When I first about this technique, I was a bit skeptic; can it really work in just 10 seconds? Well, I tried it and it sure as hell worked.
The Loving-Kindness exercise
The Loving-Kindness was invented by Chade-Meng Tan, who’s one of the first Google employees, namely the 107th. Instead of me trying to explain what the exercise is, I’ll use Meng’s own words (from Tim Ferriss book Tools of Titans, a book I highly recommend to read).
In many of my public talks, I guide a very simple 10-second exercise. I tell the audience members to each identify two human beings in the room and just think, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.” That’s it. I remind them to not do or say anything, just think—this is an entirely thinking exercise. The entire exercise is just 10 seconds’ worth of thinking.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It is, and it works mind-blowingly well. As I mentioned, I was a bit skeptic first, but it changed my mental state instantly and increased my happiness. Meng explains it further;
Everybody emerges from this exercise smiling, happier than 10 seconds before. This is the joy of loving-kindness. It turns out that being on the giving end of a kind thought is rewarding in and of itself…. All other things being equal, to increase your happiness, all you have to do is randomly wish for somebody else to be happy. That is all. It basically takes no time and no effort.
Remembering to do the exercise
The one thing I struggle with the most is to remember to do the exercise. At first, I thought you had to be close and physically see the person you wished to be happy, and somehow I preferred strangers to people I knew. But as my office is my one-room apartment, that doesn’t give me a lot of opportunities to practice the exercise as I only meet strangers when I go out for my daily stroll.
I was too strict on myself, why limit myself to strangers that are visible to me? I can as easily genuinely wish people I know that are close or far away to be happy.
Loving-Kindness vs. Gratefulness exercise
Almost daily, as part of my Miracle Morning, I write down three things I’m grateful for in my life. I’ve noticed that I become more balanced and happier throughout the day. So how does the two stand against each other?
In general, I find the loving-kindness easier, faster and it works better (for me). But I still prefer to do the gratefulness exercise in the mornings. I like the exercise, and it gets me thinking of all the things I have to be grateful for. So in reality, I don’t believe they compete against each other. But if I only could choose one, it would be the loving-kindness exercise.
Why choose the loving-kindness exercise? Because when I’m in a bad state, e.g., frustrated, angry, tired, complacent or indifferent I just don’t care and I don’t want to think of something I’m grateful for because I’m not grateful for anything.
Whereas I find it easier to wish for someone to be happy when I’m a bad state. It doesn’t require much mental ability and I can still be in “complain mode” while I wish someone to be happy, although the complain mode is gone after 10 seconds.
The ultimate happiness challenge
One time when Meng gave a public talk and guided his audience through the 10-second exercise, he just for fun, assigned them some homework.
During the next day, once per hour, every hour, randomly identify two people who are walking past your office and secretly wish for each of them to be happy. Once again, you don’t have to say anything, just think.
One of the attendants wrote back to him two days later.
I hate my job. I hate coming to work every single day. But I attended your talk on Monday, did the homework on Tuesday, and Tuesday was my happiest day in 7 years.
I call that power. Power to be able to transform one of the things you hate into a pleasant and even happy experience.
You can change the challenge to fit your needs; maybe you’re working home like me? If that’s the case, you could go to your window and identify two random people. Or think of two friends or family members; the first one you come to think of, and another one you haven’t met or seen in X months or X years.
If you’re in school, you can wish random people you meet in the corridor all the happiness 🙂
Try it out now, yes now, not in 1 minute or later today
Tell me what you notice in the comments below. Did it work, what did you feel? If it didn’t work, please tell me that too, since I’d like to know when and if it works on everyone 🙂
If you need help with a situation or someone to talk through your problems, feel free to contact me and we can probably work something out 🙂