How often do you get asked that question in the run of a day? How often do you look like you invite that question to be asked? And if that is not the first question on people’s minds when you meet, then what exactly are they thinking?
So what are you smiling about? There are enough answers as there grains of sand on a beach. Perhaps it’s sharing the joy of a little child discovering something new, or the antics of a puppy or kitten. Perhaps a great ice cream on a hot day gives you a satisfied grin or maybe it’s an out right laugh that curls your mouth up as you hear about yet another antic from a good friend. Maybe it’s a simple inner grin like when you fill up the gas tank the day before prices double. This is the stuff that makes life interesting, or for some, makes it bearable.
What about the smile factor at work? How often do you smile while you exchange your time for money? On average, do you serve the world with joy or, as Kahil Gibran put it, “Do we bake a bitter bread that feeds but half our hunger.”
I make my home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Several years ago we were hit with a class 3 hurricane. Trees uprooted, boats either sunk or were washed ashore, fortunately only 2 souls lost their lives and the electricity was blacked out in some places for several weeks.
When I received a call from Nova Scotia Power 3 weeks later I took the opportunity to express my gratitude to their line crews for 16 hour days restoring power. The customer service representative said she would pass on my gratitude, but suggested that I might not thank then tomorrow because they have to turn off my power. It seems there was a wobbly tree down the street and that was a safety precaution for those cutting it down.
First thing the next morning the white boom truck pulls up in front of my house. I watch as the lift bucket operator climbs on board and pulls on long rubber insulated gloves while his colleague on the ground safely cordons off the area with pylons. As the bucket operator pulls the huge circuit breaker there is a very audible “phizzt” arcing sound as thousands of volts are shut down. At the same moment the ground safety guy pumps his fist in the air and yells out, “ALL RIGHT BABY!”
You can imagine the smile on his face. I was amazed that after 3 weeks of working heavy overtime that he still gets excited when the power gets switched. He clearly loves what he does. I wondered what it takes to love work with such passion because it’s not everyone’s experience.
The statistics are revealing. According to Fast Company magazine the workforce can be divided into thirds with relation to their love, or not, or work. One third of those surveyed indicated that they hate their job, another third liked or disliked depending on the day, the week or the hour leaving only a third to claim that they consistently love what they do.
We need to reclaim the workplace as a human place, a place where human beings seek connection, fulfillment and meaning. While it may be easier to blame external factors for our discontent, I think most people underestimate the two things that are very much within our control; 1. leaking energy and 2. lack of purpose.
We are in control of our energy because we have the power to choose how we think. The thoughts we choose determine our attitudes and generate neuropeptides, the chemistry that is released in thought, that either deadens us or awakens us. We know attitude is contagious so let’s make ours worth catching by seeing the best in others and circumstances.
The easiest way to connect with purpose is to continually ask the question, “How does this benefit those we serve?” If you can link a higher result to even the most mundane task, initiative or decision then you have found a way to be grateful. Gratitude is the highest vibration of the human heart and its symptoms frequently show up as a grin.
What’s most important is for each of us to take charge and do whatever it takes to maintain energy and find peace and contentment with your work. The invitation is clear, find a way to have more energy at the end of the day or the end of the week then when you started. Why? There is one reason above others – so you can have more energy left over to take home to your family.
Mother Theresa said it well when she won the Nobel Prize for peace. When asked what can we do to promote world peace she replied simply, “Go home and love your family”
At the end of the day, when all is said and done and projects are complete, client crisis averted, customers satisfied, I invite you to do whatever it takes to focus your energy and love your work.
So when you go home and your kids come up to greet you, I hope they look you in the eye and see a twinkle that makes them ask, “Hey mom/dad, what are you smiling about?”
Whatever your version of “All right baby!” is up to you. The most important thing is that you witness the truth that you are a person who loves who they are and what they do. Surely there is no better person to ask the question or a person they respect more to answer it.