I Have Decided to Take Up Smiling


Did you just say, “I’ve decided to take up smiling”? But, but, have you not smiled before? I have and I liked it but this is the first time I recall deliberately choosing to smile. To choose to smile is different from spontaneously smiling. Most people smile some, and some more than others. The affinity to smile is variable and indeed there are people who rarely smile and some who smile a lot. What I am talking about here is the deliberate, intentional, on demand smile. Choosing to smile.

Try it. Yes, try it right now. Choose to smile now. Notice what happens to your posture, your attitude toward whatever you were occupied in thinking about before you made this choice. Notice the kind of change that starts to occur when you chose to smile, even if you resisted the idea.

One must wonder, if that is all it takes and if this is the effect, this effect you are feeling now, well, what a fine little gem of discovery this is.

When we ‘decide to take something up’ it means a behaviour change. If I decide to take up running, for example, my calendar is suddenly dotted with times to run, to get ready to run, to clean up after running, a long list. The declaration to adopt the new thing is partly meant to warn others that they can expect some new behaviours from me as I embrace this new activity. Most people understand this and do not think it all that strange that I may be taking up jogging. For starters, lots of people do that. Some stick with it for a while and it fades. They go back to the way they were. Some make the new activity a part of their life and maintain it to retirement.

To take up smiling, in a similar fashion is, uhm, odd. I don’t know of anyone who announced one day that they were going to take up smiling.  But I am doing just that right now. I can be quite serious and committed and concentrate deeply on what is before me. I like to achieve, have a healthy curiosity and lots of discipline to stick with a challenge until it is done. One day someone who knows me commented that when I was deep into solving something I did not smile and that seen by someone who did not know me, I looked unfriendly, unhappy.  Not what I want.

I thought about that like I think about many things. The picture of me smiling pleases me more than the picture of me deep inside a seemingly joyless, unapproachable me.

New challenge. Great rewards. A big challenge, changing a decades long default outer persona whenever in deep thought. Not consciously intentional but I had let my expression default into portraying a joyless person. I have lived a lot of my life in deep thought and I like that about me.

But now, I like me as smiling even more. Can I enter deep thought and maintain my smile? When I smile I feel like my real thinking and feeling self is better expressed than with a neutral, or down/cloudy, expression. Besides, I now notice that I am more innovative, loving, easy to be around and more, when I am smiling. Nothing wrong with that, for sure.

How is it that I am only coming to this observation now? My immediate answer is that we are socialized to be deep and thinking and serious and all that in order to prove to others that we are worth listening to. How can we take someone who is always smiling and, heaven forbid, laughing, as a serious source of wisdom? What is the picture of someone with great wisdom? Serious huh.

Thinking about smiling already has me smiling. How about you?  Ready to start? Btw, start is not a four letter word. 🙂

Joseph Seiler MCC 2011-2022

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