“I have often thought that the best way to define a man’s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: ‘This is the real me!’ ” (William James).
ATTITUDE IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Despite what the motivational speakers usually say, attitude is not the prime requirement for the most important things in life. That requirement goes a good bit deeper than attitude, and here it is: truth in our “maps” of reality, i.e., our principles and beliefs. As Stephen R. Covey used to point out, if our maps are inaccurate, a positive mental attitude will only get us to the wrong destination faster.
But, of course, this doesn’t mean that attitude’s not important at all. Clearly, it is very important, and that’s what we want to emphasize today. As William James indicated in the quotation above, one of the prime indicators of a person’s character is the “particular mental or moral attitude in which . . . he [feels] himself most deeply and intensely active and alive.” Our attitudes well describe who we really are.
Two things about attitude are amazing to me: (1) we can alter our attitudes anytime we want to, and (2) when we do alter them, our lives can change radically. As William James famously said, “People can alter their lives by altering their attitudes.”
Many freedoms can be taken away from us, but the freedom to determine our own attitude is one that can’t be robbed by any other person. No one has written about this more eloquently than Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the WWII concentration camps in Europe. He wrote, “We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their 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 his freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
So my prayer for you is simple: do not go with the flow, but choose your own attitude — and be very careful what choice you make.
“The long span of the bridge of your life is supported by countless cables called habits, attitudes, and desires . . . Make the cables strong!” (L. G. Elliott).