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?
Attitude is everything in so many ways. The power of our thoughts are the building blocks of our reality according to Quantum Physics. Our thoughts are not self contained but rather go into the ether and influence our reality.
dean and susan
What a truly inspirational post, Wendi. I just love it! I think my epiphany came in my early 20s when I was living in a really remote area of Scotland. I was surrounded by magnificent, barren beauty, but I was completely miserable. It was only after I moved away that I gained perspective and began to accept that I was responsible for my attitude while I lived in that far away cottage. Me and me alone. And if I had embraced the experience for what it was, rather than bemoaning my lot and wishing I was somewhere else, somewhere with bookshops and cinemas and people, then I would have enjoyed my time there a lot more. If I could have a ‘do-over’ in my life, I think I’d like to have a shot at those 2 years again. I’m sure I’d make better use of them this time.
Benny Greenberg says
You know –
When you give positive you get positive and when you get positive you give positive. That is the plus side. The problem is if you do the opposite you also get the opposite. So, it is up to you to be sure to surround yourself with positive and try to give positive as much as possible. Stop watching the news and stop reading the news… There are so many other positive things you can do. I actually wrote a blog-post in reaction to a similar comment made on the InWorship blog. Check it out – if you want – it just may give you some positive food for thought.
I don’t know if you meant to or not, but that entire post seemed aimed at me! Not that its a bad thing, but after my last post, I wouldn’t be surprised. I have been told a few times about attitude and “choosing” how I felt about things. It is of course easier said than done, but it can’t even be done unless I try.
Thank you Wendi for the wake up call! I’ll probably be hitting the snooze a few times so keep it coming!!
No, you weren’t a personal target.:)
I think this is a universal subject that we all deal with to some extent more or less at certian times in our lives. It’s a hard one to keep a handle on!
I’m not sure I would want to do any part of my twenties over again! That was a rocky road!
Now maybe if I had your beautiful scenery to learn some of those lessons in…that would be different!
Karen Swim says
Wendi, what a beautiful and inspiring post. We all need an attitude adjustment at times. I once had a bad attitude about having a good attitude (I know it was ridiculous). I have always had a pretty good attitude but truly took control of it at age 19 when I was attacked. My unwillingness to be a victim led me to step up to the plate every day and take control of my attitude and life. Thank you Wendi for reminding us all that we determine our response to any situation that life brings our way.
Brett Legree says
I spent many years blowing in the wind. I went to school, got a good education, got a job. I was lucky to meet a wonderful woman, and have four wonderful kids. I’d say I was mostly happy. However, something wasn’t right – my career.
I was blowing in the wind. Then I made a choice. Yes, I’m still working where I was – but I have a vision. A goal. Direction. I’m using the wind to my advantage. I’ve put up a sail.
Thanks for the words today, Wendi.
You are right Wendi, Attitude determines almost, if not all, everything. We certainly have the power to choose our attitudes which in turn change our results and the outcomes. Once we choose our attitudes, the control falls back to us. I love that quotation from Victor Frankl, especially the last part, “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.” Thanks for the great post. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Mark Krusen says
I wasn’t blowing in the wind or anything like that. I was rotting in my Tractor Trailer. 28 years of doing a job I didn’t really like. Talk about an Attitude. Been there done that lost my tee shirt.
Timely post for me Wendi, for I have been “working” on my attitude for some time. Through the fog I am seeing some clarity. Thanks for putting it into words for me.
Melissa Donovan says
Isn’t it wonderful to be a survivor of teen baditude? I happen to know for a fact that some people never grow out of it. I’m ever thankful that you and I both did, Wendi 😉 We have only ourselves to thank for that (and the greater Universe) so let’s all just pat ourselves on the back for a second (I’m serious, self-back-patting leads to extremely positive attitude).
I think developing a positive outlook and choosing to chase thoughts that take you to a warm fuzzy place is very hard work, and it takes a long time to truly arrive. It is SO worth it though.
Vijayendra Mohanty says
I frequently fell out with my uncle who wanted me to conform to ‘family standards’. The rest of the family wanted me to conform to my uncle’s standards. It was a huge Indian joint family. My uncle was a tyrant. I hated him.
In time, I grew up (or so I like to believe). He grew old. Hs sons moved away and he seems so helpless and lonely these days. I feel guilty when I think of our fights.
Everything is set out if one can just wait things out.
