At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.
There’s a lot of truth in the paraphrased quote above from Maya Angelou. You can probably think back to your childhood and remember neighbors, classmates or teachers who made you feel good—and others who made you feel, well, not so great.
But the focus today isn’t on others, it’s on you. How are you making other people feel as you navigate your daily life? Do you cause those you encounter to feel a little better about themselves and the world around them? Or are you giving off a vibe that is at best neutral or even a tad negative?
I think we all can agree it would be nice if those we encountered felt better about crossing our path. And there’s something we can do about it. Valuable guidance comes from the legendary investor and life philosopher John Templeton. Writing in Worldwide Laws of Life, 200 Eternal Spiritual Principles, this principle starts with a simple premise:
Each of us walks through life engaged in our own personal ministry.
While the term “ministry” is often used in regard to religion, for Templeton it has a much broader meaning. Our ministry encompasses “the way we live our lives” and “how we handle situations, our values and ideals, our goals and the way we strive to attain them.” But most importantly, our ministry revolves around “how we treat others.”
Templeton stated that the key to success with our own personal ministry—and the success of our individual lives here on earth—has much to do with how we interact with the people we encounter each day. What type of messages or signals do we give them? Do we make them feel better in any way or help improve their outlook on life, even if slightly? His advice:
“…reach the hearts of others and give them something of vital value, something that will broaden and enrich their lives. Desire that every person be open and alive to higher inspirations and filled with a beauty and truth so splendid that it elevates his or her soul.”
Well, that sounds like a lot, you might think. Sure, I want others to feel better and elevate the people I cross paths with. But elevate their souls? How does that work?
Fortunately, Templeton gives us a simple guide to follow, one you can start using right now. It consists of three key words, all with an action we can take each day, with each person we encounter. They are:
For easy memory, use the acronym REP to remember the first three letters of the words Recognition, Encouragement, Praise. The meaning and intent behind these words is simple to follow. It starts by walking through life alert and aware to your surroundings, then taking three actions:
- Recognize those you know, and even those you don’t, with eye contact, a warm smile and when appropriate, a “hello” or friendly greeting. Take the time to stop for a chat with anyone who has the time to engage with you and most importantly, listen to them. From that point, you can take the next step and add encouragement or praise to the mix:
- Encourage those who need a kind word, who appear to be having a rough day, anyone who needs to be uplifted. This can be as simple as a “keep up the good work” to a gardener, a heartfelt word for an overworked waitress, or silently wishing all you encounter happiness.
- Praise those who are doing something/anything of value, even if it’s complimenting the barista at the coffee shop, making a positive comment on the fashion choice a coworker made that day, or telling a friend or acquaintance how they inspired you. Find the good and call it out.
Here’s a real life example of REP in action: Templeton tells the story (via the book Spiritual Literacy by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat) of a woman named Maxine F. Davis, who has a job that is both hectic and stressful—she’s a cashier in a busy retail store. Yet her personal ministry involves helping others feel good on a daily basis. According to Maxine:
It’s the manner in which I present myself to others that will determine whether my customers will leave the store feeling better or worse because of their brief encounter with me. By doing my job well, I know I have a chance to do God’s work too. Because of this, I try to make each of my customers feel special. While I’m serving them, they become the most important people in my life.
As Templeton points out when you recognize and encourage the abilities and positive traits of others, you’re not only helping them. At the same time, you’re helping yourself. It actually feels good to recognize, encourage and praise others. You’re doing your part to make your small slice of the universe a better place. And that’s a good thing.