For my third and final self-intervention for the course, I wanted to encourage myself to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time: take a chunk of time to reflect on the things I do and appreciate the things I have on a regular basis, and then challenge myself to improve what I do for others and myself a little bit each and every day. What this ended up becoming for my self-intervention was a Pay-it-Forward Journal: each night for a week, I reflected on the things that happened to me that day (either thanks to the goodwill of others, blind luck, or faith in my fellow humans) with a sense of gratitude, and challenged myself to “Pay it Forward” in a new way the next day, to either help someone else, society at large, or the planet in a small way.
My challenges ranged from environmental (like picking up the trash along my walking route back and forth to school, or only using things that could be reused for an entire day [harder than you might imagine, when you consider how just about any meal involves some sort of prepackaged ingredient]) to community-based (only buying things produced locally and sold by a small business) and involved both interacting directly with people (for one, I tried a day of “random acts of kindness,” where I attempted to do small, unexpected kindnesses for the people around me) and flying under-the-radar (on another day, my goal was to clean up other peoples’ messes as I went about my day). In total, these seven “mini-challenges” pushed me to think about how the small, everyday actions we take and the decisions we make all the time—whether or not to walk by that piece of trash, or if we step up and engage with the person we usually just brush past getting our afternoon coffee—can really change both your outlook on the world around you, and, in turn, how the world around us actually is.
By leaving a trail of little positive breadcrumbs, I actually found myself more appreciative of the things that I normally take for granted, hence the second part of each day’s journal entry: reflecting on what I was grateful for in my life. What stood out to me the most during the part of each day set aside for reflection was how important the seemingly insignificant parts of my day actually were to my happiness. Looking back through my entries while writing this post up, I was surprised by how many of the things I noted that I appreciated were rather small, everyday items: interactions with my coworkers, or a simple phone call back home. On one day, I even wrote down how grateful I was for a really fantastic meal I’d had that I normally wouldn’t have even thought twice about, much less written about.
At the end of it all, I guess I’m not sure how much of an impact my small daily challenges made on the people around me—I’d like to think they did some good, though. What I am sure of is how those little rituals (and my nightly reflections) made an impact on me: by making me more appreciative of what I have and forcing me to engage more in the world around me, my Pay it Forward Journal intervention is something that made a difference in my week, and is something that I hope I can continue to challenge myself to do at various points in the future, too. There’s something to be said for the power of reflection, and there’s something to be said for people making small changes to help leave the world around them just a little bit better than they found it.