We live in a world filled with negativity. I personally believe that we have created a culture where being overly negative and pessimistic is the norm and expected. Frankly, I think we as people like being the Debbie Downer. We “lose faith in humanity” on a daily basis, love to over-criticize everything, attack each other because we are different and have no hope for beautiful things in this life. The “Woe is Me” perspective is alive and thriving today. It’s a societal attitude that is destroying our capability to strive for greatness in our lives. We cannot be great in this life if we aren’t modeling greatness in our thinking.
The truth, negative thoughts leads to negative outcomes and positive thoughts leads to positive outcomes. Groundbreaking, I know. But it is that simple. If you constantly focus on the negative, the bad, the miserable, your life is going to be negative, bad and miserable. Your mindset and your perspective of life’s circumstances directly affect the life you are living.
I have said in many blog posts and presentations that I am not an expert on anything. I am not formally educated as a counselor and I am definitely not a life coach. Trust me, I have many flaws and shortcomings. What I am, however, is a guy who has experienced life change through a shift in mindset and perspective. I am a broken man who serves as a witness to how adjusting your perspective can change your life. It happened, and is happening, for me right now and my life is much better because of it. I want to share a few of the changes that I have made over the years that have helped me. I hope you might find one, or all, encouraging and helpful.
Years ago, as a leader within a Fortune 500 company, I learned how my attitude affected my employees. I learned that employees, and people in general, take on the attitude of their leader. When I was high, they were high. When I was low, they were low. Low attitude led to low energy which led to poor results. I also realized that an inconsistent attitude left my team wondering “what are we going to get from Aaron today?” My rollercoaster attitude left uncertainty with my team and I was unable to set the proper expectation. My attitude mattered and if I didn’t make the appropriate changes then my team would suffer, I would suffer and the company as a whole would too. So I made a change. I made the choice that my circumstances and the things happening to me would not affect my attitude. I would choose to always have a positive attitude. I would always be “Outstanding”.
It has been more than a decade since I made that decision to change my attitude and I have reaped the benefits. It has allowed me to grow in personal relationships, in my professional life and as a person. My “outstanding” attitude has opened new doors, led me through the depths of darkness and a period of uncertainty, and allowed me to earn a position of influence in the lives of others. By maintaining the right attitude, the right mindset, I can handle any challenge that life presents me. Others have noticed my attitude. There isn’t a week that goes by that someone doesn’t make a comment about my attitude. And it is contagious. It spreads like a disease and affects everyone it touches.
A consistent, positive attitude isn’t easy. It takes work. There are days and times when life kicks your ass. It is easy to become negative in those situations. Our circumstances have a gravitational pull on our attitude and they will suck our attitude into the dark abyss if we allow them. We cannot let that happen. We must fight to maintain that consistent, positive attitude despite the fact that we feel like the walls are caving in. Maintaining an “outstanding” attitude may be difficult, but it is totally worth it.
What and How, Not Why
Life is difficult and there will times of hardship and suffering. When we experience the violent storms of life we are quick to ask “why”. Why is this happening to me? Why would God allow this to happen? Why me? Why? I was that way at one point in my life. When I lost my corporate job at the only company I had ever worked with, I asked why. I probably asked it a thousand times. I was angry and couldn’t understand why I was experiencing that pain. I was treated like a criminal because I stood up for what I believed. I lost my job because I cared about my employees and I was honest. Why? I couldn’t understand. Morally and ethically I had done the right thing. And then I learned that it isn’t about the why, but the what and how.
Life’s challenges are filled with lessons that we need to learn. The things you wish were removed from your life are often the very things God is using to shape and develop you. There is something more important than your pain. It’s what you are learning from that pain and how you can use it to help others. So when adversity strikes, ask “What am I suppose to learn?” and “how am I suppose to use it to help others?” That is the what and the how.
My daughter unexpectedly lost her hair a year ago. In a matter of 48 hours she lost over 50% of her hair. We ended up shaving her head. She was completely bald. The days and weeks that followed were hard. MaKenna struggled with her self-esteem. People mistook her for a boy and they often commented about “her cancer”. As a dad, those days were tough. I didn’t have answers. I didn’t know how to console her. I couldn’t help her. I didn’t understand it and could have spent hours asking why. Instead, we focused on the what and how. What were we supposed to learn and how can we use it to help others? It helped. MaKenna learned that beauty is not defined by a hairstyle and that she is strong. I learned some things that will make me a better dad in the long run. We are now using that knowledge in an effort to help other people. We have a dream for a children’s book about a girl who loses her hair and learns that her beauty and worth are not defined by her hairstyle. We believe there are others who need to learn that lesson. We can now be witnesses. Our trial was a learning experience that can now be used to help someone else.
Looking at the challenges of life from this perspective make them easier to handle. Focusing on how we can grow during times of discomfort changes everything.
Get To vs. Have To
The alarm goes off early Monday morning. I’m tired and struggle to wake up. I want to stay in my warm bed and sleep longer.
I can’t. I have to wake up. I have to rise out of bed. I have to get ready. I have to go to work.
Does this sound familiar? Do you struggle on Monday mornings? Every morning? I did for many years. Then, I changed my perspective. Today, I look at that same situation different. When the alarm goes off I get to wake up. God has given me the gift of breath and the treasure of another day. I get to rise out of bed because I have my health and I am physically able to get up. I am not confined to my bed. I get to get ready. I have a home, clothes and the hygiene items I need to feel good and prepare for the day. I get to go to work. I am lucky that I have a job when so many others don’t. I am able to make money which allows me to provide for my family. I get to go spend time with co-workers who I like, who care about me and who support me. I get to perform a job that positively impacts the lives of others. I get to do all of these things, I don’t have to. They are gifts. Are you with me? Does this make any sense?
When we shift our perspective from “I have to” to “I get to” life changes. An adjustment in mindset re-centers our focus on the positive. It allows us to see the good in bad situations. We begin to see the beauty when the ugly exists. We must open our eyes up to the beauty that exists in front of us daily and celebrate it. Only then will we be in the right mindset to enact change in our culture and our world.
What are your thoughts? What changes in perspective have you made that have improved your life? I would love to hear about them.