Attitude is everything.
As a school leader I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of teachers and staff members over the past several decades along with thousands of parents and students. I worked closely with people who have suffered immeasurable loss and heartache and yet have approached suffering with such incredible perspective, positive attitude and gratitude while enduring their pain. And I have worked closely with folks who have not suffered much at all, yet who have allowed small setbacks to destroy their outlook on life and their attitude.
It is clear to me that one's own internal thermometer, so to speak, one's own attitude and mental framework determines how they will cope with life's events, both large and small. You know those people who are optimistic and enthusiastic no matter what. Each of us has friends who are typically upbeat most of the time, ready to take on the day, handling the negatives and curve balls thrown their way and have the keen ability to see the good in any situation. And there are the pessimists who are fearful, downtrodden most of the time and see what is wrong with any good thing that comes their way. These folks are "prophets of doom" about most things that happen.
So are we born optimists or pessimists? Is this an innate trait that we are genetically predisposed to? I am certain that there is a genetic component to our personalities. But I have also seen those who have had a "change in attitude" who learned to see things differently - those who used to "see the glass half empty" and due to some new perspective or life event have learned to "see the glass half full."
When I was a school counselor, I had the incredible opportunity to develop close relationships with students from less fortunate backgrounds. They were angry at life in general. These were kids who thought they got the "raw end of the deal" in life being born to poor families and lived in less than desirable surroundings. I explained to them how the poor families in America were in the top 10% of income brackets when compared to all the people in the world. I explained that a great majority of bread-winners from around the world earned less than those Americans on unemployment, Social Security, or earning minimum wage. I showed them photographs and videos of the masses living in squalor, and uninhabitable places and that the majority of children in the world go to bed hungry each and every night.
I must say, this did have an impact upon my students' attitude and helped them to develop attitudes of gratitude. There is so much to be thankful for. It could be so much worse for us. And this is not to discount those among us who suffer, are homeless and face serious challenges in their lives. Disease, death, tragedy, crime, divorce, abuse, all of these are real and so painful. I would never discount this! What I am referring to is daily life's perspective and experience. How we choose to view life, people, work, family, friends, and our daily reality is truly a choice we have control of. We can see evil intent, impure motives, and join the gossip of destruction or we can choose to build others up, see the good, give the benefit of doubt, not expend negative energy and become a positive influence in the lives of others we encounter.
These positive people are truly "lights shining in a dark world". They are encouragers and uplifters. They are sparks that can ignite a fire of energy and create attitudes of gratitude. I know many such people and I love being around them. Don't you? You will notice that the optimistic ("glass half full") people are typically sought out by others and never lack friends. Our classrooms have many that fit this description like Christina Ballard, Brian Corbett, Guillermo Jara, and Patty Yuen. Our office staff exemplifies positivity with people like Nancy Kahl, Kirsten Owen, and Jackie Valdez. Our PFC is filled with such encouragers, for instance Deanne Carlson, Karen Carmen, and Megan Kommer (I could have named so many more!).
This Thanksgiving Season, is such a great opportunity to share your love, appreciation and gratitude to others in your life. Tell your son/daughter what you appreciate about them and how thankful you are for them (and be specific about their character, actions, etc.). And let Thanksgiving be a part of everyday throughout the year. An attitude of gratitude is contagious!
In closing, take a moment to reflect on these two poignant quotes:
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we 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 the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes"
Charles Swindoll (1934- )
"Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it."
Wilfred Peterson (1900-1995)