“Hope is not blind optimism. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it.” (The President of the United States, 2016)
We are constantly reminded of reasons to frown by the news media, politicians, pundits, preachers, friends, family, and by our own minds; but we really have many, many more reasons to smile! Now, I am the last person on earth to want myself or anyone else to be in “denial” of the problems in life. I am as concerned about child abuse, homelessness, overpopulation, hunger, wars, and the refugee crises as anyone else. I certainly want to know what is going on with my body, even if the doctors think it is disaster. However, even knowing that there are real problems with the world, and with my physical health, I can smile because I know some truths that overpower the problems.
- Smile because your well-being is not dictated by external circumstances (eg. culture, others’ opinions, politics, medical reports, etc.). You get to decide what you do with what you have; and there is a power greater than yourself which can help you find solutions to seemingly impossible problems. These solutions come in many forms: Your own inner wisdom; a helping hand from a friend or a stranger; events that occur outside of scientific norms (miracles); and many other ways. We truly do not know how the Universe really works. As Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (William Shakespeare)
- Smile because you have the ability to make the world a much better place by simply deciding to “sur-thrive” (a word coined by the late Carrie Fisher): You can thrive through the challenges of your life; your attitude and your smile can turn your and another person’s life around; you have the ability to be an influence for change in the world through your words, actions, and thoughts. Even if you think that your contribution is “small,” it can have significant results. It is not your place to solve all the problems of the world, just do what you can.
- Smile because your thoughts have significant influence over the outcomes in your life. As is widely known, our thoughts contain power. It is just a fact of life; nothing particularly mystical. As William James, the father of modern psychology said in the early 1900’s: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” Actually, this fact of life is found in much earlier writings such as the Old Testament (hundreds of years B.C.), and in the New Testament (80 to 100 A.D.). Also, when you pair a visual image with your thought, it takes on exponentially more power. Visualize who and what you want to be, and how you want to make a difference int he world.
- Smile because when you face a situation in life that you cannot control, you can let it go and surrender. You will feel free when you let go of those things over which you have little or no control, and your life will go more smoothly.
Continue reminding yourself of reasons to smile. Continue visualizing your new realities. You will see a difference in your life.
Christopher Knippers, Ph.D. January 4, 2016