With a smile

The late James Garner, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, said “With a smile.” I’m sure that simple message brought a smile to your face. Who among us doesn’t want to be remembered that way.

The question is “Are you living in a way to produce that result?”

Generating smiles

Implicit in Mr. Garner’s statement are the keys to a happy life for you…and all you meet. His message implies:

  • Genuine care and concern for the welfare of others.
  • The importance of encouraging others to pursue their dreams.
  • A willingness to be candid, yet caring. For in this combination lie the abilities to help others accelerate the attainment of their goals.
  • A lack of judgment. The ability to respect others’ beliefs while holding true to your values and beliefs.
  • A sense of humor…the ability to laugh at ourselves for the inevitable mistakes we make. Others enjoy our company more when they realize that we don’t take ourselves seriously.
  • An understanding that mistakes are how we learn and grow.
  • The ability to let go of the outcome…knowing that regardless of the outcome we’re going to win.

These concepts seem so simple, yet we find it difficult to live them on a consistent basis. Why?


Everyone faces challenges that cause us to forget the lessons implicit in Mr. Garner’s message. Here are but a few of these challenges:

  • Not enough sleep.
  • Illness…ours or those in our immediate family.
  • Work deadlines.
  • Kids’ extracurricular activities.
  • Kids’ homework.
  • A demanding boss.
  • Neighbors that are difficult to deal with.
  • Concerns over who your kids are associating with.
  • The relentless negative news cycle.

The good news is that it’s possible to live Mr. Garner’s message while dealing with these inevitable challenges.

Overcoming challenges

Learning to generate smiles, despite the challenges we face, is a two-step process.

Step 1

The first step is to pause before interacting with another person to remind yourself that you want to leave them smiling. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your mind shifts from concern about yourself to concern for the person with whom you’re dealing. It happens in milliseconds.

Just as importantly, you feel immediate relief from the stress you’re experiencing. Whatever challenge you’re facing feels less daunting and more manageable. That’s the power of making a mental shift from egocentric to other-centric behavior.

Step 2

The second step is to become aware of which challenges are creating the stress and fatigue you’re experiencing. Remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is the result of choices that you previously made…and that you have the ability to make new choices. Then choose a more effective, less stressful of achieving what your goal.

If you find yourself struggling to come up with an alternative choice, assign the question to your subconscious mind. Remember to ask a “how” question. Your subconscious mind is designed to answer “how” questions. Here are some examples:

  • How can I accomplish what I need to do and still get a full night’s sleep?
  • How can I meet my deadlines and still have time for my spouse and kids?
  • How can I help my kids complete their homework without as much time investment on my part?

For you

Begin today to adopt this simple two-step process and you’ll be happier, and spread more happiness, than you ever thought possible. In doing so you’ll assure that you’re remembered “with a smile.”

For our kids

Share this Mr. Garner’s message with your kids…as well as the two-step process. When you see them being abrupt with others, remind them of both messages. Ask them how they’d feel if they were treated that way.

It’s important that they relive the emotions they felt when others mistreated them. For, often, they don’t realize the impact their words and actions are having on others. Having them relive their experiences makes them aware of the impact they’re having on those with whom they are dealing.

Finally, live the message and process. As kids see them working for you…see you being greeted fondly by all you meet…they’ll adopt the same behaviors because they too want others to look be happy to see them. They, too, want to be remembered “with a smile.”

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