We’re all pretty good about what we do when people are watching. We might pick up a pen our boss has dropped. Say “Bless you” to a coworker who sneezes in a meeting. Or open the door to let our date walk into the restaurant first. But who we really are is us on our own—the one we think no one is paying attention to.
What we say and do in those moments affects how we feel and who we are. That’s why I love this quote: “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” —H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
On one beautiful day in Venice, it was warm and breezy and sunny, the day people imagine every day in California is like. I walked into the bank and witnessed this interaction of woman in line speaking to the man behind her:
“What a beautiful day, right?” she said. “Wow.”
“Terrible,” he said.
The woman laughed. She assumed he was kidding. “I know, it’s perfect,” she replied. “I could be out there all day.”
“What, with this wind?” he said, shaking his head. “It’s drying everything up. Pulling the smog from the Valley. It’s awful.”
The poor woman stood there stunned. And it was a reminder to me how the smallest interactions throughout our day say a lot about how we’re feeling and who we choose to be. Sure, maybe this guy was having a terrible, awful no-good day for many reasons, and that “drying wind” was the straw that broke his camel’s back. But maybe if he knew—if we knew—the way we were coming off in the world, it might inspire us to try to do it differently.
Try this: Imagine for an afternoon that some kind soul upstairs is doing a Powerpoint presentation on how to be a happy person, and your live tape has been pulled up to illustrate it. What can you do this afternoon that feels in line with the positive, good person you want to be? aHere are some ideas:
• Hold a door for a stranger.
• Make friendly small talk with the shyest-looking person at the party.
• Compliment the jacket of the person next to you.
• Pet the dog.
• Offer a ride.
• Lend a quarter to the guy out of change at the coffee counter.
• Smile. Laugh. Clap. High-five.
Go on, give that Powerpoint guy a real show. And then, after you do a few of these things, tune into how you’re feeling. Pretty great, right? Probably proud of your actions, warm in your heart and perfectly happy to have someone say, “You’re on Candid Camera!” Because this is how you want to feel and appear all the time.
Choose a bumper sticker motto for life that helps you make the right decisions, put on the right expression and be the person you want to be. Even if no one is looking, you’re looking. Want to feel like the good guy character? Be the good guy. Amazing how that works.
The motivating messages we use in our lives affects what we do and how we feel. So try using that bumper sticker motto for life and see how you feel.