Monday 20 August 2018

Karl Henry: Sometimes a simple act of kindness is the beginning of something greater

A helping hand: Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment offer strangers random acts of kindness in Pay It Forward
A helping hand: Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment offer strangers random acts of kindness in Pay It Forward

It all started for me when a friend in his sixties asked me to join him for a hillwalk 15 years ago, up Djouce mountain in Wicklow.

At the time I was in my first year of college, eating and drinking badly and out of shape, in need of a kickstart back to health.

That day in Wicklow, I struggled to keep up with a man 40 years my elder. I was beaten to the top by a good 15 minutes and this provided the kickstart I needed.

When I got back to my car, I made a promise to myself. Things must change! I committed to coming back every Sunday and beating the previous week's time, aiming eventually to run up the mountain. Eight months later that's what I did and continue to use that run as a gauge of my fitness, even now in my mid-thirties. God that makes me feel old!

Why am I telling you this? Simple. Since that moment it has become my job to help give people the same kickstart, whether through my column, my clients in the gym, our corporate programmes or through television, that's what I do.

You see, everyone needs a kickstart at some stage to get their life and health back on track - a trigger.

That trigger can be a photo, a moment of breathlessness or an item of clothing but that shock is crucial to creating the level of commitment that it takes to make lifestyle changes that will last. But that trigger or kickstart can also come from you, the reader.

Have a think about it. Is there someone in your family, your friend group or your workplace that you know is in a bad place, who needs someone to guide them back to a healthy lifestyle?

I am sure that if I asked, you would be able to write a list of at least 10 people almost instantly.

My homework to you today is to make that list. Ask yourself who could do with your help? And then I want you to write beside it what it is you could do to help them. It could be a chat at lunch, encouraging them to sign up for an event, buying them a book that helped you or even a simple gesture such as a smile, a text or a hug.

Now place that list somewhere that you can see it and, each day, pick one person to help.

More often than not, it just needs to be a small gesture that is required, something simple and not expensive, a gesture that can help to change someone's life.

I know that I am testament to that, that simple hillwalk helped to turn my life around. It got me running 5k runs, then 10k, then on to marathons to ironmans and ultra marathons.

As ever, all of those events started with that small step. That's how powerful it is. In my work, I spend time with each client to see what it is they need from me to get them to make that first step, it's an incredibly powerful moment.

Maybe when doing your list you will realise that it's actually you who needs the kickstart too, so you may be able to do it together or as a group of friends, motivating and encouraging each other to hit that target.

Not only are you helping others but sometimes it's nice to do something randomly for others. Acts of kindness make you and others feel good.

For example, you could pay for the car behind you at a toll bridge, hold open a door for someone, buy a coffee for the people in the queue in the coffee shop or bring an apple for your colleague.

Random acts of kindness will not only enhance your life but the lives of those around you.

Irish Independent

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