As far back as I can remember my dad had been trying to convey one very important piece of advice to me.
I’d go to him with questions; he’d proceed to blow my mind with anecdotes and bits of wisdom that have become the foundation of my life.
There’s one thing in particular that’s just now starting to make sense. It’s something that I wish I’d been able grasp when he first said it. It’s something that, until he passed away four years ago, didn’t register with me.
He’d say, “Life is all a matter of attitude.”
No matter what I had to say, regardless of what I was complaining about or asking for I got the same response, in one form or another:
“If that’s what you think, that’s how it will be.”
“Complaining about it won’t do you any good, why don’t you do something to change it?”
And, I would get frustrated.
What kind of bull shit advice is that? I’m supposed to think about things differently and expect them to change?
Now I see that, yes, that’s kind of how it works.
It’s all in your head
Henry Ford said; “Whether you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
It’s seems so simple, but it is much more difficult to accept. How we think about ourselves, our life, and circumstances can drastically alter our levels of happiness and stress.
Our attitude can even contribute to or detract from our achievements. A positive attitude, outlook, and overall sense of optimism are building blocks for success. Conversely, pessimism is a form of self-sabotage that will ruin us.
What Henry Ford was saying is that our thoughts dictate our actions.
Mahatma Gandhi expanded on Ford’s statement when he wrote;
Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.
And who am to argue with Gandhi?
If you’re unable or unwilling to accept the significance of positive thinking and attitude, you’re actively choosing to be negative. Right now you’re thinking up excuses and explanations for why this article is wrong. You can name 10 examples or scenarios where positive thinking didn’t matter one bit.
And, do you know why?
You Like Being Negative
It’s because you don’t want to take responsibility for your actions.
In your head you can tell yourself anything you’d like to justify your shortcomings. You didn’t get a promotion because you have a black cloud following you through life. You’re unhappy because terrible things always seem to happen to you. You can’t catch a break. You’re unlucky.
That kind of negative, pessimist self-talk allows you to blame someone or something else. It also clouds your vision and prevents you from seeing all of the really great things you have going for you.
That’s Exactly What I Did
When my dad died my whole world began to crumble.
For a while I just thought about how unfair it was. I felt bad for myself. I made excuses for underachieving and feeling depressed. I told myself that his death was a reflection of my bad luck and general misfortune. I blamed everything and everyone else for all the negativity.
Then I started writing, reflecting on all of the good advice my dad had given me.
Finally, it hit me. I wasn’t just grieving or upset; I was actively choosing to be negative. I had given up responsibility for my actions. I was forfeiting my freedom to choose my own way.
Taking Back Control
In a wonderful and thoughtful book Man’s Search for Meaning Holocaust survivor Victor Frankel writes about how, after losing everything, he manages to maintain a positive attitude. He wrote;
Everything can be taken from us but one thing: the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance, to choose one’s own way.
Go ahead and read that book, read what Frankel has to say, and then tell me that you can’t be more positive; that you’re attitude couldn’t use an adjustment.
Adjust Your Attitude
A positive outlook determines what we achieve, how happy we are, and how long we live. Use these tips to boost your positive thinking.
You can do it! – believe in yourself. You don’t have to know how to do everything, but you need to believe that, if you dedicate yourself to a goal, you can achieve it.
Have a goal – you can’t hit a target you don’t have. You can do anything remember? But, you can’t do everything; at least not all at once. Pick a goal and get to work achieving it.
Visualize your success – you’re body can’t go where your mind won’t push it. Prepare your mind for all of the amazing things that you’ll do. Replay your success in your head, meditating and visualizing your success will help you define a path to your goals.
Own it – you are the only person that can control your thoughts or actions. No excuses, no sob stories, and no more playing the victim. Own your life; take responsibility for your actions. If you become 1% unhappy with any aspect of your life it’s on you to change it.
Try talking to yourself – every day when I wake up I meditate for a few minutes. Yes, I’m visualizing my success, but I am also talking to myself. I am telling myself to be positive. I ask myself, “What good will I do today?” and “What adventures will I have today?” Then at the end of the day I try and answer those questions. I find myself trying to do good and trying to have an adventure; just by thinking about it.
No Negatives – from now on you don’t get to say “I can’t” or “I don’t know how.” If you want it, you can do it. I you don’t know how, you can learn. Nothing is good or bad, it just is. How we respond to circumstances determines our emotions. Respond with a positive and eliminate the negative.
Cut people out – this is going to sound harsh, but it’s true; some people don’t deserve your time. They might be someone you call a friend or even a family member. Either way, there’s a chance that they’re bringing you down. And, if that’s the case you have to cut them out. At minimum, you have to limit the amount of time you devote to them, their problems, and their negativity. From now on you only have time for positive, uplifting people who add value to your life.
Be grateful – count your blessings, everyday. Who and what are you grateful for? What skills or opportunities do you have? Stop focusing on all of the bad stuff, stop taking the good for granted. Focus on the good and try to eliminate the bad instead.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. – Ralph Waldo Emerson