The coach running a team-building session for 50 people asks each participant to write their name on a balloon and let it float up to the ceiling.
At the end of the day, she asks each person to get their balloon back as fast as they can. There follows a free-for-all with everyone jostling to grab any balloon strings within their reach.
Everyone is clearly frustrated and the operation is far from successful.
So, the coach changes her instructions: everyone must grab the balloon closest to them and return it to its owner. Within a few seconds, all the participants have got their balloon back.
The coach explains that this exercise shows the power of positive energy – rather than looking for my own personal balloon, I’m working as a team member.
By helping someone, I create space for another person to help me in turn. All that leads to a doubly positive effect: I’m happy that somebody else is pleased to get their balloon back and then I’m doubly happy to get mine back.
What about you? How would you like to exercise your positive energy?
I am a quick, well-organised person by nature and often finish tasks before other people. That’s nearly always the case when I go horse riding. I groom and prepare my horse energetically without wasting any time. When I turn round, I realise that my friends are lagging behind. So I help them put on a bridle, tighten a girth, clean hooves or untangle a mane.
People thank me profusely for my kindness, when in fact I haven’t done it out of altruism but because I’m impatient to start riding!
I don’t think I’m altruistic at all, but if my friends see it that way, does that mean I am, or does the sense of well-being that I get out of it disqualify me from being thought of as such?
It’s an interesting, but somewhat pointless, debate. Haven’t we all been thanked for actions that originated from a selfish intent?
Aren’t the results what count more than anything?
When was the last time that you were selfishly altruistic?
I’ve found the perfect office. It’s quiet and peaceful, located at 1,000 m above sea level with a stunning view. I lay out my things on the table on the terrace of my hotel and start work.
Time flies by and every time I look up, I’m inspired by the view.
A man who looks a bit like Jean de Rochefort comes up to my table at around 11.30am, a glass in his hand. He asks me if I’m working or if I’m on holiday, all in Italian.
I enter into the spirit and start chatting to him, he corrects me and suggests other ways of saying things, thus contributing to my daily Italian lessons.
An hour and a glass of Prosecco later, he leaves. I don’t know the name of this kind pensioner but I know that he has done the St James’s Way too. He cycled it with his son from Milan. I also know that he has lived in the mountains since he retired because he loves cross-country skiing and that he has put lunch on to cook for his family.
I rarely spend an hour chatting to a stranger that I’m never going to see again. I realise that I should do it more often.
What about you? Do you take the time to listen to strangers just for the pleasure of it?
Karima is everywhere – at the top of the Champs Elysees handing out flyers, behind her counter welcoming customers, and later on she can be found helping out in the massage room.
Karima runs a hammam in Paris. Born in Algeria, she’s always on the lookout for business opportunities; initially, she wanted to organise trips for French tourists to her native country. Unable to find any insurance company who would provide her with cover, she had to think outside the box. She decided to import one of the best-known Algerian traditions to Paris.
She achieved her goal by taking a different route.
What about you? What route could you take to achieve the goal that has eluded you up until now?