Along with the changes I am making to my website (hence the delay in this post and the errors in the footer right now), these last two weeks have been swamped with an overwhelming onslaught of activities and obligations. Between training for my next expedition, rock climbing, working on a start-up, firefighter training, rescue diver training and my job, almost every second of the day seemed to be filled with purpose. But at times, purpose felt exhausting.
I had a choice. To wake up in the morning and face each task as if it were a burden. Or to smile through every one.
Three and a half years ago, I found myself at a similar crossroad. Two months into Iraq and miserable with the nature of my deployment, I retreated into myself. I spent my time alone and angry with everything and everyone. Until one day, I realized that the world around me would not change. I needed to.
By altering my outlook, the war became a valuable learning experience and not an exercise in agony. No matter how miserable the day’s patrol, I maintained a positive attitude. By doing so, I nurtured my spiritual development and life became worth living. Smiling through hell made it a heaven.
During Malcom Gladwell’s research for his book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” he discovered that the physical act of smiling has the power to produce the emotion of joy. Even a forced smile can lead to genuine happiness.
The philosopher William James echoed this sentiment: “action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there…”
The above video helped me find my inner optimism during those moments when it became obscured by the complexity of daily life in civilization. It forced me to sit up and make myself happy.
When the world beats you down, change your outlook and it will redefine your life. You will find that by smiling through the day, every moment becomes valuable and meaningful. The difference between simply existing and really living starts with one smile.
One smile. That’s all it takes.