How Not To Write says
I had the same weight problem when I became “successful.” I went from 200 to 400 pounds in less than 12 months. Shocking, but that’s what $10 lunches at taco bell and a high stakes programming job will to do a fella.
When I was wearing size 54 pants (yes, fifty-four) I got very sick. Couldn’t eat anything with fat in it. I change my ways, starting eating better, working less. Eventually I began exercising. I lost that 200 pounds in 18 months.
How did this happen in the first place?
Like Vijayendra, I had a family standard I was supposed to live up to. Unlike Vijayendra, I didn’t have the strength too chuck it off until it almost killed me.
Great post, Wendi.
I go back and forth with this Wendi. Right now, I feel like I am blowing in the wind. I don’t think that I can honestly say that I will never feel like I am totally at peace. Somedays I am. But then comes all of that negative programming that I got so good at over the years. Sure, I can blame my parents, my this and that. But I know now that it does no good. The funny thing is I want it to! Maybe I want it to so I don’t have the ultimate reponsibility that you speak of. The choice.
Old habits are hard work, aren’t they. Thanks Wendi, you do inspire me. Good stuff.
PS I gained 90 pounds with my son. Boy was I fat! But I eventually lost it.
I forgot to mention Victor Frankl. That is a great book, and a good lesson for all of us who haven’t had to go through that.
Sometimes I think it’s funny how we suffer here in the West and have all of these “things.” Doesn’t make any sense, does it?
Victor Frankl is very inspiring to me. When I think about what he went through, it is hard to have a bad day. I know what you men about not always wanting to take responsability. We all want a day off now and then. It gets tiring. Sometimes I think we just need to give ourselves a day of downtime and then get back to it.
Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker says
Being aware of my attitude and the fact that I could change it gave me the freedom of making choices. Growing up with a dictator father, I was never allowed to make choices, never realized that I had the right to make my own choices. Making my own choices is a freedom that I will always honor and cherish. Thanks for the inspiring article. I made copies and am passing it on to my sister and a close friend to read.
we have that Dad thing in common. In fact forgiving my perceived injustices of having a controlling father was the first step in really being able to make my own choices. He was doing the best he could with what he was raised with. Me being able to let go stopped a long, long train of history…or I could have just blown on with it.
I also cherish my freedom. I get annoyed with myself on those times when I realize I’ve let it slip away. It’s an ongoing thing for all of us I think.
How Not To Write
That weight thing…Amazing isn’t it?
My friends and I– a support group that we have become…we call it FatHead thinking. It’s astounding how it can sneak up on you..
Control-being thrust on us plays an important role in this for a lot of us.I was very rebellious…VERY. I think I almost put my poor mother in the grave before I came to my senses. We have a wonderful relationship now and many of the lessons I have learned I have learned from her.
Meliisa, I am glad we grew out of it too.
I don’t think that chip on her shoulder girl was very fun to be around!
A Sail… I like that.. That is good..
Sail that ship!
Thanks for being here,
I love that quote from him. He puts everything in perspective doesn’t he?
I know about being attacked. It happened when I was young and I think it did have a lot to do with my attitude getting broken…and the chip…but I didn’t put it altogether for many years. You are right, it is important not to allow yourself to be a victim.
I think that’s one of the reason’s Victor Frankl inspires me so much. They can hurt your body, they can’t take your choices, your mind.
I wish you could speak to my students the way you wrote your post. It was a hard knock on my head and I am sure it would have been just enough for them to forge an attitude that is just right. A character that stems from such an attitude is what maketh success come bowing down to you, It’s surprising that I haven’t come across this blog earlier, now that I do, I am hanging on.
keep posting coz I hate to see my Google reader empty.
That was inspiring. For awhile now I’ve been letting life push me where it will, and I only recently realized it. How odd that something so important can be happening to me, and no one has smacked me in the head and said, “Look you!”. 😉 So this post comes at a very opportune time for me, and helps in making me that much more determined to make the changes I’ve been making, one by one, to fix the things I don’t like about the life I’m living. Thanks for this.
Daz Cox says
I think the depression and negativity I experienced as a young adult was a phase that i needed to get through to appreciate my life the way I do today.
I wouldn’t change a thing now, but at the time it wasn’t as much fun as if I had had todays attitude but I wouldn’t have todays attitude if I had been all happy back then arrrgh paradox!