“Happiness doesn’t depend on the actual number of blessings we manage to scratch from life, only our attitude towards them.”
— Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s Personal Commentary:
Standing in front of a 1000 people, about to deliver the keynote at the annual meeting of a professional association, I asked the audience, “How many of you think it is possible to have a good day … every day … all day long?” Only a few people raised their hands.
They seemed to lack one of the most important, most empowering insights a person can ever have, and that is…
1. YOU have the power to determine if you’re going to have a good day.
After all, YOU are the only one who determines how you are going to feel today or any other day. YOU … and only YOU … have that kind of power.
Little 5-year old Mary taught that to Dr. James C. Brown once and for all. As Dr. Brown told his story in Canfield and Hansen’s book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” Mary had recently lost her father, mother and home. Now she was being hospitalized with a brain tumor and had just suffered a stroke that left half of her body paralyzed.
As Dr. Brown was about to perform an emergency MRI on Mary, he and the technologists explained that she would have to lie perfectly still and not talk. But two minutes into the process, they noticed on the video monitor that her mouth was moving. They heard a muted voice over the intercom. They stopped the exam and gently reminded Mary not to talk. She was smiling and promised not to talk.
They reset the MRI machine and stated over. Once again they saw her facial movements and heard her faint voice. Everyone was becoming impatient as they saw their busy schedule backing up for the rest of the day.
They went back into the room and slid Mary out of the machine. She looked up at them with her crooked smile, not the least bit upset. One technologist, however, in a somewhat gruff voice, said, “Mary, you were talking again, and that causes blurry pictures.”
Mary’s smile remained as she replied, “I wasn’t talking. I was singing. You said no talking.” Dr. Brown and his team looked at each other, feeling a bit silly.
Someone asked, “What were you singing?”
“Jesus Loves Me” came Mary’s tiny voice. “I always sing ