I was at a social event recently that was filled with what I would consider to be highly intelligent people, and I was amazed to see a slightly disturbing pattern emerge. What I saw was that many of these well educated people were so hung up on impressing others that they had forgotten how to just be social and have a good time. It was as if life had become one big competition to these people and that in the brief two hour window in which they met it was a "measuring contest" as to who had been more successful and impressive in their lives so far. Pretty sad huh? But the real sadness was that none of them were really all that impressive. Sure they were all university educated and well employed in successful and respected companies, but they were not actually impressive. Why? Because it was obvious that they were too caught up in making their lives sound impressive rather than just actually being impressive.
And so it struck me - people who spend their time worrying about impressing others end up living the least impressive lives.
Impress Yourself, Not Others
If you are trying to impress others then you're doing it wrong.
What other people think of you does not matter at the best times, and particularly so when thinking about how impressive your life is. In order to be a person who impresses others you actually need to stop caring about impressing others.
People that expend their mental energy trying to impress others are projecting thoughts, ideas, and examples from their life that they think are impressive. The biggest flaw with this thinking is that everyone does not think the same. What is impressive for one person may be dull and boring for another.
If a 20 year old man told you how he was excited because he had walked to shops earlier that day you might not be too impressed. In fact you might think that he was a little lazy (or crazy). But what if that man had been in a wheelchair for the majority of his life? What if he had been told that he would never walk again? Would you be impressed now?
Of course you would! And that is a perfect example of why the measurement of your life has nothing to do with others. To that fictional man the act of walking is impressive and that is all that matters. The fact that most other people can do that easily is not the point. His actions are only judged from the perspective of his own reality.
And the same rules apply in your life. Your opinions of your life are what matter most. No one else in this world has the exact same knowledge and experience as you. That means that no one else is positioned as well as you to make a judgment on your life. Only you can determine if your life is impressive.
Stop trying to impress others and start trying to impress yourself.
How to be Impressive
Taking everything I've said into consideration it should be obvious that you do not become impressive simply by trying to be so. You become impressive by living a happy and purposeful life.
And here is how to do just that...
Follow your passion
If there is one thing that is universally impressive it is when someone breaks away from the traditional pursuits of our society to chase their dream. Stories of people quitting their mundane jobs to do what excites and motivates them are naturally inspiring. We love to hear these stories because they remind us that it is actually possible to live our dreams.
Compare the difference in the following scenario. Imagine meeting some new people at a party and the conversation takes the standard "what do you do?" path. The first person is a hard-working office drone in some well known accounting/law/consulting firm, earning a decent living. The second person is barely getting by but is running their own business, writing a novel, and training to become a WWF wrestler. It's pretty obvious which person is more interesting and which person's story would be more inspiring isn't it?
So don't base your life around what you believe others will think is impressive. That "successful" office job is actually not that impressive when compared to the endless possibilities that are available if you only decided to follow your dreams instead. :)
Be humble and never brag
Nobody likes a bragger. If you go into a conversation with aim of bragging and trying to sound impressive then the chances are that you'll just annoy everyone.
What people respond to better is someone who is quietly confident and does not need to talk about themselves or be validated by others. This personality trait is very impressive.
Consider me as an example. I believe what I have achieved in life so far is impressive, at least from my perspective. I'm respected and highly sought after in my career, I am the founder of a software development company, I write articles that touch over 4,000 unique visitors a month, and I actively participate and advise in multiple private equity projects.
But I don't start off telling that to anyone when I first meet them. I generally tell them a very small subset, just glossing over the details, and only if they show enough interest do I go into detail. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for self-promotion but that time is rarely in purely social situations.
If you do impressive things in your life then you should give others the chance to discover this for themselves. They will respect you much more if you are humble about your achievements.
It is amazing how contagious and inspiring a positive attitude can be. If you exhibit a happy and positive attitude towards everything in life then people will find it very hard not to be impressed. Even the most negatively minded person will feel the impact of a positive attitude. Just make sure you're not doing the in-your-face-happy-clappy-my-attitude-is-better-than-yours positive attitude. Nobody likes that.
But seriously, your attitude defines everything in your life, and if you are projecting a strong and positive attitude then you will attract like-minded people.
Imagine the situation where two people are doing the same job and one describes it as "just a boring job that pays the bills" and another describes it as "an amazing job working with great people and getting to learn lots of new skills and processes". Which person would gain your attention?
If you have a positive attitude, even if the face of negativity, then you will always come across as an impressive individual.
Do not worry about what others think
This is the final ingredient to being impressive - stop worrying about what others think.
If you are following all the above steps AND you simply do not care about what others think of you then I guarantee that people will be impressed by you.
When you operate in this mode you give off an aura of passion, motivation, productivity, happiness, and success, which are all highly impressive traits.
That's it. That's how to be impressive. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start being impressive today!