We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others giving away the last piece of bread. They may have been few in number- but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
~Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Somewhere around the age thirteen, something inside of my brain must have gone haywire. Although it wasn’t readily apparent to me, my mother was instantly aware of the break down and went on HIGH ATTACK MODE to get this offending part of my brain back in working order. The offensive part of my brain no longer working was my ATTITUDE.
IT needed a changing.
I know this because she told me. Daily. Sometimes hourly.
“You better change your at-it-ude young Lady……” she glared at me, eyes narrowed, finger wagging…
” And just how do I DO that…specifically?” I would retort, I admit with a high level of sarcasm, but also with a great deal of confusion. I had no idea what an ATTITUDE was. Let alone, any clue of how to CHANGE it. This ongoing conversation befuddled my mind. My attitude was obviously wrong, up to no good, and in need of fixing. It was also…out of MY CONTROL. Because at the age of thirteen, I had no idea that attitude could be changed, controlled, or corrected.
In fact, I still didn’t understand it for several years after that. By seventeen, I found out that I had a “CHIP” on my shoulder as well. How the heck that got there, I hadn’t a clue. Must have grown there as a result of my broken and bad at-ti-tude. All I knew was that I didn’t put it there. It sure as HECK wasn’t MY fault. And whoever had put it there, could just come and take it off themselves, it wasn’t MY problem…cause I didn’t CARE what other people thought. I was busy doing my own thing.
I would like to tell you that one day I woke up with a wonderful epiphany that miraculously saved me from my rotten disposition and knocked the chip off my shoulder, but unfortunately it took me becoming a student in a long-term program at the School of Hard Knocks. In fact I signed up for my PhD. What I realized as I went from one trial and tribulation to the next in the exciting adventure that became the LIFE OF WENDI is that no matter how hard things got to be, I was -in fact- in charge of how I felt about it and what I was going to do about it. I learned that I had choices. I could choose how I wanted to react and that the choices I made directly affected the outcome and other people’s reactions.
There was that old cause and affect thing my ol’ mom had been trying to lecture me about the whole time…
As a Man Thinketh so He is…
You can change your attitude by changing your thoughts. If you can choose your thoughts, you can choose your attitude. By choosing your attitude, you can affect your outcomes. By affecting your outcomes, you can change your life. By changing your life, you change lives for everyone.
In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey explains Victor Frankl’s experience in the Nazi concentration camps. Frankl, both a psychiatrist and a Jew, was imprisoned along with his wife, parents, brother and sister. His parents, brother and wife all died in the camps, or were sent to the gas ovens. Frankl suffered the tortures and inhuman indignities, never knowing from one day to the next what his fate would be. Victor Frankl realized in the midst of such horror that in the moment between the stimulus and the response there was a fundamental principle about the nature of man… the freedom to choose.
When I made this discovery in my own life, somewhere in my young-twenties, my life took on a drastic turn. No longer was I a victim, blowing in the wind, feeling angry at the twists and turns that life had DONE to me. I was in control. I had choices. I could forgive. I could choose to forget and move on. I could just let go and think about something else. Move forward. Make a plan.
Make a life. Change my attitude. Get happy.
No more chip on my shoulder.
It isn’t easy. Sometimes we don’t really know what we are thinking. Sometimes we don’t always know what we are feeling. A little later in my life, a decade or so later, my train got off track. I didn’t notice right away. I thought I was happy. I wanted to be happy. I was successful. That felt euphoric. I confused that with happy. I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t listen to my inside voices. I stuffed them down. I stuffed in food instead. I got more successful. I also got more large. I got more confused. I ate more food. I got more successful. I got less happy. I got FAT. I got a BAD FAT ATTITUDE.
I had no idea what was wrong. I didn’t know why I was sad, why my life was a big mess, why I was miserable and why everyone else thought I was a big huge wonderful success.
I wasn’t making choices anymore. I was reacting to life, not choosing life. I wasn’t listening to my inner voices, I wasn’t choosing to have good thoughts, I wasn’t paying attention to what internal scripts were running around in my head or whether or not I was going to let them play in there. I was blowing in the wind again.
I started paying attention. Making choices. I lost 50 pounds. Changed jobs. Put my family first. Changed my life so that it reflected my values and principles, not a paycheck. I got happy again.
Are you blowing in the wind? Are you making choices? Or are you just reacting to choices that other people are making for you? You can choose your attitude. You can change your life. You have the freedom to choose.
Where are the areas of your life that you have learned the lessons of choice? Where are the areas that you still can work on choosing?
Are you listening to your inner voice?
How is your attitude?