“How did you go bankrupt?” ‘Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.’
~ Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
“I’m not crazy. I have just been in a bad mood for 40 years!” bellows Quiser Bordeaux, the character portrayed by Shirley MacLaine in the popular 1989 movie, Steel Magnolias. My wife Carol loves this quote and I have heard her exclaim it on more than a few occasions when attitude was the central topic of a conversation.
All of us have witnessed people who regularly exhibit bad attitudes. These people may exist where we work, in organizations where we really enjoy participating, and yes . . . even in our families. (Hopefully, not for 40 years)!
We may go out of our way to avoid the chronic complainer or the hypochondriac. How about that person who thinks perpetually that everyone is bad and everything is wrong?! We all know similar people. ‘Oh no!’ We groan every time we encounter them. ‘If I have to listen to that person one more time’ . . . we think as we dart out of their path, or ignore the dreaded incoming call. When such a person is part of our extended family, it may be hard or even impossible to avoid contact.
Why are some people defined by a bad attitude? A good analogy is like asking the question, ‘when did the room get messy?’ Or like the occasional query from my barber – “When did your hair get so long?” The seeming inference of such questions is that there was a precise moment when the outcome of any situation was decided. Did we get there in a single leap, or did it happen over time?
I believe that a constant bad attitude is woven into a person’s journey. Lifetime progression is simply one step at a time for everyone. Each leap, of course, is uniquely solitary, but unfortunately, many more leaps will follow . . . one bad experience that did not go my way, followed by another bad experience compounded by personal decisions while searching for a meaning . . . perhaps, there was one particularly overwhelming event. But, the development of the path that caused a bad attitude to literally reign in someone’s life did not happen in just one moment. Or did it? What do you think?
Stuff happens every single day. Some things are good, some not so good. Every day we make choices as we search for significance in each situation. I do not believe that anyone, if given time for reflection, would ever choose an existence dominated by a never ending bad attitude. If asked, before we started on such a negative route, most of us would never have arrived in this mental state. We reach each destination one day at a time. One decision followed by another decision is repeated again and again. One day we wake up and realize ‘our hair is long,’ the company is bankrupt, or a bad attitude is now a dominant part of our life. It may seem to have happened overnight. What if we never ‘wake up’ to the attitude that engulfs us? On a scale of 1-to-10, how would you rate your daily attitude? Are you happy with the reality?
We have all been exposed to people who have experienced much misfortune. We may describe their particular situation as being unlucky or unfortunate. We sense their pain and can empathize. It is understandable when they lose heart . . . their lives have not been marked by positive outcomes. For those of us who are on the outside looking in, we want to reach out to that person to provide much needed comfort. We wish they could embrace a more positive approach to life. We offer words of encouragement. We say positive things. We believe that if their circumstances could change, their attitude would also change. Then everything would be okay . . . right? Perhaps.
If the journey from short hair to longer hair . . . from economic solvency to bankruptcy . . . from a clean, organized room to total disarray . . . are life excursions made one day at a time, then is it possible that the formation of a bad attitude evolved from a similar path? One day at a time. One moment followed by another moment. Do you think this makes sense?
If ‘yes,’ I have an important question to ask you: If a permanent bad attitude is formed through repeated choices over an extended time period, is it possible that a permanent positive perspective is formed in the same way? Yes, absolutely! I have experienced both paths. I have also seen family and friends travel both roads. Have you? When given time to reflect, I would choose the path that ensures a positive attitude.
I do not suggest that anyone can have a happy positive attitude in all situations. That is not realistic. Bad things will happen at some point and of course we are not happy about negative interruptions. We can apply this same logic to consistent negative attitudes. As a positive-spirited thinker, this also seems unrealistic to me.
We are all living our lives one moment at a time. It is the only moment we have. There are no small moments.
Determine to straighten out one messy corner of the room, or one messy part of your life . . . do it today. Not tomorrow because tomorrow may never come. But here, in this moment, you can choose to be positive, to clean up a mess, to solve an issue or to make a difference. Choose to do this again and again. Finally, that room is clean and neat. Instead of bankruptcy, the company achieves great success. Relationships improve.
What you will become in the future is significantly determined by what you are today. Tomorrow is just a collection of todays. Start today to become the person you want to be . . . the person you are meant to be. The real you.
Today. . .!
I have a messy room in my house, life, business or relationship.
I will clean one corner of the room.
I will be patient in this one moment.
I will say the right thing this one time.
I will listen to this person in this one moment.
I will keep repeating good decisions.
I will be positive this time.
I know what I need to do today and I will . . .