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How Small Acts Of Thoughtfulness Can Change Your Life



I often feel like I’m rushing, physically and mentally. And I really would love it if I weren’t. I’m working on slowing down and creating more space in my life, both personally and professionally.

It’s all too easy for small, thoughtful acts to fall by the wayside when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. And it’s even easier to use the fact that we’re busy as an excuse.

But thoughtfulness should be at the top of our priority list. Because the ways we engage with people—even subtle ones—can make such a profound impact on any relationship, whether it be with a client or a loved one.

When we feel “too busy” to call up a friend or write a thank-you note, we need to take a step back and challenge that perception. This starts with taking a look at the places in our lives where we may be taking shortcuts and making a conscious decision to take the longer, more thoughtful route instead.

Being thoughtful is a way of living life with love and appreciation for others. And by slowing down, with a little self-reflection, anyone can do it. And do it well!

Here are some simple ways to be more thoughtful on a daily basis:

Write a thank you note by hand.

This is a really simple way to make someone feel recognized and appreciated.

It’s always a pleasant surprise for someone to receive a handwritten note, particularly because these days it’s rarely expected. And if they know you’re busy, it means even more, because they knew you took the time out of your busy schedule to do it.

Admittedly, I’m not always perfect at this. I’ve let a stack of cards sit on my desk for far too long. But even when—especially when—I’m feeling crazed, I find that taking a moment to write a note to someone can help me slow down and drop in. Knowing the note will make someone feel good is all it takes for me to make that a priority.

Say ‘no’ more often.

My assistant recently asked me, “Amy, do you ever say no?”

I thought about it for a second and realized that I really don’t. Not enough at least. And this woman who just started working with me has already put her finger on it. It’s true: I’m always saying yes to everything and trying to accommodate everyone. As much as that seems like a positive thing, in the end, this pleasing mentality (which means I’m reacting to others’ needs versus focusing on my own) can actually be a problem.

So I told my assistant she could help me start saying no more often, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed and could use some time to decompress. It was easy to justify the decision once I realized that saying no to one thing creates the opportunity to say yes to something else (finding time for acts of thoughtfulness, for example!).

But most importantly, this reminds me to prioritize. And by prioritizing we’re creating that much-needed space I mentioned earlier. That space creates buffering capacity that makes us better and more present, wherever we are.

Since making the decision, I feel like I’ve gained agency. I’m no longer constantly at the disposal of others. And I can be better for those around me.  

Be mindful about your phone etiquette.

Limit your phone use when you’re with another person. Unless there’s a legitimate emergency or mission-critical situation, there’s no reason to have a phone out during a meal, meeting or any other one-on-one situation with another person. Get it off the table!

The minute I see someone’s eyes dart down to their phone screen, they’re no longer with me—or they might as well not be.

But when someone is totally, fully present, it’s an amazing feeling. One of the most engaging people I know also happens to be one of the busiest—my friend Jimmy, who is president of ESPN. Whether it’s a 20-minute sitdown at his office or when we find the time to get breakfast, he’s always the most present, in-tune person, and it’s like time slows down. And that makes me feel cared for, respected, and that our relationship is meaningful.

If Jimmy can do it, we all can!

Go out of your way for someone.

My doctor and dear friend Dr. Sadeghi recently gave me a much-appreciated suggestion. He knew a special person was coming to town and that I was going to pick him up at the airport, and he suggested I do something that may have never occurred to me: park the car and actually go inside the terminal.

This may sound like a simple thing. It may even seem unnecessary since at least in LA, picking someone up at the airport is already a very nice thing to do. But unquestionably, the extra touch of parking the car and waiting for him at the bottom of the escalator when he arrived had a huge impact—he was truly delighted and it felt so good seeing the smile on his face.

I personally experienced this feeling of delight and surprise recently when one of my wonderful clients sent me a bouquet of gorgeous flowers, the sweetest card, and a beautiful bottle of my favorite rosé. The gift and note acknowledged that I had been going through a lot of transition at work and that not only did she understand, but also that we’re all in it together. I felt so supported and was truly touched.

Pick up the phone.

These days, we’re all far too reliant on text and email. Even if we’re thinking of someone and want to check in on them, often the easiest way to show that is through a quick text or email. And by the way, that’s nice.

But what’s even nicer is to actually take a few minutes to pick up the phone and make a call to your friend, client or loved one. You can even start the call by saying, “I only have a few minutes to talk, but I was thinking of you and wanted to say hello.” Even if you just leave a voicemail, the sound of your voice and the human touch could make an impact on someone’s day.

Making thoughtfulness a priority may seem challenging when life is crazy. But it’s not. It’s simple. It all starts with an increased awareness and consciousness about where we can give just a little extra in our lives. And by bringing a little extra sweetness to others, we can immediately feel a little extra sweetness in our own lives. Actually, a lot of extra sweetness.

Amy Stanton is the founder and CEO of Stanton & Company and co-author of "The Feminine Revolution."

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