As one of the three things we can control, choosing an attitude is a vital part of what makes us who we are.
When we evaluate what is most important to us, we often look at the influence of others or the effects of our circumstances. The choices we make, however, are what truly matter in the determining of our character. At the end of the day, we have to own the responsibility of who we are. Our circumstances can influence us. The people in our lives influence us as well. But we are not helpless victims of influence. It does not control us; it is suggestive, not definitive.
We must make our choices.
So many motivational posters, slogans, and quotes painted in locker rooms talk about attitude. We know it is important, and we feel inspired by the possibilities. But we seldom do much, if anything, to truly address the issue of choosing our attitude.
There is one fundamental mistake we make when we think about attitude. And that is the idea that attitude is always reactive. It makes it very difficult to make good choices when we only talk about attitude in the heat of the moment. It only comes up when we are already hopping mad. ‘Choose your attitude’, we might say just after getting punched in the face. It’s a hard time to introduce the idea.
Attitude is a double-edged sword, a two-way street. Sure, it is reactionary. How are we going to think about and respond to the stimuli presented? When something happens, we have a choice to make in response. But we also have choices on the front end.
The most effective way to approach attitude is to take ownership of it before something happens. Deciding on a perspective determines how we will approach situations, not just how we react to them.
Catalyst to Action
The hidden secret is that attitude is not just a tool for prescriptive healing. It can be a tool used as a catalyst for action.
Choosing an attitude can help usher us into healthier arenas. It can help introduce better circumstances, since we are not just victims of what happens but influencers as well.
Attitude is like bread in a sandwich. It surrounds what happens to be most effective.
We do not need to wait for some terrible circumstance to happen to initiate the process of choosing an attitude. The choice is available to us here and now.
Two things happen as a result. First, when things happen that do not meet our expectations, we are more equipped to respond to them because we have an attitude already set in place. We are better equipped to respond to our emotions if a standard of attitude has been established. Second, we will be able to more clearly see the truth behind what is happening around us. Choosing an attitude is an exercise in naming values and living towards a purpose. When we do this, it better equips us to see what is happening around us in context, as a part of the whole, so that circumstances are not defining in and of themselves.
It is not easy to choose an attitude. But it is simple. All it takes is a commitment in accordance with values. The reason we struggle with choosing an attitude is not because we do not want to or because we don’t agree with its worth. It is because we have not done the necessary introspection to properly name the vision for our lives. Simply put, we cannot commit to what we do not truly believe in. It’s like painting a house without putting the primer on first.
Naming our values makes it possible for us to be consistent and self-aware people. Truly believing in a transcendent purpose for our lives will motivate us to adopt an attitude that matches this purpose. Until we do so, we will continue to be tossed back and forth by the winds, fighting for things we can’t control while neglecting the things we can, and regretting the lost opportunities to live a better life.