So I read The Happiness Project and decided to set some of my own goals each month. I have discovered that a) there's too much to work on to be able to cover everything, and b) it really is possible to form a good habit in 30 days. I've also discovered that whatever I happen to be focusing on, the universe supplies me plenty of opportunities to work on it.
For example, this month I wanted to focus on service. As part of that, I set the goal of being more aware of those around me and open to opportunities to serve. This isn't always easy for me, as I tend to be introverted and - let's be honest - hardly notice there are other people in the room, especially if I'm wrapped up in a book or engrossed in a project. But behold, the minute I looked around, the world, the workplace, the subway - all turned out to be full of chances to serve others. Some were consciously sought out, such as volunteering with the Second Harvest Hunger Squad (picking up extra food from restaurants and taking it to a shelter). But other things have been happening spontaneously, and I find myself leaping to help before I even consciously think of it. Just this morning I managed to do the dishes so my husband wouldn't have to, made my son a nice breakfast, gave a token to someone on the subway who needed one, and helped a blind man to a seat and conversed with him - all of this before 6:30 a.m., and without thinking twice about any of it. So good things do happen when you open yourself up and look around you. Opportunity is everywhere. Big changes can come about by small means. You just have to chip away at them consistently. I'm hoping that by the end of this month, being aware of others' needs will be a bigger part of my habitual way of living.
Some people have said that serving others is demeaning or somehow lowers yourself, but I see it as just the opposite. Serving someone is recognizing their need, and then recognizing the ability or strength within yourself that can meet that need. If done properly and with compassion for the other person's true needs (and not just what you want to give), it builds up both people.
Look around you today and see who you can help. Even if it's just a smile for the lonely-looking teenager on the bus or helping an elderly woman carry a suitcase up the subway stairs, or even thinking a prayer every time you think of the Philippines - it's all good, and it all contributes to the happiness in the universe. And if you can think bigger, do greater things, do more, then do it.