Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou died on 28th May 2014. It came as a surprise to me that I didn’t know who she was, but once I looked into it, it became clear she was someone I’d be writing about…

As someone who has written about goal achievement for years, how did I not know of Maya Angelou? Of course, that question is impossible to answer because knowing how I didn’t know about someone would involve knowing about them(!)

It was Facebook that did it for me. Whenever anyone dies, Facebook is awash with people posting RIP messages. I’ll be honest; I find that all a bit odd, and it can look a bit like people are either posting to fit in with everyone doing it, or trying to look clever by being the first to post it on their network of friends.

I admit doing it myself doing it myself about British tennis player Elena Baltacha when I found myself genuinely moved when she died.

With Maya it was a flourish of quote pictures – you know the ones, a few lines quoting someone over a background of sunsets or clouds, or that person’s picture. I see these all the time on Facebook and probably have seen them with Maya’s quotes on before, but the name obviously didn’t register.

When she passed away, the quote pictures had a lot of ‘quote compilations,’ so I did find myself stopping and taking a look. Two, in particular, hit home with me, and it’s these …

– “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

So, what do those quotes have to do with The Bee Gees? Well, Maya probably never did sing The Bee Gees, but in one of their songs, ‘Words’, there’s a lyric that says ‘It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.’

OK, that’s a love song, and Maya said that people would forget what you said, so am I going down the wrong thread with this article?

I don’t think so, no, because that impression we leave with people, the way we made them feel that Maya said they would remember, that can be made by smiles and body language of course, but the real tool to do it, is words.

A simple ‘hello, how are you,’ said genuinely, can make someone’s day. A simple compliment can make someone’s day. Making the smallest of efforts to be nice to people.

People often develop low self-esteem, which can grow to influence their whole life, but the power of words to turn that around cannot be overestimated. If you’re the one that brings the brightness and positivity into their life, it might only take a few seconds, but the impact can be long lasting, and that’s how you leave an impression with people.

When they think of you, it may not be the actual words they remember, as Maya said, but it will be the connection you made, the fact that you took an interest in them for who they were.

It’s powerful stuff, and it can make you be the rainbow in someone’s cloud, something they can refer back to in their minds for a boost, and what’s more, it’s free and easy to do!

Also, it has an extra benefit – it makes *you* feel good too! Others will come to know this is the way you behave, and they, in turn, will behave that way towards you. There are no downsides to this, which is why I’m amazed more people don’t act that way.

I do it, and some people have genuinely said to me they have been annoyed by my ‘rampant positivity’. That made me giggle, and while my life has not been all sequins and fairy tales, I make no apology for seeing the positives, in myself, in my surroundings, and in others.

So, Maya Angelou may have never sung The Bee Gees, and although I didn’t know about her until she had died, just two of her quotes have left an impression, so think about the way you talk to others – how will your words make them remember the way you made them feel?

Just as importantly, how about the way you talk to yourself! Do you make yourself feel good or bad? Are you the rainbow in your *own* cloud? If so then great, but if not, then now is as good a time as any to change things!