You Choose your Attitude

May 15, 2018

Everything can be taken from us but one thing; the last of human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Viktor Frankl


It takes a disciplined spirit to endure the monastery on Mount Serat in Spain. One of the fundamental requirements of this religious order is that the young men must maintain silence. Opportunities to speak are scheduled once every two years, at which time they are allowed to speak only two words.


One young initiate in this religious order, who had completed his first two years of training, was invited by his superior to make his first two-word presentation. "Food terrible," he said. 


Two years later the invitation was once again extended. The young man used this forum to exclaim, "Bed lumpy." 


Arriving at his superior's office two years later he proclaimed, "I quit." The superior looked at this young monk and said, "You know, it doesn't surprise me a bit. All you've done since you arrived is complain, complain, complain.


Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.


How did you do with the complaining exercise from the last blog? I have read about this exercise in many sources, but I will continue with Hal Urban’s explanation of it.  I have been quoting him quite a bit in these first blogs. His book, Life’s Greatest Lessons is one of the core publications I use in my personal coaching sessions.


He has given this assignment to over eighty thousand people. Starting right now, go the next 24 hours without complaining…about anything. Most students complained the exercise was too hard. A grand total of five people were able to accomplish the assignment. The main lessons learned were that most people complained within the first ten minutes, the majority of people could not believe how hard it was to not complain, and they also learned that they had no idea they complain that much. Jane Wagner sums this up so well when she states, “I personally think we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.” What if we just stopped complaining and appreciated the lives we have?


Charles Swindoll writes: The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…We are in charge of our attitudes.”


The most important words we’ll ever utter are those words we say to ourselves, about ourselves, when we’re by ourselves.


Hal Urban continues: Attitude is a mental outlook, a frame of mind. It’s how we think. It’s what goes on inside a person, thoughts and feelings about self, others, circumstances, and life in general. Attitude is similar to a mood or a disposition, It’s also an expectancy. People who have generally positive attitudes expect the best; people with negative attitudes expect the worst. In both cases, those expectations are usually fulfilled. John Maxwell shares from his writing on The Six Habits of Highly Defective People, “They have a losing attitude. People generally get what they expect out of life. Expect the worst, and that’s what you’ll get.”


Francis J. Allison describes this so effectively in the following poem:


A crowd of troubles passed him by

As he with courage waited;

He said, “Where do your troubles fly

When you are thus belated?”

“We go,” they say, “to those who mope,

Who look on life dejected,

Who meekly say ‘goodbye’ to hope,

We go where we’re expected.


A newspaper reporter secured an exclusive interview with the devil. The reporter was especially interested in the deceptive techniques around which the devil had built his reputation. “What is the most useful tool you use on people?” he asked. “Is it dishonesty? Lust? Jealousy?”


“No, no, no, chuckled the devil. “The most useful weapon I possess is apathy.”


I found this prayer on the internet but have been unable to identify the source. It is by that famous anonymous person:


Dear Lord:

So far today, I am doing all right. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I have not whined, cursed, or eaten any chocolate. However, I am going to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that. 



What if we just stopped complaining and appreciated the lives we have?


What’s the first thing you say to yourself when you wake up in the morning? What if you were to wake up in anticipation something good is going to happen today? Joe Dimaggio, always talked about Opening Day of each baseball season. “You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.”


One small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day. You did not wake up today to be mediocre. I read on a poster recently, “Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn.” Al Walker writes: “The most important words we’ll ever utter are those words we say to ourselves, about ourselves, when we’re by ourselves. You will never speak to anyone more than you speak to yourself in your head. The way you talk to yourself creates your reality. If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you’d never think a negative thought again. Bob Proctor adds: “Don’t be a victim of negative self-talk. Remember, you are listening.”


Samuel Jackson writes: “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” A lack of enthusiasm for life, for growth and for learning can get you into trouble.  For example, a teacher confronted four of her students who didn’t get to school until after lunch. “What happened?” she asked. “Well,” replied one boy “We had a flat tire.” “I’m sorry to hear that,” she said. “but you missed the test. Sit right down at these desks apart from each other.” The students did so. “Okay, the first question is, which tire was flat?”


Notice on a bulletin board: Always give 100 percent at work. Under which, someone had written, give 15 percent on Monday, 20 percent on Tuesdays, 25 percent on Wednesdays (hump day), 25 percent on Thursdays and 15% on Fridays.  A disgruntled employee added, “I’ve used up all my sick days, so I’ll call in dead tomorrow.” Seen on a coffee cup, “Wearing all black today to mourn the loss of my motivation.”


No blog on attitude would be complete without a discussion on the optimist/pessimist question. Is the glass half-full or half empty? Are you an optimist or a pessimist?  According to the theory, an optimist thinks the glass is half-full; a pessimist thinks the glass is half-empty. Is life really that simplistic?


