“Strategically Smile to Get What You Want” (Wiser Next Week: On Happiness)

"Strategically Smile to Get What You Want" (Wiser Next Week: On Happiness) Kingston S. Lim

About the Wiser Next Week Series: These entries will involve posting my book, Wiser Next Week, chapter by chapter, freely available to the public. Additionally, I’ll be recounting a story about something I’ve learned based on the chapter’s topic since the months that have past when the book was published in December 2018.


Graduation Photos

I remember back in 2014 in my senior year of high school I was soon to graduate from high school, being that I was in the graduating class, I had to take a graduation photo for my yearbook. It seemed very much like a nuisance to me but all right all all right I’ll play along.

I was waiting in the auditorium with everyone else that was scheduled for that time for graduation photos. When it was my turn I sighed and went up to the stage for a photo. The photographer was a larger man and it was standard procedure, he clipped on the fake suits used for photos and instructed me to sit down and look at the camera.

He then began to criticize me for not smiling. This irked me,

“Who’s this bunghole? I just met him and he has the audacity to lecture me for no smiling?”

I didn’t smile for any of those pictures. I gave the photographer some cool courtesy and left.


Smiling For Pictures: A Necessity

I’ve always carried a negative connotation about taking pictures because it was something my mom forced me to do. As a result I always had a frown on most of my pictures.

That photographer said I would scare people away if I didn’t show that I could be friendly by smiling for a photo once in a while. What he told me didn’t really sink in until I was 21 and looking for accounting jobs.

I needed a corporate gig after college to validate my self worth (that’s what I thought at the time) so I ‘strategically smiled’ when I wanted someone to like me (employers).

I forced this smile because I was desperate for a job.

What I did was focus on a happy/humorous moment when taking a picture. It didn’t have to be much, just enough to make a smile for a split second.

I took the approach of what Maxwell Maltz recommended people do to have more positive then negative thoughts. Here’s what he said:

Banishing negative thoughts can lead to feelings of anxiety about whether the thoughts are actually gone. Whatever you focus on will expand, and new negative thoughts will take the place of the old. 

Focus on positive imagery and memories. As our minds are filled with the positive, the negative will take care of itself. Those negative thoughts will reside in a smaller and smaller part of your mind until they are completely forgotten. Therefore, every time you’re filled with negativity, use it as a signal to fill your mind with pleasant pictures of the past or anticipate positive future experiences.

This researcher did a long term study spanning decades studying what made people happy. An interesting research.

Out With The Old, In With The New: How to Change Habits

Subconsciously, I had always associated taking pictures with negative thoughts of my mom telling me what to do (“stand here, wear this, smile dangit stop looking so grumpy, your eyes have no life because you play too much video games,” etc.)

Reassociating pictures with positive connotation allowed me to smile in pictures so that I can portray friendliness and willingness to make new connections.

In order to banish a thought or behavior, it requires more then just telling yourself not to do something. Think of it this way, in movies/TV shows if there is a character that is afraid of heights and they are climbing up a structure, they tell themselves,

“Don’t look down, don’t look down.”

And what do they do?

They look down and their friend gives them a knowing look as if to say,

“You looked down didn’t you?”

Same concept applies to happiness. If you have upsetting thoughts, your mind will make it the object of its fixation as long as there is nothing else occupying your brain. As the old saying goes,

“An idle mind is a devil’s playground.”

If there are thoughts, feelings, habits and/or emotions you want to change, it begins with replacing the old with new thoughts, people , places and projects.

That and time, time has the tendency to distance us from the present.


Every time you’re filled with negativity, use it as a signal to fill your mind with pleasant pictures. Maxwell Maltz, design by Kingston S. Lim

Here is the “On Happiness & Gratitude” chapter of Wiser Next Week. Take it and implement it into your own life.


Previous Chapters

“I Didn’t Know How to Do Laundry” Wiser Next Week Intro

“The Spray & Pray Teacher” Wiser Next Week: On Emotions

“Show Them Your Greatness” Wiser Next Week: On Fear

“Psychological Ownership” Wiser Next Week: On Loyalty


24 thoughts on ““Strategically Smile to Get What You Want” (Wiser Next Week: On Happiness)

  1. I am the opposite… I smile constantly usually. Just always? I have a face that is smiley 😊
    Sometimes people think I am “up to something” lol because I always usually smile
    But also… I have had complete strangers, come up to me in stores and tell me they were having a bad day or something, until they saw my smile, and thanked me 🥰 – I have that happen a lot
    I get many compliments on my smile.
    A smile makes a person look friendly and approachable. (I don’t always want that lol, but it makes for interesting convos and adventures ✌️)
    A smile can put people at ease, and does kinda brighten your world ❤️✌️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your smiley experience. I think smiling like laughing is contagious and lifts the mood of of others as you have first hand experience in.

      I think we are polar opposites btw, you have a lovely smile in your avatar while I’m “too cool to look at the camera”

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. I am a pretty happy person and smile frequently, but I still HATE having my picture taken and having to smile on command. The smile in the picture in the suit and tie does look pretty forced. You have a very nice smile in some of your other photos!

    Take care, be happy, and smile when you feel like it.

    Liked by 2 people

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