July’s Pillar is all about Light.

Think about the last time a stranger paid you a sincere compliment. Chances are, it lightened your mood. Your expression brightened and, although you couldn’t see it, your posture probably straightened for a while. All that, from a few well-chosen words!

But then it faded. Sadly, it’s in our natures to dwell on the negative—to remember hurtful words and discount praise. It takes effort to hold onto the little flickers of light that kind words and deeds can be for us. But that’s exactly what we want to do this month. We want to make the world a brighter place by bringing more light into your life and helping you do the same for others.

Step 1: Recognize and reflect the light in your life.

Summer Shine Challenge

We’ve all been on the receiving end of praise, inspiration, and good deeds. Instead of tucking that feeling away, let’s start paying it forward in ways that spread that light around and shine it back on the giver.

Here are a few ideas to try in the first half of the month:

  1. Send a note or social media message to a favorite teacher from your childhood. Tell them how they made an impact in your life and thank them for it.
  2. Compliment that person you see at the gym, grinding it out every day. Tell them how their example inspires you to keep showing up.
  3. Think about the service professionals in your life—your trainer, your hair stylist, babysitter, doctor, or massage therapist. There’s probably a long list. Most of them rely on word-of-mouth and online reviews to get new customers. They also read their reviews, and a negative remark has ruined many a day. Take a moment every morning for a week to a positive and specific review, or a social media shoutout to someone that’s done an excellent job for you. Starting your day like this can become a powerful way to set the tone and brighten both your days.
  4. Write down every compliment you can remember receiving. Read them aloud to yourself. Keep that paper for your next bad day.
  5. Many of us struggle to accept compliments with grace. We deflect or minimize our contribution, essentially telling the giver that they’re wrong. Practice receiving praise with a simple, “Thank you,” and you’ll both walk away feeling better.
  6. Send one of your parents a card—not related to a holiday or birthday. Thank them for something they taught you that has been important in your life. Or, just share a fond memory from your childhood.
  7. Pay your child a compliment that remarks on their effort or improvement at a skill. Praise your kids to other adults when your kids can overhear it.
  8. Single out someone on your team for a day of appreciation. If you work in an office, you can bring them a silly paper crown, balloons, breakfast, or even a single cupcake. Tell them how their dedication or talent makes your job easier. If you work on a remote team, you can send them a private message or include them in a social media shout-out.
  9. Spend one day actively looking for opportunities to praise your partner and thank them for their efforts. This one may feel silly to both of you at first. We take for granted the thousands of things our partners do to make our lives better. But try it. At the worst, you’ll both get a good laugh. But it’s more likely you’ll both go to sleep more content that night.

Step 2: Be the Light in Someone Else’s Life.

Summer Shine Challenge

After spending two weeks paying attention to all the ways people have shone a light on our lives, you probably won’t be able to resist returning the favor. Positive thoughts are powerful that way. In these next two weeks, look for chances to be that light.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Instead of just thinking compliments, start speaking them aloud. Challenge yourself to compliment someone every day before lunch, even if it’s just to tell the receptionist that you love her new haircut. With practice, the compliments will flow more naturally. Soon enough, you’ll be able to say to the lady at the squat rack that her perfect lifting form has taught you a lot.
  2. Volunteer for a cause you believe in. Food banks, elementary schools, libraries, youth clubs, and sports teams are some obvious places to make a difference. But volunteers not only lighten someone’s load that day. They set an example of service for others and help uplift the entire community. Finally, volunteers help shine a spotlight on a cause when they share their experiences.
  3. Give an unexpected gift. Isn’t it funny how we draw a blank when we come close to someone’s birthday, but a week later we hit upon the perfect gift idea? Instead of waiting for a holiday, look for an opportunity to surprise someone with precisely what they need. A new pair of shoes could be just what your running partner needs to get excited about that new training schedule. Or maybe that little accessory is what will inspire your partner to use their mountain bike more often.
  4. Anonymous gifts are just as mood-enhancing for giver and receiver. Next time you’re in a drive-thru line, ask if you can pay $10 toward the car behind you. Pay off someone’s school lunch tab, library fees, or just drop some quarters into parking meters and vending machines to surprise the next patron. If you post about it, you could cause a ripple-effect, inspiring dozens of others to do something similar.
  5. Give credit to others. The funny thing about light is that reflecting it doesn’t diminish its power—it enhances it. Next time you’re on the receiving end of praise, make sure you call attention to everyone that helped get you there. This isn’t the same as deflecting a compliment. Accept it with thanks, but add that you couldn’t have done it without Jeannie, Jill, and Derek’s hard work and great ideas.
  6. Look for opportunities to help. They’re everywhere if you flip your perspective. A shrieking toddler boarding your flight could inspire you to tweet about your rotten luck or inspire you to entertain the tike for a moment while his mother stows her luggage and buckles up. Often when we’re most tempted to criticize or complain, we’re facing a perfect opportunity to brighten someone’s day.

We hope we’ve given you a few ideas to kick off a light-filled month. Keep spreading the light by inspiring others to join in the challenge. We’ll be looking for participants and giving weekly prizes. Tag @ZYIAActive and use hashtag #LightZYIA to join in, follow along, and get inspiration.