Remember when your parents used to tell you to “keep your chin up?” As children, that little nugget of wisdom was likely to go in one ear and out the other. But this advice is as sound today as it once was when we were younger, and there are valuable lessons that can be applied in adulthood. There is more to this phrase than meets the eye.
To start, we should discuss how the phrase came to be. While the exact origin of the phrase is unclear, the first printed reference comes from an October 1900 edition of the Pennsylvania newspaper The Evening Democrat: “Keep your chin up. Don’t take your troubles to bed with you – hang them on a chair with your trousers or drop them in a glass of water with your teeth.”
More than a century later, the phrase very much remains a part of our modern vernacular. When your chin is down, you are quite literally staring at the ground. The simplest act of raising your head and keeping your chin up allows you to see forward. How can you know where you are going if you can’t see the path in front of you? It is when you raise your chin that you can see the road ahead. As adults, it’s our responsibility to develop the skills that allow us to process mistakes and failures in a healthy way, and persevere and move on.
Pay attention to how leaders and business professionals conduct themselves when they speak. They have excellent posture, sitting or standing up straight. They make direct eye contact with their audience. When they speak, they lift their chin up to project confidence and positivity. When delivering a speech or presentation, keeping your head up increases air flow and allows you to project. Perhaps my old college football coach was on to something when he said that life is a game of inches; the mere act of tilting your head a few inches up or down is the difference between winning and losing.
Keeping your chin and your head up also allows you to keep your eyes on the road ahead. As children, a bad test score or dropped fly ball seemed like the end of the world – and life certainly doesn’t get any easier from there! But it does go on. We often need a bit of prodding from our colleagues, friends and family to remind us of that. If we stare down at our shoes, we start noticing the scuffs and stains. If we look up, we see a great long path with new opportunities.
In a previous article from March 2017, I wrote the following:
“I’ve observed that success comes to those who are optimistic … Of course, optimism is not about putting on blinders and choosing to ignore our own and our society’s problems. Asking the tough questions is necessary, as is facing what we need to face and finding ways to take positive action at home, at work, and in our civic lives. Optimism stems from intentionally cultivating a positive attitude, focusing on the joys in life and surrounding oneself with positive people.”
When you hear the phrase “keep your chin up,” it should transport you back to your childhood and make you crack a smile. As a youth, you really did think the world was ending after you didn’t get your intended result. But you proved your younger self wrong, and you can have a laugh now. So smile, because the best is yet to come. You should be encouraged to not give up or give in. While it isn’t always possible to control your surroundings, you can always control your attitude. So next time you have the instinct to drop your head, I urge you to keep your chin up, and remain cheerful, stalwart and courageous. Don’t dwell on the negative or go to bed upset. Better yet, share your words of wisdom with someone who needs a little help. A quick text message, email or phone call offering your words of encouragement, reminding them to “keep your chin up,” can make a huge difference.
The possibilities are endless when you stay optimistic, because you’ll approach inevitable setbacks with a different perspective. If you didn’t close the sale this year, it doesn’t mean you failed. If you didn’t land that promotion, it’s okay. Make these moments teachable moments. There will be new opportunities just around the corner – but only if you keep your eyes open and keep your chin up.
My name is Jeff Bell, and I am just getting started.
Jeff Bell is CEO of LegalShield, the leading provider of affordable legal plans and identity theft solutions for individuals, families and small businesses, covering more than 1.75 million families and serving more than 4.375 million people across North America in 50 states and four Canadian Provinces.