The cultivation of an optimistic, cheerful outlook on life is not just a superficial veneer. It is of the very nature of victorious living. It takes us very close to the heart of things, and gives us a glimpse of man as he is intended to be.
If we look back over our own
experience, we know that the real experience,
that the really memorable and satisfying experiences are
those in which our spirits have been exalted in success, or enjoyment, or
useful service. Happiness is the way you are, not the way things are!
Cheerfulness can transform our
personalities, make us pleased with ourselves and pleasing to others. The
person at whom we smile, smiles back. In one sense he smiles at us. In a deeper
sense his smile reports the sudden well being
we have enabled him to experience. He smiles because our smile has made
him feel smile – deserving. We have, so to speak, picked him out of a crowd. We
have differentiated him and given him individual status.
We talk about meeting circumstances,
and facing circumstances, but there is a very real sense in which we have it
within our power to change circumstances – certainly the power to change their
effect and influence. There is a kind of alchemy about cheerfulness that seems
to affect our own personalities, the lives of those with whom we come into contact,
and even our environment and circumstances.
This power is a faculty which can be
cultivated and developed. Let us examine some of the practical factors
1. Remember that action can regulate feeling:
William James wrote: “Action seems to
follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together. And by regulating
the action which is under more direct control of the will, we can indirectly
regulate the feeling, which is not”.
If our spontaneous cheerfulness is
lost, we should sit up cheerfully and act and speak as if cheerfulness were
already there. If such conduct does not make you feel cheerful, nothing else on
that occasion can. This is a simple but powerful secret of producing a real and
deep spirit of cheerfulness.
2. Collect material for cheerfulness:
Make an inventory of all your joys.
When feeling depressed it is useful to sit down with paper and pencil and make
a list of all the things that you should be grateful for at that moment. Don’t
just think about it. Do it! The chances are the paper will not be
long enough for the purpose. The
process of association of ideas, once you are started, will
produce an incredibly long list of things for which you should genuinely
and sincerely say “Thank you!”
This kind of exercise leads towards
an attitude of gladness, gratitude and a cheerful spirit.
3. Use unlikely circumstances to produce cheerfulness:
It is possible to wrest cheerfulness
out of the most unpromising
circumstances. This is a real challenge. When the picture seems completely black, resolve to find something in it which is redeemable.
The optimist does this all the time.
Cheerfulness can also issue out of
adverse situations in which human relationships are involved. Take , for
example, the necessity of criticism or rebuke. There are some people who seem
able to do this only in a way which exacerbates ill – feeling. Yet, even
rebukes can be administered in a way which in includes hope renewed
opportunities the prospect of learning from mistakes and so on.
The situation then becomes one of
looking forward with confidence and cheerful anticipation of better things,
instead of recrimination.
4. Practice a certain restraint in cheerfulness:
There are times when cheerfulness
needs to be held in control. This does not mean to inhibit it, but rather to
control the degree to which it is expressed. Some people are so heartily happy,
that their cheerfulness becomes a bit of burden at the receiving end.
What we really need is a kind of
inner cheerfulness, into which we can dip without any great fuss, but which
gives the impression of inexhaustible
resources. Still available at any moment.
This art of letting
cheerfulness bubble to the surface rather than
pour out in a torrent is one of the real secrets of the attractiveness of a
truly cheerful personality. The quietly optimistic attitude, the genuine
smile the gladly confident word which encourages and assures, these are the marks of the truly cheerful