It seems the word “Attitude” has a bad rap. It’s kind of like the word “Diet”, we tend to get this negative connotation when in fact everyone has some sort of diet and everyone has some sort of attitude. It’s easy to have a good attitude when things are going good. But what about when things aren’t going well, are we doomed to have the cloud of pessimism following us around until things improve?
Isn’t it amazing how our attitude can totally change, for better or worse, the way we feel about a particular experience? For example, if we are in a bad mood we may take everything our spouse says as a personal attack. We may not even notice that our child is lovingly smiling up at us waiting for a hug. We only see the mess our toddler made and not the carefully painted picture they made for us. We don’t see the beautiful sunshine or wonderful fall leaves. Why is this? Why does a bad mood make everything seem so negative?
Well, my theory is that when we are in a bad mood we are thinking about one person, ourselves. We are so focused inward that we have blinders on to everything around us. Thus our feelings are stuck on our own problems and own negativity. The very opposite occurs when we are have a positive attitude. We focus outward. We see, we hear, we experience things from a more holistic and complete approach because we are seeing a bigger picture. We serve because we can see needs beyond ourselves and thus we gain added joy from that service.
These phenomena could be compared to taking a picture. We could just take a picture of the grape jelly stain on the white table cloth. If we do that, we will only see the stain and we won’t have a positive outlook for that poor table. But what if we were to zoom out a bit and take a picture of the entire table. Well, then we might see that the table is made of a beautiful marble or hardwood, that it is set with a seemingly perfect (from this larger view) white table cloth and a beautiful centerpiece of a Thanksgiving cornucopia, which is surrounded by all the lovely and delicious fixings for a Thanksgiving feast. Would our view and thoughts of this table change now? Would we be seeing it in a more positive light?
Well just like the focus of the lens on a camera, we have the power to choose how we are going to look at things and experiences. One of my favorite quotes of late is “We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.” by Thomas S. Monson. We are not a victim of circumstance, we can choose how we will look at and see each aspect of our lives. Is this easy? No, no one ever said it would be, or should be. It’s part of our life’s journey and our duty to learn self-mastery.
If we choose to look at every experience as an opportunity, rather than bad luck or punishment, we will begin to notice two things. First, that nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Secondly, that even when things are bad, there is always something you can learn that will make us better off in the end.
So why not try it? Instead of thinking “Why me?” or “Poor me.”, let’s try thinking, “What can I learn?” and “What CAN I DO?” If you can’t change the situation, you can always change your attitude.
So, what has helped you face challenges with optimism? Have you ever seen a situation in which you could see how a more positive attitude would improve it?