“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” (Mother Teresa)
For about 4 years, I sat in a team room at work. I was the supervisor for most of the other people in the room. I tend to be an early starter, so I was most often the first person to arrive in the morning. As with any small community of 8 to 10 people (which was the size of our team room), there are ups and downs over the course of days and weeks. My desk was in the corner of the room, and as people came in it was easy to glance my way as they headed to their desks.
I found out, about 2 years into this seating arrangement, that the people on my team generally looked at me as they were coming in, and my face was setting the mood for the day. On the mornings when I had a grouchy countenance, the room was quiet and edgy. On the days when I was humming a tune, or smiling broadly, the mood was light and the productivity was high.
My face, and the presence or absence of my smile, had become the thermostat for the mood of the room.
I’d love to be able to tell you that learning this fact made me have a smile every day, and helped me set a fantastic mood for the team. But, sadly, I am human. I had my own share of ups and downs to deal with, and sometimes my face belied my feelings. What learning this fact did do was make me much more aware of how my mood, and how I was showing that mood affected the team.
A smile is a powerful thing. I chose the quote above from Mother Teresa, because I found it to be so powerful. She spent the majority of her life ministering to the desperately poor and sick people of Calcutta. She tended to people who were in the most desperate of human conditions. This small, slight of build nun labored tirelessly for decades. She saw things that would make most of us crawl into a corner and cry for days. And yet she knew that there was power in a smile. She knew that if she could bring her smile to those around her, it would lift their spirits and help them fight a little longer.
There is a family with whom my wife and I are close friends. They have a 6 year old daughter who is a frenetic bundle of energy. I have never seen this little girl going any speed below the maximum. She gets easily excited, and when she does she gets loud. She charms everyone with her youthful exuberance. But the thing about her that is the most charming is her smile. I have known her literally all her life, and I can count on the fingers of 1 hand the number of times I have seen her with anything but an ear to ear smile on her face. And, each of the times the smile was gone, it was back within just a short few minutes. No one who spends time with her can ever be in a mood that is less than sparkling. I am sure her parents could tell tales of how she has her down days, but I just wouldn’t believe them. To me she is the quintessential optimist, and the ever-present brightness on any day.
As a 6 year old, she would not have the first idea how to be fake. She couldn’t fake a mood if you asked her to. Her smile, and her happiness is as genuine as it gets. And, it is infectious. I have gone to their house not feeling at my best. Perhaps I was toting along the petty worries of my work week, or maybe I just wasn’t feeling my full energy. But, I spend 5 minutes in the same room as her, and I am instantly feeling lighter.
We all have the ability to be that same thermostat in the room. When we have a genuine smile on our face, and we light up the area around us, people cannot help but join in. And here is the best part. We get to choose whether or not we are happy enough to smile.
As I have written many times in this blog, our mood and our level of happiness is largely our own choice on a day to day basis.
Abraham Lincoln once said that “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” This from a man who was desperately trying to lead a war torn country, who had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Yet he knew that all of us have the ability to be as happy as we decide that we are.
Given that we can be about as happy as we choose to be, why would we choose to be anything else? Rather than counting all of the negatives in life, why not decide from within that we will be happy, and then act accordingly? I know. It is far easier said than done. As I said above, even armed with the knowledge that I helped set the mood of my team room, I still wasn’t able to always be on my game. But, I chose to be happy far more often than not.
This post is being published on a Friday. When I sat in that team room, I made something of a game out of calling the last day of the week “Friday Funday”. The truth was that we usually had quite a lot of work to do to wrap up the week. It wasn’t like our Fridays were easy. But, because we made the decision to call it “Friday Funday”, we tended to have a bit more fun, and to smile more. And, we entered into our weekends just a little more refreshed.
Here is my challenge to all of us today. For today, make the choice to be happy, put on your most sincere smile, and start giving it to random people around you. For one day, try smiling at as many people as you can. Not a fake, cheesy grin, but a true, heartfelt smile. I predict that if you do that, you will find within the first hour that your smile is very often returned, and that will feed the fire of your smile to continue. I know this, because I know that smiles are quite contagious, and I want to spark a smiling epidemic! Who is with me?
Principle #5 – Smile.