Student life wasn't always easy for me. Our university was located in a very small town of only ±10,000 inhabitants and even the university itself was quite small with only ±220 students each year. As a result, I ended up living in this microcosm that was filled with the joys and suffers of being a 20-ish-years-young student: exam pressure, grades, parties, classes, heartbreaks, trying to find summer internships, comparing yourself with others, etc.
I remember how I would drive to class from my apartment and stop at a bakery to get breakfast each morning. It was a daily routine that I did without thinking too much: park the car, walk in, get your breakfast, leave for class. This routine then once changed through a simple comment that one of the sales ladies made: "A smile would look good on you". At first I didn't understand, but upon asking, she told me that I would always come in lost in thought and with a busy mind. It was a just a comment, but it made me very reflective. From that day on, I entered and left that bakery with a big smile on my face and I could clearly see how delighted she was that I had taken to heart what she had told me.
While this was just a little event in my life, it made me realize one important thing about interacting with others. Namely, that every person has an aura. It's the distinctive atmosphere or quality that surrounds you as a person. This aura that we all have influences the way how others perceive us and how we make others feel. In fact, this aura is often a reflection of the thoughts you have on your mind. Think of your friends – I'm sure there is that one person who is 'always' smiling .. one that is 'always' happy .. or one that is 'always' the naysayer in the group. These impressions that you take aware are the impressions that their auras convey.
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” — Gautama Buddha
I think most people read this and could simply agree that this is true. But there is a big difference between agreeing with something and fully internalizing it. In this particular case, it's tremendously important to understand the impact you can have on others by the thoughts you have on your mind. The expressions "infectious smile" or "contagious energy" are quite powerful and real phenomenons. They express that your smile, your attitude, your thoughts can have a positive impact on others.
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” — Gautama Buddha
For myself, I have come to realize the importance of radiating positivity. For the people around me, I aspire to be a source of inspiration and energy. This goal influences my thoughts and the way how I encounter people. In return, it influences their perception of me and the impact I can have on them. I think of my attitude, my smile, my actions, my words, my empathy and my interactions as my tools to make a positive impact on others.
In his book "Search Inside Yourself", Meng considers meditation as the best way possible to achieve such state of mind. He promotes this specific idea which I think very much reflects the notion of having an aura that radiates such positivity.
"Imagine whenever you meet anybody, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, I wish for this person to be happy. Having such habits changes everything at work, because this sincere goodwill is picked up unconsciously by others." — Chade-Meng Tan
I encourage you to make an experiment that turned out to be very useful and insightful for me: the next time you approach someone – be it the unknown girl/boy at the club, your manager at work, the bored government employee at the DMV – put a big and lasting smile on your face and just see how the person reacts. It is tremendously hard for someone to ignore the smile you throw at them. With that smile, you set the tone for the entire conversation. In fact, you influence what that person does next and the choices they make. Secret tip: It works really well for me trying to get business class upgrades ;).