The smile that greeted me at the drive thru window told me all that I needed about the person, she had a good heart. Her smile was warm, welcoming and filled with a desire to enrich the lives of those she met. And in that simple act of smiling, she enriched mine.
What is it that makes it seemingly so easy for some to accomplish this near miraculous feat while others struggle to find a reason to smile?
In part, what triggered this post is a question I get regularly. People ask me “You’re always sporting such a big smile. How is it that you’re always radiating such happiness?”
I’m not sure that I’ve devised a good answer yet. This post may be my latest attempt to find an answer that will help others experience the happiness I have the good fortune to enjoy.
As I contemplate this question several thoughts come to mind. The first is that I’ve learned to let go of the outcome. My wife and I just came off one of our camping trips. I had hoped to do a lot of hiking. There are some excellent trails in the area where we were camped.
Consistent rain showers, sometimes heavy, prevented me from doing as much hiking as I would have liked. My wife and I viewed this as an opportunity to do some exploring in the area including a number of beautiful historic districts. We each carry a number of books on our excursions and we availed ourselves of the down time to read for its sheer enjoyment.
We played card games and dominos. Took time to review literature on our next camping venue, a place we have not previously visited. We had a lot of fun regardless of the fact that we weren’t able to do much of what we’d hoped.
This an attitude I’ve adopted for all aspects of my life. I no longer fret over whether or not a prospect will become a customer. Instead I look for prospects whose values are aligned with mine. If our values don’t mesh, I choose not to take them on as clients because neither of us will enjoy success. But it’s my choice, not theirs.
I had that same attitude with my career when I was in corporate. If the values weren’t aligned or I didn’t perceive much potential growth for myself personally and professionally, I’d leave. Of course, I’d try to limit the downside risk for myself and my family, but I never allowed myself to feel trapped into an employment.
If I have a health issue, I don’t worry about the outcome. I know that eventually I’ll die of something, regardless of what I do. That doesn’t mean I’m looking for an early exit. It simply means that I deal with the health issue as best as I can given the lifestyle I desire.
Letting go of the outcome is one of the keys to anyone’s happiness. It’s when we get locked into an outcome that eludes us that we get anxious and frustrated. Conversely, when we realize that things rarely go according to plan and embrace that reality, we open our minds to new possibilities. By letting go of the outcome, we free ourselves of fear, anxiety and frustration. In their stead, we find opportunity, fun, excitement and joy.
The second thought that came to mind to explain the smiles that warm our hearts is that the people who possess these smiles are other centric, not egocentric. In other words, they focus on enriching the lives of others knowing that their efforts will be rewarded in ways they never anticipated.
Zig Ziglar said “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
I know from personal experience that I CANNOT get ahead of the giving curve. No matter how much I give to others I get multiples back. I’m always behind the giving curve.
So what does this mean for you?
Decades ago I was reading a book on Buddhism. The only thing I recall from the book is that the author said that everyone who met Buddha, upon leaving his presence, felt better about themselves. As soon as I read that I thought “I want to be like that.” I want everyone to feel better about themselves after we meet than they did before we met.
That became my life’s work: to leave people I meet better off than before we met. As we saw at the beginning of this blog, that can be as simple as a smile, a kind word, giving the person a reason to laugh. That’s all it takes.
As you experience success in this endeavor multiple times a day, you can’t help but feel good about yourself, which then makes it easier to let go of the outcome of whatever you’re trying to achieve. Why? Because you are already successful. You begin to view obstacles you face as mere bumps in the road, easily overcome…and as fascinating opportunities to learn, grow and excel while having fun in the process.
For our kids
Imagine how much more enjoyable your kids lives will be when they learn these lessons from you in their formative years when much of what they learn and embrace comes from watching you and observing how wonderful your life is because of how you live.
Actions are much more powerful than words in helping our kids develop caring, sharing, other-centric attitudes and behaviors. As they develop these attitudes their good hearts will be readily obvious in their smiles. That’s when they too will have others asking them “How is it that you always radiate happiness in that big smile of yours?”
Is there a better gift you can give the kids in your life?