defined timeframe.  

The Importance of “zooming out”

I have a tendency to get caught up in details.  I find great satisfaction in checklists and waste a lot of time micro-managing little things to give myself a sense of accomplishment.  Often, I realize I’m actually making little progress on the big picture.  In order to avoid this pitfall, it’s important to be able to “zoom in and zoom out.” For this pursuit, on a daily basis, I check my task list and “zoom in” on those little things like filling out my gratitude journal or spending time working on my neighborhood park.  But, “zooming out,” adjusting my lens to widen my focus on the big picture, is just as important.  

On a monthly basis, I reflect on global questions such as, what impact has my gratitude journaling made on my happiness?  Or has my work in the park actually made a difference to the people of the community?  This forces me to evaluate the direction the pursuit is going and if it is progressing towards the greater goal, mission and vision – not just crossing things off my list.  

I was pleasantly surprised after my first month’s reflection.  Stopping to reflect on the progress I had made throughout the month brought to light mini-successes I hadn’t really noticed before.  When working on goals that don’t have concrete results like profit or units sold, taking the time to “zoom out” is even more critical to keeping yourself motivated. 

The 5 W’s and H explained in this article have helped me organize what I’m trying to accomplish with this pursuit and the steps how to get there.  My journalism teacher, Mrs. McCoy, taught me a way of collecting ideas and information and putting them into action.  My hope is that the framework I’ve laid out will inspire you to create the habit of kindness in your own life. 

I was deeply saddened to learn that my teacher, Mrs. McCoy, died of lung cancer while I was writing this article.  She was taken away too soon, but the years she did have were full of love, energy and joy.  I am grateful I had such a strong and talented female mentor in my life.  Rest in peace, Mrs. McCoy.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this process: the aspects you like and those you think could be improved.  And as always, let’s be kindful of each other.

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