One of the biggest reasons I had for starting this blog was so that I could share with you the steps I take to create an extraordinary life for myself.

What’s an extraordinary life?

An extraordinary life is one that is fulfilled through joy, freedom, self-expression, and love. It’s funny, but it just recently dawned on me that I was going about it the wrong way. So how exactly does one achieve this utopic existence of an extraordinary life?


By giving.

Yup! No matter how busy you are or how tapped out you may feel, giving is the one true way to an extraordinary life.

I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t have the time nor energy to give anymore, I already give everything I have to my spouse, my children, my job, my home.” I know this, because I say this all the time. Just ask my fiancé. 😉

I want to share something with you that I have thinking about for quite some time. Something I just started working on recently. It’s my Legacy Project.

You can make something beautiful that will outlast you…You can help others in a way that is unique to you…Remember: we all get one life to live. You might as well take it seriously, and a legacy project will ensure that what you bring to the world will continue to be valuable for a long time.

-Chris Guillebeau

My own Legacy Project is long term and what I have planned for it won’t happen for quite some time, however I want to start using my blog as the platform in which to grow towards my dream of making some real change in this world we live in.

This post is step one.

The Starfish Challenge

What is the Starfish Challenge? To understand where this comes from, you first need to read the short Starfish Story real quick, then hit your back button and continue reading below.

Still with me?

Great! Now try this on for a second:

The list of items below is a collection of small acts of kindness you can perform that won’t take too much effort, but can make a world of difference to someone else. For the next 30 days, pick one of the items from the list below and do it. You don’t have to do all of them and you can repeat items if you wish, but pick at least one item from the list each day for at least the next 30 days.

Once you’ve completed this little act of kindness, please tweet about it using the #starfishchallenge hashtag!

  1. Pick up spare change and donate it to charity.
  2. Don’t use any disposable products today (bottled water, take out containers, pasticware, coffee cups, etc).
  3. Smile at everyone you pass today.
  4. Donate rice through You don’t have to donate your money, just take a little time to answer super simple vocabulary questions at the site.
  5. Find a cause to volunteer for through VolunteerMatch.
  6. Hand out flowers to people in a nursing home.
  7. When it’s time to replace one of your regular products, trade it in for fair trade products.
  8. Pick up trash on the ground for a day.
  9. Click to give donations to: Animal Rescue, Rainforest Preservation, Literacy, Free Child Healthcare, Free Mammograms to prevent Breast Cancer and Free Food for Hunger once a day.
  10. Give a lottery ticket to a stranger.
  11. Volunteer at a soup kitchen today.
  12. Make someone you care about smile.
  13. Turn off your computer and monitors tonight before you leave work to save energy.
  14. Donate toys to a children’s hospital or used toys to the Goodwill.
  15. Give someone a compliment today!
  16. Loan money to an aspiring entrepreneur half-way across the world through
  17. Give blood today.
  18. Become an organ donor.
  19. Go to your local animal shelter and play with the animals, give them love, or take one home!
  20. Donate books to the public library.
  21. Check out, then put up stickies in public places making people feel good about themselves: “Hello Beautiful!” “You look fabulous just the way you are!” etc.
  22. Host a party where guests bring something to donate (cans of food, winter coats, etc.)
  23. Change at least one lightbulb in your home to a CFL lightbulb to save a little energy.
  24. Put money in someone’s meter (but don’t get caught!) 😉
  25. Turn off the computer and go play with your son, daughter, spouse, cat, dog!

Ready? Awesome! Do at least one thing from this list every day for the next 30 days and tweet about it using the #starfishchallenge hashtag.

Let’s spread the goodwill around Twitter!


But first things first, what are you going to do today? Do you have more suggestions that weren’t listed above? Leave a note in the comments below and let us know!


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44 Responses

  1. […] life set free har skrivit ett inlägg om 25 Easy Ways to Make a Difference Today. I inlägget listar Marianne 25 sätt att göra […]

  2. Jenny @ exconsumer on 25 Feb 2011

    I love these ideas Marianne! Just thinking about finding a post-it note that says “Hey beautiful!” makes me smile.

