You're Making a Lasting Impression
Jeff Keller

One of the earliest memories I have of my father is from one of the family vacations we took together.  I was about seven years old at the time, and we were driving somewhere in the southern United States.  My brother and I were in the back of the car, with my mom and dad in the front.  It was mid-afternoon on a hot summer day when my dad saw an ice cream truck and pulled over.

As my father got out of the car, he saw a group of five young boys sitting on the curb near the truck.  Four of the five boys were eating ice cream.  I watched as my dad went over to the boy without the ice cream and said to him, "Would you like some ice cream? I'll buy one for you."  The boy politely told my father that he didn't want any.  Sure, it was a nice gesture on the part of my dad.  But it wasn't a big deal, right?  Well. . . actually, it was.

My father's act of kindness toward a complete stranger was imprinted on my mind that day.  And I believe that my own conduct has been significantly shaped by that event.  My dad made a lasting impression on me in another way as well.  You see, social or economic status meant very little to my father.

He didn't gravitate to those with fancy titles.  He seemed just as interested in speaking to waiters and the people who swept the floors.  He respected everyone and looked down on nobody.  And again, my dad's conduct helped to influence the way that I deal with people to this day.

Here are a few things to consider if you want to make a lasting impression and be a positive influence on others:

1. Recognize the paradox.  We don't usually make a lasting impression when we're trying to do so.  Rather, it happens when we're just living our lives and doing what may seem like ordinary, everyday things.  Sure, there are some who make an enduring impact through great achievement or by being a celebrity.  But lasting impressions are not reserved for famous people like Oprah Winfrey or Michael Jordan.

They're available to you and me - every day, every moment.  As I look back, I can't remember a time when my dad sat down with me and said, "Here's how you should treat people."  I simply observed how he lived his life.  So, too, people are watching your life, whether you realize it or not.  This is true in all the life roles you play - be it parent, child, employee, business owner, etc.

2. Live each moment consciously.  While we can't plan those encounters or situations that will create lasting impressions, we can be more aware of our behavior and the potential influence it may have.  Too often, we live our lives on "automatic pilot," that is, we do things out of habit without realizing the effect our actions might have on others.  In many of these instances, our behavior does not match what we declare to be our values.  For instance, you may think that you are "open-minded" and then catch yourself being intolerant of someone with different viewpoints.

Starting today, right now, realize that every interaction you have is precious.  As author Dan Millman often says, "there are no ordinary moments."  With this in mind, you can consciously choose, for example, to be honest, kind and to give your best efforts at all times.

So, the next time you're about to do something, ask yourself:  What action would I take right now if I knew my behavior would have a lasting effect on someone?  This isn't about being perfect.  There will always be times when we behave in ways that we're not proud of.  Yet, as you realize the impact of your day-to-day conduct, you'll find yourself making different choices.

3. Appreciate the ripple effect.  It's hard to fathom the consequences of the lasting impressions we make.  When my father asked that young boy whether he wanted some ice cream, he was affecting me--as well as everyone who would eventually come into contact with me--forever!  Isn't that incredible?

Yet, it's not an exaggeration.  My dad's act helped to shape my character, which in turn affects the way that I have dealt with people in the 40 years since that event.  Furthermore, the people who I have met may have been affected and have passed along those values to others they have met.  It's an endless cycle.  Thus, there are no small acts in this world.  One simple act can truly change the course of humanity.

In the end, you're going to make many lasting impressions, whether you want to or not. It's up to you whether the messages you send are positive or negative.  As you go through your day today, give a little extra consideration to how you speak and how you act.  You just may be making an impression that will endure for generations.

Jeff Keller.  Jeff is the President of Attitude is Everything, Inc.  For more than 15 years, Jeff has delivered presentations on attitude and motivation to businesses, groups and trade associations throughout the United States and abroad.  Jeff is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Attitude is Everything. For more information, go to


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