“Why do you say that?” my friend inquired.
“This morning I had to deal with a snarly clerk at the post office,” I replied, taking a sip from my water bottle.
“Everyone is wrestling with problems, aren’t they?”
“It seems that way,” I responded, feeling like there was something else coming. “People are dealing with a lot of unhappy experiences.”
“Is the experience the problem?” he prodded.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude towards the problem,” he replied, mimicking captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Carribean.
“So, you’re saying that it’s people’s attitudes that are causing them to be unhappy?”
“But, what if you’ve been sent to prison for a crime you didn’t commit?” I figured I had him cornered with that one!
“Victor Frankl, who survived a concentration camp during WWII said, ‘we don’t get to choose our experiences, but we do get to choose our attitude towards our experiences.'”
“So we should be happy under such circumstances?”
“You don’t have to be happy, but you can certainly choose not to be sad.”
“I guess,” I said, still not totally convinced. Then I thought about the movie, Cast Away, and how Tom Hanks’ character, remained positive and never gave up hope, despite his predicament. Even though it was a movie, it served as a reminder that it’s far better to focus on finding a solution to the problem than feeling down because of the problem. Clearly, a positive attitude helped him survive the ordeal.
“All great leaders have a great attitude,” my friend went on.
“That’s true,” I agreed, thinking about Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Winston Churchill. I also thought about a guy I used to work with several years ago. He rose very rapidly to become president of the company. The idea of a problem wasn’t part of his thinking. He looked at everything as just something you had to deal with.
“It’s hard to inspire people when you’ve got a bad attitude.”
“Why do some people have good attitudes, while others don’t?” I asked. I was thinking about a guy I had stopped fishing with because he was so negative. Even when he caught a fish he complained, because it wasn’t big enough.
“I suppose it has a lot to do with your family and in particular, the attitude of your parents.”
“Yes, I guess if you’re surrounded by positivism and optimism, you’re more likely to develop a good attitude.”
“Undoubtedly. If I’m with someone who says, ‘I hate this and I hate that,’ I just politely excuse myself and leave.”
“I’m the same way with people who say everything sucks!”
“No point in letting people with bad attitudes bring you down.”
“Well, if you’re aware that yours is not ideal and you’ve made the choice to change, then you can do a couple of things. First, use really positive language, words like awesome, fantastic, beautiful and amazing. They’re uplifting and they make you feel great. And second, be kind, complimentary, honest and helpful.”
“Yes, it’s pretty hard to have a negative outlook when you’re being kind.”
“Or when you’re fishing!” he agreed with a smile.
“Having a good attitude is really important,” I proudly observed, enjoying the irony of his last statement.
“It’s everything,” my friend agreed.
Have an awesomely optimistic day!