    Another fun little good deed is paying the toll for the car behind you when passing through a toll station. This works for coffee if you’re going through the drive-through at a coffee shop too.

    My husband once asked me how I know the toll booth attendant actually used the money I gave him to pay the toll for the next car and I replied, “I don’t. But someone got a little something extra today either way.” 😉

    • marianney on 25 Feb 2011

      haha that is so true! so maybe instead he got a tip! we don’t have toll booths here in CO, but i remember them well from back in NJ.

  3. Great post, and vs. “Starfish” if even 8 people do one of these things for 30 days or even less, it could have this exponential impact that may even be hard to chart. Such as giving to Kiva or volunteering at nursing home-we may never know how it rippled out. Thanks for the great ideas. And I am really curious as to this “Legacy Project” it sounds solemn-but I know it will be good.

    • marianney on 25 Feb 2011

      You are so right Kala! I would love for our little community to have that kind of impact on the world, can you imagine?

  4. Laura M. on 26 Feb 2011

    Hmm. I had never heard of Operation Beautiful. It sounds great but I prefer to leave stickies anonymously – which I’ve been doing for the entire month of February! I’ve left one post-it note a day for a friend, stranger, or group of people in a different place. The intention is to make others feel good about themselves and think a little more about how they can change someone else’s life. I haven’t seen the reaction of most of the recipients, but the ones I know of were definitely pleasantly surprised. 🙂 You can see the series here: my daily photo. I’ve been thinking about creating a separate site for the series and making it an ongoing project, but we’ll see how much I can handle!

    Great list! I do quite a few of them on a regular basis but I should kick my butt into doing the rest of them!

    • marianney on 26 Feb 2011

      Laura, i LOVE your project! It is similar in a way to Op. Beautiful and I think it’s been quite successful. I love that you leave notes for people you know too. You should definitely start a website for that. Encourage others to follow suit and we can have encouraging stickies everywhere!

      I’m glad you are already following a lot of the list above. 🙂 Tweet about it and pass it around. Let’s get something going here!

      • Laura M. on 26 Feb 2011

        I shall try to remember to share on Twitter – my problem is that I like to just GO DO IT instead of talking about it. :-X

        • Laura M. on 26 Feb 2011

          I meant, as in – I usually forget my phone.

          • marianney on 27 Feb 2011

            yes i know what you mean!

  5. I’m surprised how many people don’t use CFL bulbs yet. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to do what’s right. They’re all I use, and they last forever. I think two of mine have been changed in the nine years we’ve lived here.

    It’s one simple thing that makes a difference every single day.


    • marianney on 26 Feb 2011

      it’s so true! our utilities company even gives them out free from time to time, which is great!

    • Robert Wall on 26 Feb 2011

      I use them in all the circuits in our apartment that aren’t flaky. We have one that won’t turn on with a CFL installed (not sure why exactly – I think it’s probably a wiring issue) and another that has weird voltage spikes that burn out bulbs. That gets expensive quick with CFLs – plus disposal isn’t eco-friendly due to the mercury. I don’t think we have recycling for CFLs up here yet, although I could be wrong.

      Another really neat thing about them is that they don’t heat up – you can use a higher-wattage one in a smaller lamp that would normally cause heat issues with the lamp shade.

      This is a great list of ideas Marianne!

      • marianney on 27 Feb 2011

        that is a downside Robert, (the fact that they are difficult to dispose of). there is actually a lot of things that we throw away that we shouldn’t be, like batteries, electronic equipment, etc…

        btw, does any one have any idea how to dispose of or recycle those little Coleman camping propane bottles? we have a ton of empty ones in our basement bc we have no idea what to do with them. the Coleman website is no help of course :/

  6. Jo@simplybeingmum on 26 Feb 2011

    Doing Good is my day job 🙂
    I work with charities. Okay so I get paid – but not all of the time. I am currently working (non-paid) with a UK school to raise funds for another school in Mozambique educating amputee victims. When I left commerce to join Non Profits – the aim was to make a difference, I highly recommend it, even the smallest contribution can make a huge difference. Pick a cause that means something to you!

