At work, I’ve become obsessed with an idea: happiness, or cheerfulness, or positivity is an act of power. I don’t yet know if I see it as an expression of power, or a way to collect power. Maybe it’s both.

I have a job that I don’t love. Part of that is, I don’t really know where I fit in the organization, and it feels weird to hang out in an office — where I enjoy having colleagues — doing work that nobody really seems to need. I’m just translating into English, in case they one day need it.

Instead of dreading work, which obviously isn’t good for me, I set myself a goal: my position in the office would be to be “the cheerful one.” Every office has enough overworked, grumpy people. I used to think of myself as upbeat, and it felt as though the office needed someone who spread a few ‘positive waves.’

I used to, in the U.S., think of myself as ‘upbeat.’ In setting that goal, I realized that, in public, I’ve transformed into the stereotype of a German: I don’t talk to people more than necessary for work, I don’t inquire into their personal lives, or into much of anything at all. Whereby, I’ve lived her a while, I know Germans aren’t like that. It’s just become my version of invisible.

I will be, I’ve decided, the cheerful one.

In practice
It turns out, it’s not hard to be cheerful. I mean, I was once, I can be again. The difficulty is in being in the moment, recognizing opportunities to say something nice, or to greet someone I normally would overlook. From time to time, it’s even possible to give a compliment where it’s deserved — which I’m more comfortable with because it’s not as creepy and because I know it’s an area of modern life that’s overlooked in general — or to make someone smile.

Sometimes, when I’m staring at my desk and most definitely not working, I wonder if people notice a difference. I don’t know. The thing is, I do. I guess it was always something I did for myself, the whole creating a role for myself, even if I was the only one who knew I had it. But, I thought of it as something I was doing for others, and I find that I’m probably the one who benefits the most by it.

The theory
I said it was an act of power because I’ve found that I feel my own power increasing as I do this. Not over other people, but a sort of inner-power. Cheerfullness, I’m coming to realize, is less an expression that your situation is ideal, but rather that you’re comfortable in your situation. Encouraging it in myself, I realize that, in choosing how I’m going to feel, I’m taking back power that I had given to my surroundings.

The questions
I would be interested to know if anyone else has tried something like this. How do you experience it? What things give you power, or lift you above the circumstances you find yourself in?

Do you see this as an expression of power (“I have power over myself”) or a way to collect power (“if I do this, I’ll have more power/energy to invest in that novel I want to write”)?


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