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We can do more good by being good than any other way.

This favorite idea of Coach Wooden’s on its surface may seem to present a difficult challenge: How can we on a daily basis live a life that represents being good and thus have a positive influence on others?

In his book A Game Plan for Life, Coach Wooden explains how easy it is to be good:

There are things I learned from watching my father that I purposely tried to copy in my own life. But other things I found were just kind of absorbed, and became a part of my thinking and reactions without my really thinking about them.

I admired my father’s refusal to speak badly about others, but I don’t think I necessarily set out to make that a rule for myself. I imagine I considered that to be too lofty a goal. Yet, as time went on, I found it was a practice that had etched itself onto my soul so that if I ever slipped up on that matter, I felt pain rather than satisfaction

In December 2008, the British Medical Journal published a study that confirmed what many of us have known for a long time: Happiness actually spreads through social interactions and connections.

In other words, you are directly affected by the behavior of those around you, and your example can influence the attitude and behavior of others.

And I don’t think the link has to be as direct as close friends and family, either. Think about all of the complex networks we engage in every day, from the people we see at the store to the customer service agent we talked with on the phone. A smile for the busy waitress, an encouraging word to the stressed out mother with a screaming toddler, patience with the technical support person as he/she tries to answer your question—any of these can make a difference in that person’s day.

And if the person behind you in line sees you act kindly toward the cashier, he or she will be more inclined to do the same. It was wonderful to see the phenomenon of contagious happiness confirmed by science, but I already knew it was true. I’d seen my father’s influence and felt it myself.

So all of us have many opportunities every day to live up to Coach Wooden’s idea that we can do more good by being good than any other way.

Let’s just leave the house every morning determined to see how many people we can cheer up!

Photo by fizkes/

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.