The one thing you really can control in life is your attitude, yet most people view their attitude as the result of external things happening to them rather than a conscious decision.
In this article, I would like to explore some ideas that can help make your choice more intentional.
These ideas are not new or unique; they have been expressed by numerous authors or scientists over centuries, and yet they are easily forgotten by anyone in the heat of the moment.
Several philosophers have expressed the same ideal, “what determines the quality of your life is not what happens to you but how you react to what happens to you.”
As we were forced to change our way of life in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had a classic example of how external conditions beyond our control can force us to do things that are uncomfortable and challenging.
Many people became depressed and withdrawn during the shutdown of much of our society: some resorted to suicide. Some people found joy and opportunity by focusing on the one thing they really could control: their mind.
If you choose to change conditions for the better, get some material on mental imaging and start changing your life. The more depressed you are, the more you have to gain.
Most of the time you cannot change the conditions being presented to you by the world, but most of the time you can control your attitude or reactions so that your state of mind is much more enjoyable.
This philosophy is not that profound, and we have all heard some form of it numerous times before. Some people call it “mind over matter.” Norman Vincent Peale called it “The Power of Positive Thinking,” while Earl Nightingale made the observation that “We become what we think about.”
One helpful book is the classic, Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (1960). Maltz became fascinated with the process of setting goals for his plastic surgery patients. He learned that the power of self-affirmation and mental visualization techniques were enabled by the connection between the mind and the body.
Maltz taught how developing a positive inner vision was a means of developing a positive outer vision. This led to the idea that a person’s outer success almost never rises above the one visualized internally.
Many other philosophers such as Zig Zigler, Tony Robbins, Earl Nightingale, and Brian Tracy have based much of their work on the theories developed by Maltz.
Unfortunately, when we are miserable, it is hard to remember that we can be in control if we want to assume that control. When you get depressed, try the visualization techniques and set a positive goal. They can make a big difference in your life. Paradise is not as far away as it seems.
There is a wonderful TedTalk on this topic by Colin O’Brady. His legs were severely burned in an accident, and the doctors said he would never walk again. But with grit, determination, and the help of his exceptional mother, he went on to become a triathlon champion and set two world records for completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam (climbing the highest mountain on the seven continents in record time).
There are stories of POWs who have achieved a state of joy and gratitude for life even as they were being starved and tortured. One such individual was Viktor Frankel during WWII in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
Viktor was a psychologist in Vienna living a comfortable life when he was nabbed by the Nazis and brought to the camp. He was treated with disdain and was starved and beaten, like most POWs.
He was curious about why some people survived, while most others quickly died. He described the survival instinct as the realization that there was something significant to live for, or something yet to do in their life. Once they were reminded of their purpose for living, they were empowered to endure their hopeless situation and survive.
In Viktor’s own situation, he was able to use the power of visualization to rise above the incredible conditions of the moment and feel peace and joy, even among the dying and hopeless people. After the war, he wrote a book on his observations entitled “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
What prison do you live in? Does it sometimes feel like you are suffering needlessly at work or at home? Are the managers in your organization kind of reminiscent of prison guards, or at least schoolyard bullies?
Do you feel there is little hope to be happy or content with the conditions that exist around you? If that describes you, then realize you are making a choice. You are choosing to not live in paradise when the opportunity is there for you to do so, or at least to improve your frame of mind significantly.
The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.
Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.