Once upon a time there was a psychologist who had two boys, one who was an optimist and the other, a pessimist. It was a family custom that when giving Christmas gifts, that on one side of the tree one boy would find his gifts, the other on the other side. This specific Xmas, the pessimist found his gift, a bicycle, beside the tree. In his true and predictable pessimist style he exclaimed, “Bicycles are very dangerous." It would be impossible to ride it outside because there are too many bikes; besides that, he would probably fall off and hurt himself. On the other side of the tree, the optimist was ecstatic with his gift, a large barrel full of manure. He was reaching into the barrel, removing handful after handful of manure from the barrel, while exclaiming, “With all this manure in this barrel, there must be a pony here somewhere!”


David G. Meyers adds: “The recipe for well-being, requires neither positive nor negative thinking alone, but a mix of ample optimism to provide hope, a dash of pessimism to prevent complacency, and enough realism to discriminate those things that we can control from those we cannot.


Heard at a job interview: “What are your greatest strengths?”

Applicant replied, “I’m an optimist and a positive thinker.”

Interviewer, “Can you give me an example?”

Applicant, “Yes, when do I start?”


Does positive thinking always work? Of course not. But I do agree with Joel Osteen when he states: “You cannot hang out with negative people, and expect to have a positive life.” Zig Ziglar adds: “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” 


Julia Child states: “A passionate interest in what you do is the secret of enjoying life, perhaps the secret of long life, whether it is helping old people or children, or making cheese, or growing earthworms.” Author Leo Buscaglia has a soft spot for Julia Child. “I like her attitude,” he says. “I watch her because she does such wonderful things. ‘Tonight we’re going to make a soufflé.’ And she beats this and whisks that, and she drops things on the floor, and wipes her face with a napkin. And she does all these wonderful human things. Then she takes the soufflé and throws it in the oven, and talks to you for a while. Then she says, ‘now it’s ready.’ When she opens the oven up, the soufflé caves in. You know what she does? She doesn’t kill herself. She says, ‘Well you can’t win them all. Bon Appetit.”


You cannot hang out with negative people, and expect to have a positive life.


A father was late getting to his son’s baseball game. As he sat down behind the players bench he asked one of the boys known as a real leader on the team what the score was.


“We’re behind fourteen to nothing,” he answered with a smile.


“Really!” the dad replied. “I am surprised that you don’t look very discouraged.” “Discouraged?” the boy replied with a puzzled look on his face. “Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t been up to bat yet.”


Lucille Ball writes: “One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself."


Be Julia Child like. Be childlike. Be Lucy like. Be Joe Dimaggio like. Don’t be so full of adult, you do not experience the simple joys of life. Never, never, ever, get rid of the desire to play in puddles or run through a sprinkler.


In the world according to Mr. Rogers, he writes, “Some days, doing the best we can may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else. You won’t always have a good day. But you can always face a bad day with a good attitude. Don’t be too hard on yourself." The mom in E.T. had an alien living in her house for days and didn’t know it.


How accepting are you? Acceptance can be defined as being open and allowing things I dislike or don’t want, in myself, others and the world around me. When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of most drama in your life.


How flexible are you in your thinking? Are you a “my way or the highway” kind of person when it comes to decision making? Are you open to other people’s ways of doing things if they are different from yours? Or are you like the man that Jim Clemmer describes in his book, Growing the Distance: “He was so narrow minded that he could look through a keyhole with both eyes.” Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked in a storm while the willow survives by bending with the wind. Life is all about how you handle Plan B, or if necessary, Plan C.


How important is your need to be right? Is your need to be right greater than your need to cultivate positive relationships in all parts of your life? Robin Williams comments: “I’m sorry, if you were right, I’d agree with you." Dave Barry says: “I argue very well, ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and stay clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.” To live a full life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. You learn nothing from life if you think you are right all the time.


Never, never, ever, get rid of the desire to play in puddles or run through a sprinkler.


Do you occasionally stretch your self-imposed ceiling? It’s been said that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Are you willing to risk being a little uncomfortable as you try new things, as you grow and expand your skills and horizons. According to a survey, what’s the number one fear of North Americans? It’s speaking in public. Yet, I’ve never come across someone who died from it. Wouldn’t you rather have a life of ‘oh, well's’ than a life of ‘what-if’s.’


Do you show up in every single moment like you’re meant to be there? Woody Allen states: “80% of life is just showing up.” No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never give up no matter how hard the journey feels. You’ll have good days, bad days, overwhelming days, tiring days, and can’t seem to go on days. Remember, you are always 100% responsible for how you act, no matter how you feel.


To sum up, some people bring joy when they arrive and some people bring joy when they leave. Do you want to be someone’s favorite hello or their happiest goodbye? Who do you bring to the party? How do you want to be perceived?


Be the attitude you want to be around.


Previous month: Life is hard, sometimes unfair, but still good.

Next month: Happiness is an Inside Job




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