    • marianney on 27 Feb 2011

      Jo, this is awesome! i think that is fantastic! btw, i’d love to get in touch with the person at the UK school that organized this fundraising. would you happen to be able to put me in touch via email?

      • Jo@simplybeingmum on 02 Mar 2011

        It’s me Hun! Drop me a line…

        • marianney on 02 Mar 2011

          oh! good for you, Jo, that is awesome! i definitely want to talk to you more about that. i don’t have your email…. i left you mine in your Feb 27 post.

          • Jo@simplybeingmum on 05 Mar 2011

            Hi Hun, got your e-mail – all sounds good to me – being lazy (cream crackered today!) so will log in and e-mail you tomorrow if that’s okay. have Fun Jo

  7. Robert Wall on 26 Feb 2011

    By the way, something I wanted to mention – buying items at the grocery store to donate to food pantries is frequently inefficient.

    I’ve talked with the people that run our local food bank (which supplies several of the food pantries), and their big issue is usually not food, but money.

    Here’s an example. Manufacturer x accidentally sends a trailer of cereal boxes printed in Spanish to New York. They don’t sell those boxes in NY, so the manufacturer now has a problem. Rather than trying to re-route the boxes back to Mexico, they offer to donate the shipment, as it sits, to a food bank. If the food bank can pay to get the boxes off the loading dock to their warehouse, they get the donation. Yes, this has happened.

    Or a food bank can work with manufacturers and/or distributors to get quantity breaks, at-cost deals, etc.

    But they need money for all of it.

    So a gift of $50 to a food bank may well be able to be leveraged into $250 or more in food.

    Talk to your local food pantries and/or food banks and see what they need more – the food or the money.

    Just a thought. Great list Marianne!

    • marianney on 27 Feb 2011

      Wow Robert, that is really good to know! Thank you for sharing this info! Maybe we should change #22 to have a fundraising party then instead of cans.

      the coat drive should still apply though, right?

    • Gena on 02 Mar 2011

      Great idea Robert, I need to remember that!!

  8. Gena on 27 Feb 2011

    We love the list and the project; awesome!! I’ll spot light it for you sometime this week to help spread the word. Another tip we love to do anonymously just as we feel led or inspired to is when eating out look for someone alone or as a family or couple, doesn’t matter, just that we “feel” they are the one and let our waitress quietly know we want to treat them to their meal. We’ve done this for a guy who looked like he just lost his best friend, a woman (we found out later was a regular, a wido and still getting used to eating out alone), a young family short on cash (were just ordering soup; we asked the waitress to let them know early that their ticket was taken care of and to please order what they wanted, got to see that reaction; priceless!) anyways, we’ve found that when we are having a tough day or rough week, there is no pick me up like blessing someone else with a treat unexpectedly. Its never been more than $30 or $40 with a tip and we might choose not to eat out later that week because of it, seeing the genuine surprise and joy on someone’s face, or even if we’ve slipped out before they knew we knew it would make them feel noticed, acknowledged, and that is a universal need.

    Great project!!! 🙂

    • marianney on 27 Feb 2011

      Wow Gena, you guys are awesome! I sure hope to be in that position to do that once my debt is all paid off, which won’t be too long now! That has got to just be an amazing feeling to see the reactions of these people. So many times, we write checks and send them off to help, but we never get to see the reactions of the beneficiaries. I love your ideas!

      • Gena on 02 Mar 2011


        We haven’t been in as much as a position to do so since our big move, as we eat at home way more now and are still recovering financially from our move. That being said, we’ll still be watching out for the right opportunity, it reminds us how relatively wealthy and blessed we are in this life compared to so much of the rest of the world. Update, cfls in all over now (just had a couple left to change) so 2,3,13,23,25 done! 🙂 Thanks for the challenge!

