Jeff, a restaurant manager, was always positive. When someone would ask him how he was doing, we would reply, “If I were any better, I’d be twins!”
One day he was asked, “How do you do it? I don’t get it; you can’t be a positive person all of the time.”
Jeff replied, “Each morning, I wake up and say to myself, Jeff, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or choose to be in a bad mood; I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or choose to learn from it; I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or point out the positive side of life; I choose the positive side of life. The bottom line of life is: It’s my choice how I will live life.”
A few months later, an unfortunate experience put Jeff’s positive philosophy was put to the test. One morning he left the back door to his restaurant open and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him.
Luckily, Jeff was found quickly and rushed to the local trauma center. Wheeled into the emergency room, he saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses. In their eyes, he read, He’s a dead man.
A big, burly nurse was shouting questions at him. One question she asked was if he were allergic to anything. “Yes,” Jeff replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for his answer. Jeff took a deep breath and loudly said, “Bullets!” Over their laughter, he told them, “I’m choosing to live. Treat me as if I’m alive, not dead.”
Jeff lived thanks to the skill of his doctors and his amazingly positive attitude.
Attitude is our response to life. It is our choice. Attitude is perhaps more important than education, experience, and endowment in living life to the fullest. An optimistic attitude fuels one’s fire to greater heights. When one’s attitude is right, no barrier is too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, and no challenge too great.
William James, the father of American psychology, stated, “The great discovery of my generation is that people can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
Attitude is a mental choice. How do we choose a positive attitude?
- Choose positive thoughts.
If we want to live positively, we must carefully choose what we think. Solomon wrote, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (Prov. 4:23 GN).
Remember, “You’re not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.” Did you hear that? You’re not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.” Mohandas Gandhi wrote, “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”
A little girl complained to her mother that she had a stomachache and didn’t feel like going to church. Her mother said, “Your stomach hurts because it is empty. It will feel better when you put something in it.” They went to church, and as they were leaving, the pastor mentioned that he had a headache. The little girl told him, “Your head hurts because it is empty. It will feel better when you put something in it.”
In a way, she was right because how one feels is determined by what one puts in one head. Thoughts are the seeds one plants for future attitudes. What you think about today is what you will do tomorrow.
The way we think determines how we feel, and how we feel determines the way we act. So if you want to change your actions, change the way you think. If you’re going to change your attitudes, change the thoughts you put in your mind. Sometimes you may act negatively; you may worry, be angry, be depressed, complain, or criticize. Do you know why? Because you feel that way. Do you know why you feel that way? Because you are thinking negative thoughts. So if you want to change your actions, don’t focus on your feelings; focus on changing your thoughts.
2. Choose positive responses.
Out West, a cowboy was driving down a dirt road, his dog riding in the back of the pickup truck, his faithful horse in the trailer behind. He failed to negotiate a curve and had a terrible accident.
Sometime later, a highway patrol officer came on the scene. An animal lover, he saw the horse first. Realizing its injuries’ serious nature, he drew his service revolver and put the animal out of his misery. He walked around the pickup truck and found the dog, also hurt critically. He couldn’t bear to hear it whine in pain, so he ended the dog’s suffering as well.
Finally, he located the cowboy—who suffered multiple fractures—off in the weeds. “Hey, are you okay?” the cop asked. The cowboy took one look at the smoking revolver in the trooper’s hand and quickly replied, “Never felt better!”
Someone once said that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent of how we respond to it. One of the most significant decisions we can make on a day-to-day basis is choosing a positive attitude.
Dr. Victor Frankl, the bold, courageous Jew who became a prisoner during the Holocaust, endured years of indignity and humiliation by the Nazis before he was finally liberated. At the beginning of his ordeal, he walked into a Gestapo courtroom. His captors had taken away his home and family, his cherished freedom, his possessions, even his watch and wedding ring. They had shaved his head and stripped his clothing off his body. There he stood before the German high command, being interrogated and falsely accused. He was destitute, a helpless pawn in the hands of brutal, prejudiced, sadistic men. He had nothing. Until he realized that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s way.”
No matter what anyone would ever do to him, regardless of what the future held for him, his response was his to make. Bitterness or forgiveness. To give up or to go on. To feel good or to feel bad. Hatred or hope. He would choose, like Jeff, the restaurant manager, to go on.
Between stimulus and response, we have the freedom to choose. We have response-ability—the ability to choose our responses. The right choice makes all the difference.
One of the most significant decisions a person can make on a day-to-day basis is their response to what life throws at them. Our response is perhaps more important than education, experience, and endowment. Attitude alone fuels one’s fire or assaults one’s hope. When one’s attitude is right, no barrier is too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, and no challenge too great.
And when people make that conscious response of a positive attitude, the sky is the limit. A person’s attitude determines their altitude.
3. Choose a positive outlook.
While making rounds visiting the terminally ill, a doctor asked the patients if they had any final requests. He entered an older lady’s room and asked, “Is there anything I can arrange before you pass on?” She replied, “Yes, I’d like to see my immediate family one more time.” “Of course,” said the doctor, “we’ll arrange it.” He asked a second patient for his wishes. “I’m a Catholic,” murmured the man. “I’d like to see a priest for confession and the last rites.” “Certainly,” replied the doctor. Then he approached the third patient, “Have you any last wish, sir?” he inquired. “Yes,” gasped the old man. “My last wish is to see another doctor.” He focused on living, not on dying.
A new driver for an interstate trucking company found the long cross-country trips extremely tiring. But he noticed that the older driver who traveled with him seemed to thrive on the road. He always looked as fresh at the end of the ride as he did at the start. One day the young man asked the older one what his secret was. “It’s all in your attitude,” he replied. “While you went to work this morning, I went for a ride in the country.” He focused on the beauty of the scenery, not on the struggle of the trip.
A disabled boy sold pots and pans from door to door. One day he called on a lady who was not interested in what he had to sell. As he turned to walk away, she noticed his limp and called to him, “I didn’t see you’re crippled legs. Come back, and I will buy something from you.” The boy was selling pots and pans, not sympathy, and he told her so. She said to him, “Being crippled must color your life.” He said, “Yes, ma’am, it does. But I choose the color.” He focused on the rainbow, not on the rain.
An organization offered a bounty of $5,000 for wolves captured alive. It turned Sam and Jed into fortune hunters. Day and night, they scoured the mountains and forests, looking for their valuable prey. Exhausted one night, they fell asleep dreaming of their potential fortune. Suddenly, Sam awoke to see that about fifty wolves surrounded them with flaming eyes and bared teeth. He nudged his friend and said, “Jed, wake up! We’re rich!” He focused on the opportunity, not on the problem.
Positive thoughts, choices, and outlook make the difference.
Chuck Swindoll wrote, “Attitude will make or break a company, a church, or a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.”