Attitude is one of those topics whose importance we all acknowledge. We’ve all heard and have probably quoted trite sayings about maintaining a positive attitude. But as with many truths, we tend to take attitude for granted. Perhaps some are even thinking now, “Yes, I know all about attitude, so let’s move on to something else.”
Recently, I was personally impacted by a quote from Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz, one of the Nazi death camps. Here was a man who had had everything take from him: his family, his freedom, his home, andall his possessions. Yet, here is what he observed:
Everything can be taken from a man 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.
It’s a given that we all experience trials, disappointments, deprivations, setbacks, and suffering of various kinds. But few of us experience those to the extent that Viktor Frankl did. Yet he elevates attitude over all other freedoms as that which empowers us to “choose our own way,” despite our circumstances.
Based on Frankl’s premise, let’s define attitude as: The freedom to choose our direction and trajectory regardless of our circumstances. In view of that definition, consider the following six results.
Our Attitude Determines:
1. How we view our situation. This is so vital, because we either see ourselves as victims
of our circumstances – powerless to change them. Or, we view our circumstances as something temporary that we have power to influence.
2. How we treat others. When we have a sour, woe-is-me attitude, we treat others the way
we feel. We’re insensitive toward their needs because our own needs take precedence. We are
totally self-focused. We shut others out. We’re curt with them. We anger easily. We’re very hard
to live with.
3. How others see us. Following from the previous point, our attitude determines largely what others think of us. If our attitude stinks, we repel others and they take measures to stay out of our way. Nobody wants to follow a moping narcissist! But if we maintain a winsome attitude, we attract others to ourselves and they feel blessed by our presence.
4. How happy we’ll be. Circumstances are fickle. Those who allow circumstances to dictate
their happiness are also fickle, blown about by the winds of change. But those who choose to be happy no matter what, rise above their circumstances and achieve a much richer version of
5. How we plan and conduct our lives and business. If we think we can, we plan, prepare and follow through with actions that will move us closer to our goals. If we think we can’t, then we probably won’t even try.
6. How successful we’ll be. We typically get what we expect. Our attitude tends to create a
self-fulfilling prophecy. Successful film producer, Samuel Goldwyn, said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” With a successful mindset, we work hard. And as we work hard, new opportunities serendipitously present themselves that we otherwise wouldn’t experience.
How to Cultivate a Positive Attitude
Maintaining a healthy, positive attitude doesn’t come naturally or easy. It takes discipline and hard work. But it’s well worth it and with practice a positive attitude can become habitual. Here are three powerful attitudes to focus on that make a huge difference
Thankfulness – Choose to live with a grateful heart. Thank others always and cultivate thankfulness in all you do. A thankful person is a joyful person. A thankful person is a humble person. Thankfulness is a natural attractant. When you are thankful, others want to spend time with you.
Hope – Live with the expectancy that things will improve, change, or that new pleasures and
victories await you. A hopeful attitude is perhaps the most difficult to cultivate in the face of cruel circumstances. But there is always something to be hopeful for and to look forward to. Cultivate hope by investing in hopeful activities and setting incremental, attainable goals.
Believe the best of others – Relationships are the joy of life. People are what really matter. When we believe the best of others, we treat them with respect, and we gain their respect. Believing the best of others allows us to live a more carefree life and may help change those who don’t have our best in mind.
Attitude is the freedom to choose your direction and trajectory regardless of your circumstances. When you forfeit that freedom, you’re helplessly tossed about by the whims of uncertain circumstances. Stephen Covey urges:
Sow a thought, reap an action;
Sow an action, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character;
Sow a character, reap a destiny.