Saturday, October 24, 2009

- Attitude And Altitude

"Your attitude determines your altitude."

I've been thinking today about attitude. You know, growing up, I don't think I ever heard a single thing about maintaining a good attitude in life! Isn't that incredible? My parents were good parents in many, many ways, and yet I don't remember a single time when they told me I should have an optimistic, healthy attitude towards life.

"A healthy attitude is contagious, but don't wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier."

Nor do I recall at any point a moment in school where teachers discussed anything about attitude. No, I think the first time I actually started becoming aware of this thing called attitude was in the past ten years. I began noticing a couple of individuals who never seemed to feel sorry for themselves; people who met life's challenges head on, with no hesitation or moods or moping or hysteria - just a confident, let's-get-things-done kind of reaction to their problems.


“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.”  – William James

The individuals I observed with this approach to life are devoid of self-pity, despite their "entitlement" to wallow in it. I'm sure privately, such individuals have their moments when they let it out emotionally for a time and experience their moments of grief, yet to the world, they present a calm, matter-of-a-fact attitude to the crisis in front of them.

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."  
- Martha Washington

The most crucial thing I've observed, though, about these people, is just how attractive they are. Because of their lack of self-pity and their cheery dispositions, people are drawn to them. They are admired, and they deserve to be admired.

Everyone has their own load in life. Have you ever heard this quote? "Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle." It's so true. Knowing that, who wants to be around someone who is negative and down all the time? It's just too draining. 

We've all got our own "stuff", and to be around someone whose "stuff" has turned them into negative, complaining, down-in-the-mouth people is just so depressing. I know that in order to stay sane and balanced in this particular crisis I'm in, I've had to avoid people like that, not because I don't care about them, but because right now, I can't afford to go down myself...I have to stay upbeat, positive and optimistic, and I don't feel I can carry someone else's burdens for the moment.

"Everyone has his burden. What counts is how you carry it." – Merle Miller

Now here's an important point - don't miss this: as with any truth, including this one, there's always a danger of going too far in one direction, which can end up being just - I don't know - weird. In talking about optimism, someone can end up feeling condemned because they don't have a "happy-clappy" approach to their condition or situation. They can feel like they've been a failure because the news they've received - that they have a serious illness, or that their spouse is leaving, or that their child is in desperate trouble - is just absolutely sinking them into depths of despair.

I am not suggesting you become a chronic "faker", telling everyone you're just peachy, when in fact, you're on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Suppressing our true emotions for any significant period of time is obviously unhealthy. If you're in the midst of a difficult illness or a life-changing crisis, for goodness sake, seek help to get you through and to strengthen you....there's absolutely no shame in that! We have support systems for a reason, and I, for one, would not be dealing well with this breast cancer if I didn't have good people around to cheer me on.

What I am saying is that even in the midst of tears, we can maintain a good attitude. Nobody can take away the power to choose our response and our attitude to our surroundings and our circumstances. We may feel overwhelmed at times; we may feel hard done by, or unfairly treated, or singled out for disaster, yet at the end of the day, the person who ends up most disadvantaged, most sorrowful, most embittered is the one who gives in to the temptation of self-pity and of a negative outlook.

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember those 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 person but the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances — to choose one's own way." - Viktor Frankl*

* Viktor Frankel survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Turkheim concentration camps.

"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." - Lou Holtz

I have no idea who this little guy is. Someone sent me an email and here he was, his cheery, bright face looking out into the world with optimism and joy. His glee is contagious! He is not aware of his disability, because he's too busy doing all the fun things life has to offer him. He's going about his day, he's doing what little boys do, and he's loving it.

I don't know his name. I don't know how old he is. All I know is that when I grow up, I want to be like him.

"What one approves, another scorns 
And thus his nature each discloses 
You find the rosebush full of thorns 
I find the thornbush full of roses."
- Arthur Guiterman


  1. Wendy, this one was the best yet!!!! We know that positivity is the most important thing right now and always. I can not bear to be around people who are negative. You put it into words so well!!! I love you.

  2. Really great quotes. Food for the soul. Thank you so much. Doug.

  3. Hi Wendy,
    I'm so enjoying your blogs and I know that countless others are too. You are a real inspiration and you won't know how many people you are touching. Your faith and positive outlook are contagious!

    Love and blessings,