Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Smile [More] Often: Making Advice Manageable

I saw this van in front of me on the way home from work the other day. (Don't worry. I was completely stopped when I snapped this picture).

Of course, I don't know the story of these words on the bumper, but it seems to me that the "SMILE OFTEN" was there first. Then, someone came along and added "MORE." It was a good addition.

"Smile often" seems trite, unhelpful. And sometimes "smile often" is just impossible. There are times in your life when you cannot "smile often." Sometimes there are not "often" things to smile at.

But "smile more often"? Well, that's advice I can use. "More" doesn't require all that much. If I haven't been smiling at all, and I manage to smile once in a week, then I did it more. I certainly didn't smile enough to be called often, but it was still more. That's progress. I win.

I might be looking too deeply into the bumpers of the cars on my commute, but I think that this kind of modification can be useful for a lot of well-meaning advice.

Like parenting:

People have told me "Don't yell." But sometimes I yell. Sometimes I get really, really frustrated. Maybe I've been awake for 30 straight hours and the dogs just ripped the trash and there's rotting chicken and curdled milk all over the kitchen floor and my husband is out of town for work and my daughter, who is getting her 853rd tooth of the month, reaches up while I'm trying to calmly rock her to sleep and knots a fistful of my hair around her hand and pulls as hard as she can. And I yell. Not really at her. More like at the universe. But the sound is loud and I know I shouldn't do it, and now I've broken the "don't yell" rule so I have to feel like a failure on top of it all.

You know what would be better, "[Try not to] yell." That I can do.

Or with health:

"Don't eat dessert."

What? I love dessert. Any advice that includes this may be good advice for avoiding excess sugar and fat and calories and carbs and gluten and whatever other thing is bad for me at the moment, but it's not going to get followed.

Instead? "Don't eat dessert [every day]." Much better.

So, thank you random van for making my goals feel [more] manageable.


  1. I'm taking a blog writing break (other writing and work keeping me busy) but I am reading blogs and your blog today is my favorite of the week. It made me I guess I smiled more today and that's a good thing.

    1. And now your comment made me smile. The chain continues! I hope your break is going well and work is going smoothly.