The power of attitudes

There are few things more important to one seeking success than one’s attitude. Attitude is simply the way we choose to see things. Two people can look at the same thing and form two completely different pictures in their minds about what they’ve seen. One may see all the negative aspects of the scene. Zig Ziglar used to call that “stinkin thinkin.” The other person may see only opportunity and beauty. Which do you think will be more successful in their approach to life?

Victor Frankl survived the Nazi concentration camp and wrote a  powerful book about what he learned in that experience, Man’s Search for Meaning. One of the things he learned was about the power of attitudes. He wrote, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

There are many things in life which we cannot control, but we can control our attitude in every situation. We can choose to see the glass half-full or half-empty or better yet, choose to fill the glass. We can look at setbacks as obstacles or opportunities. We can choose to see failure as the end of a dream or a stepping stone to achieving our dream.

Some people naturally have a positive attitude about nearly everything. For others, we have to train ourselves to have a positive attitude. I’m in the latter camp. My temperament tends to be on the melancholic side which means I tend to want things to be a certain way, and when they are not I can easily get distressed and upset. Melancholics hold themselves and others to very high standards, and when we fail to meet those standards we can get down on ourselves and others. In the 1980s I battled clinical depression for a year which was due in part to this temperament.

However, the good news is that people can grow and learn to develop a better attitude. We can learn to be more forgiving of ourselves and others. We can learn to be more patient when things do not go exactly as we wish. We can learn to see failure in a more positive light. In short, there are many things anyone can do to develop a more positive attitude.

The most important thing to remember is what Frankl pointed out: we can choose our attitudes in any given circumstance. I can think of nothing more brutal than living in a concentration camp never knowing when it might be your turn to be taken to the gas chamber. Yet, even there people chose to live above their circumstances. They chose to look for opportunities to serve others.

Most of us will never have to endure such conditions so it should be easier for us to develop the right attitudes. The next time you try something and fail ask yourself what you can learn from that failure. The next time a sales call doesn’t result in a sale, don’t get upset but review what might have gone wrong and how you can do it differently next time. The next time your flight gets cancelled look for a constructive way you can use that extra time before your next flight. When we develop a more positive attitude it will have a positive effect on every aspect of our lives.

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