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I can not always choose what happens to me, but I can always choose what happens in me. – John Maxwell

What is our attitude? Where does it come from? What does it seem so hard for us to notice and also so hard to change? Why do some people appear to have a great attitude whereas others have difficulty in this area? Why do some people bring light into a room when they enter it and others when they leave it?

In his book, The Difference Maker, author, and speaker John Maxwell says ” I think of attitude as an inward feeling expressed by outward behavior.”  It is true that it is very difficult for us to hide our feelings and they do show up in the way we talk and the way we behave towards others or towards our circumstances. It is very difficult to fool people for any length of time about our feelings.

Who has not heard someone say “you have a bad attitude” at some point in their life?       We may not notice this but others see right through us. But where do our attitudes come from? In his book, The Difference Maker John Maxwell examines 8 sources or factors that contribute to our overall attitude.

  • Our Personality

  • Our Environment

  • Words Spoken By Others

  • How We See Ourselves

  • What We Experience

  • Who We Associate With

  • Our Beliefs

  • Our Choices

Our Personality

We are all wired uniquely to be who we are. Some of us react to life and circumstances and others react differently. Some of us are laid-back where others are always on edge. Some like to be around people and please people whereas others are the lone ranger or hard-driven types. Our personality can play an important role in how we view life circumstances and other people.

Our Environment

The environment we grew up in has helped to shape our views on what we think and what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. Certain situations or life situations may have caused us to be overly protective or cautious. Perhaps we are fearful of making connections because of our past. Or, perhaps our environment promoted a strong self-image and a positive outlook on life.

Words Spoken By Others

Words spoken to us, especially during our early years of growing up, can have a tremendous impact on us and how we see ourselves. Hurtful words spoken to a child can end up searing a negative image in his or her mind. As the saying goes “Hurting people hurt people and they are easily hurt by them”.  We can carry the scars from scorching words many years after the fact. Similarly, positive words can change the course of a person’s life in significant ways. Words are powerful in impacting a person’s life.

How We See Ourselves

This section goes hand in hand with the previous two- environment and words because our self-image is often (but not always) a result of the environment we grew up in and the words spoken to us. I would like to reiterate that this is not always the case since there are many examples of people growing up in harsh environments and yet turned out to have very positive attitudes. But, having said this, it is common for us to attach invisible labels to ourselves and then to stay or live within the boundaries these labels have set for us. How we see ourselves determines how we treat others and how we face life.

What We Experience

Our exposure to people and places and opportunities we have had contribute to our accumulation of experience. Some of us may have had the opportunity to travel and experience new cultures.  We may have opportunities to participate in projects and be in various environments. Others may not have had many opportunities. In either case, opportunities or lack of opportunities can play a role in how we approach life. Writer Voltaire compared life to a deck of cards – players have to accept the hand they are dealt with, but after that, they are in charge of how they play the cards.

Who We Associate With

We all know the saying “birds of a feather flock together” or “like minds think alike”.We may have echos from our childhood of our parents telling us to “not to get in with the wrong crowd”. It really is true that we end up becoming like the people we spend the most time with. If we tend to associate with people who are generally negative or sour about life, there is a strong chance that being around them a lot will rub off on us. This should give us some food for thought. Who we associate with is entirely within our control. We can choose our association.

Our Beliefs

What we think here and now is a primary factor in shaping our attitudes. We may not be able to control what happened to us in the past or change it, but we do have control over what and how we choose to think.  Our thoughts literally shape our lives. What we think about a person or a situation will determine how we will act and the choices we will make. As John Maxwell writes:

“The sum of all your thoughts comprises your overall attitude.” – John Maxwell

An author and businessman wrote the following about thoughts

“I can make you rise or fall. I can work for you or against you. I can make you a success or a failure. I control the way that you feel and the way you act.”

Our Choices

We don’t begin our lives with many choices, but as we grow, we become increasingly in charge of and the recipients of the impact of the choices that we make. Our lives are literally shaped by the choices we make as a result of the thoughts that we think. Our choices become increasingly significant in how our lives will go. When we are younger, we have fewer choices to make. Our lives are largely determined by circumstances and those in a position to guide us. But later on, circumstances have a smaller role to play and our decisions take on a greater role in how our life pans out.

Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor who lost his pregnant wife, his parents and his brother in the concentration camps and who suffered through the brutal reality of the worst humanity had to offer in Auschwitz, said the following:

“The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl

Our attitude is what we make it – how we process where we have come from, what we have experienced and what we think about ourselves, others and our life through the lens we choose to use. Attitude can make us or break us and it will always be The Difference Maker.

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, traveling, learning, and pursuing a debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life.  You can connect with her through