It’s happened to all of us: We meet someone and we’re instantly drawn to them. And I’m not talking about romantic love at first sight; I’m talking about that mysterious attraction that people often call charisma. Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan has found that charisma seems to exist not so much in the other person, but in a shared force bigger than either of us.
It may be because we’re drawn to people whose lives make perfect sense to us. We’re drawn to those in a heroic struggle. We’re drawn to those who are intensely alive with a purpose. We’re drawn to those whose challenges hold meaning for us and whose efforts we can relate to.
We’re drawn to them because they’re the heroes we’d like to be. They exude a passion for life, an enduring spirit, a raging ambition, and an ability to attract not only others, but life itself. For what they truly possess is an awareness and an acceptance of life as it is, that opens them up to embracing it with curiosity, joy, and the determination to make the most of it.
If you’re looking to develop your own charisma, look no further than your own life. Then follow these 4 steps to become the magnet you’d like to be!
Step 1: Accept Your Whole Self
Self-acceptance does not come naturally to many of us. It could have its roots in our early experiences, or in the demands of a society that has little tolerance for flaws and weaknesses. Yet our darkness shines light on our brightness. Our weaknesses make us whole, direct us to areas for development, give meaning to our struggles, and provide us with a purpose to work toward. So take a moment to write down not only your strengths, but also your weaknesses, and appreciate how they interact with each other. Are there overplayed or underplayed strengths that have become weaknesses? Are there suppressed or expressed weaknesses that have cast a shadow over the charisma of living with authenticity?
Step 2: Write an Interesting Story
With self-acceptance comes the desire to rise to your highest potential. Carl Rogers, perhaps the greatest humanistic psychologist of our times, said that connecting to your true self is the starting point for self-actualization. What’s your highest aspiration? And who do you need to become to rise up to it? How will your struggles, challenges, and obstacles, both internal and external, become the building blocks of a compelling story? Professor Dan McAdams at Northwestern University has found that people generally fall into one or more of seven main narrative identities, where the positive ones include stories of redemption, agency, communion, and resolution. What will yours be?
Step 3: Build Your Inner Resources
Having clarity on your story points you to the inner resources you need to build in order to live by it. Stories of redemption, for example, require you to develop an increased appreciation of what you’ve gained as a result of what you lost, and a desire to give back your learning to others in similar struggle. Stories of resolution call for greater acceptance and adaptability. Stories of agency are marked by self-mastery, achievement, and growth. And stories of communion show sharing, belonging, and general feelings of being one with others and/or the world. Given the story you’ll work toward, what are the qualities and virtues you need to grow, and how will you do so?
Step 4: Find a Sympathetic Tribe
Charisma is not only about your ability to recruit others; it is also about other people’s ability to be recruited. Surrounding yourself with people who do not aspire to your journey, who do not share your struggles, or who have little sympathy for your story can easily smother the inklings of budding charisma. Find people who see meaning in your story, and develop the ability to see meaning in theirs. It’s this reciprocal sympathy that lies at the core of attraction, and draws us to each other through a shared meaning.
You’re both the hero and the author of your life. Write an interesting story and choose your characters carefully. It’ll determine not only the charisma you exude, but also the meaning you find in your life.