        • marianney on 02 Mar 2011

          excellent gena! share your progress on twitter and hopefully more people will be inclined to join the challenge!

  9. Sweet Tea with Cindy on 27 Feb 2011

    ALL awesome tips and ideas! Love your attitude! 🙂

    • marianney on 27 Feb 2011

      Hi Cindy, welcome! And thank you. I just really feel that we need to create some change in our worlds and even if they are just baby steps, it all helps. I hope you will join me!

  10. Hi Marianne,

    I love your vision of freedom 🙂

    The #starfishchallenge is a great idea – everything we can do, does make a difference.

    There is so much truth in this quote by Mother Teresa:
    “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”

    • marianney on 28 Feb 2011

      great quote David! thanks for the compliments 🙂

      i am so glad you joined in, that is so cool isn’t it?

  11. jenny smythe on 28 Feb 2011

    You’ve inspired me to go through your list and do each task. Although I have done some of them (which makes it easier hehe).
    I’ve been meaning to do more charity work but I’ve gotten so caught up in life that I forget to take the time out to do some good.

    Thanks for the wake up call!

    • marianney on 01 Mar 2011

      it’s ok jenny, i think we all do! this was just a friendly reminder to keep things in mind 🙂

  12. I’m late to the party! Hi Marianney. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post. I did a 30 day random acts of kindness challenge back in November when Scott Kostolni posted about it. I loved it. It is actually what inspired us to move in with Patrick’s mom. (Yes that sounds weird).

    I was doing all these little kindness challenges and I realized that the biggest one was right there in front of us. She was having a hard time with bills and we knew if we shared expenses with her it would change everything.

    Your list is awesome! I’m going to go tweet it now.


    • Oh yeah. And I love the starfish story. It’s been one of my favorites for years. (I love parables).

  13. marianney on 01 Mar 2011

    Hi Tanja! No worries, I am late most of the time! 😉
    So glad you liked the post. I didn’t know you did one too. It’s fun to have little challenges isn’t it? Good for you guys for helping out Patrick’s mom, that’s really nice of you guys!

    I love the starfish story too. I actually heard it only last year, but loved it so much, I have a starfish ring I wear to remind myself of it.

  14. William Tha Great on 02 Mar 2011

    Hey Marianney,

    Thanks for the awesome advice!

    I love points number 3 & 15. It takes less muscles for you to smile than frown, so you should smile at every person you see instead of frowning or mugging them. It’s also nice to give people compliments, because it makes them feel good inside, and everyone could use that every once in awhile.

    God bless,
    William Veasley

    • marianney on 07 Mar 2011

      Hi William! For some reason, your comment went to spam and I just found it! So sorry! Thank you for visiting!

  15. Tisha on 10 Mar 2011

    Your comment…Wow Marianney, what a terrific list! You clearly put a lot of time and effort into creating it and I thank you for that. It will surely inspire many people to do some cool acts of giving. My husband is doing a “365 days of Kindness” project, so I feel grateful to be surrounded by so many people who want to change the world one person and one kind gesture at a time.
    And I love the Starfish story; just one more thing to make me smile today, truly awesome!!

  16. Kent Hadley on 10 Mar 2011

    I love your article. I am a retired hospital chaplain. Now I volunteer as the maintence/handyman for a family homeless shelter. Volunteering is such a joy and you get to discover skills you might not have known you had.

  17. marianney on 10 Mar 2011

    Tisha, I would love to hear more about your husband’s project! Is it on your website? I’m so glad you liked the list. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by! It’s so wonderful how you give of your time. Thank you for that, it’s very much appreciated by us all.

  18. […] got a couple of wonderful ideas from A Life Set Free. I have registered to become a blood donor and since I have O- blood type, I am a wanted lady over […]

  19. […] week, I touched a little on my Legacy Project. I know I haven’t gone into much detail about it yet and that’s because I’m still […]

  20. Katie on 26 Apr 2011

    Thanks for the article, it was very inspirational