“In everyday, there are 1,440 minutes – that means we have 1,440 daily opportunities to make a positive impact.” – Les Brown

It sounds cliché, but it is actually very true- our attitude makes all the difference. Author and leadership speaker John Maxwell has written a book entitled The Difference Maker which develops this idea of attitude being what makes the difference in our life. is the only thing we have control over. In a world where so many things happen to us and around us, it is sometimes hard to see clearly and get on top of circumstances. Many, many people feel disempowered or powerless in the face of adversity, imagining that circumstances determine their fate.

I can understand how easy it is to fall into this trap of helplessness – we have all been there. Life can sometimes be overpowering and the solutions are not always clear as we would like. Things happen. Life happens. One day does not resemble the day before or the day after. We wonder why things happen and why they happen to us. It is often hard to see the big picture when you are driving through the mud.

I’d like to start with a few quotes on attitude, if I may. The first one is from Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who lost parents and siblings during WWII:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Viktor E. Frankl

Winston Churchill, who led England into it’s ‘finest hour’ said:

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Author and Leadership speaker, John Maxwell said:

Your attitude towards failure determines your attitude after failure.

So there it is three not so different thoughts on attitude. But how is attitude the difference maker?, An attitude is a choice, a response to what happens to us and around us and it is the only absolute choice we have. Our attitude is more important than our situation, it is more important than our relationships, it is more important than our job or lack thereof, more important than our work,  more important than our problems and more important than our financial troubles. Everything that happens to us is filtered through our attitude.

Our only limitation in life is how we think about life. Events may happen once, but we can make them continue on over and over or we can stop them in their tracks by how we think.

Wash the Window and Reframe

In his book AttitudIs Everythingauthor  Jeff Keller writes that our attitude is our window to the world. He references George Bernard Shaw who (paraphrasing) said that we are the window through which we view the world. Jeff Keller writes that we all begin with a more or less clean window, but then life starts throwing dirt at our windows (criticism, ridicule, rejection, disappointments, and doubts. The dirt accumulates and we don’t wash it off.

So that’s it! We need to get the grime off our window to see clearly. When our “window to the world” (our attitude) is wiped clean, we can begin to have confidence and see the world differently. As Jeff Keller says, our attitude affects the way we see everything in life.

The analogy of a car windshield is interesting. When our windshield is dusty or smeared it is hard to anticipate obstacles. How much easier is it to see the road and to drive when our windshield is clear? With a clean windshield, it is easier to drive proactively.

After we get the grime off the “window” or “windshield”, we can reframe or stare out at life with a new frame of reference. We don’t have to allow all the grime to boggle us down and control how we live. Reframing also means taking control of our attitude. It means deciding to make decisions and respond to life situations and events from a new perspective.

How to Handle Adversity

Well-known and respected UCLA basketball coach John Wooden gave his players two sets of three rules to live by. The second set of rules (for handling adversity) are:

  1. Never Whine

  2. Never Complain

  3. Never Make Excuses

Whining is the first step in having a bad attitude. It is the first clue that a bad attitude is starting up. We could say it is akin to the common cold noticeable by the nasal way of speaking. It might be a good idea to nip it in the bud at this juncture before it gets worse or turns into a habit. Whining begins with our thoughts and is the initial stage of the process of becoming a victim.

Never complain. Complaining is akin to the cold turning into pneumonia. It may have begun with a bit of whining, but now it has become more annoying. Complaining points a finger at circumstances or people indicating that they are the reason for our troubles.  This behavior disempowers us by taking us out of the solution-finding process. Complaining never has and never will help us find a solution.

Never Make Excuses. Like complaining, making excuses doesn’t fix the problem and often makes the problem worse. By the time we are at the point of making excuses, we are at the end of the process. We have given up the ball, so to speak. Many people give excuses for why they didn’t try: it was too hard, I didn’t have time, I was too busy, I forgot, etc.

In his book The Magic of Thinking Big, author David Schwartz talks about 4 excuse categories in the chapter called Excusitis: The Failure Disease 

  • Health

  • Intelligence (or lack of)

  • Age (too old or too young)

  • Luck (or lack of)

The excuses we tell ourselves are our pathway to failure on all counts. They hinder us from even trying anything. So what can we do?

Change the Story We Tell Ourselves

This does not happen overnight; it is a process. Once we have started to clean off the window (change our attitude) we need to keep it clean. So we have to keep off the dirt regularly and clean it with soap. Maybe in the past, we have allowed people to speak negatively about our lives. Now it is time to fill our mind with good information.

As we continue to weed out the negativity and bring in the good information we need, our perspective towards life circumstances will begin to change. It is empowering to realize that we can be in control of how we view life events, situations (good or bad) and in control of how we respond to them.

Jeff Keller, in his book, has a chapter called Change Your Problems into Opportunities. What a wonderful way to see things. Like the wine glass that is either half empty or half full, it really depends on how we choose to look at a problem. it may be that a problem is hiding a lesson that we need to learn. What may have begun as a disappointment or “bad luck” might actually turn out to be a “golden opportunity” as he calls it.

Recognize That Adversity Is Beneficial

Jeff Keller says in this chapter on problems that adversity can give us perspective. Difficult challenges can train us to not worry about the little things (or annoyances) in life and to focus on the more important things. Adversity also helps us to be thankful. When we have gone through loss or deprivation of some kind, we develop a deeper appreciation for what we have and for those around us.

Adversity, Jeff Keller says, can help us to discover hidden potential or abilities we may not have known we had. We come out of adversity emotionally stronger. It may also encourage us to make new decisions, try new things or get back on track if we have somehow lost our way. Adversity can open new doors and close those that need to be closed. And finally, but not least, adversity builds up our confidence and belief in ourselves.  Decide To Not Complain

Complaining gets us nowhere and can even make things worse:

Troubles, like babies, grow larger by nursing. – Lady Holland

By complaining, the author is not referring to people discussing a situation in an attempt to resolve a problem or to the times when we share our life experiences. What he is referring to are the complaints (the ongoing, annoying complaints) that have no solution and the person is just wanting to hear himself talk. Two examples of chronic complaining he gives are:

  1. Complaining about illness (or” aches and pains”)
  2. Complaining about the weather

Complaining about our ‘aches and pains’ can quickly turn into a tennis match of sorts where we take turns trying to outdo one another with how bad we have it or how ‘awful’ we are feeling. There really is no solution. The complaining doesn’t make us feel any better and the other person can’t help us, so why do it?  And, honestly, who really wants to hear all the graphic details of how sick someone is feeling?

The weather is also a favorite subject to complain about (especially here in Canada – just saying). Bad weather makes a bad day according to some. the weather is a favorite thing to complain about because most everyone will agree with us on that point. But the weather has nothing to do with it being a bad day and we can’t do anything about the weather anyway. Whether it rains or snows, the day is still going to go on.

There are many situations where it would be quite legitimate to complain: war, poverty, abuse, to name a few. So many go through circumstances far more serious than we may ever go through. Sure they could complain about these terrible situations, but in the end, it is finding the solutions that are most important. It is the pressing through, being courageous and perseverant that will bring about change. Attitude is a state of the mind and a way of living regardless of circumstances.

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, living a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca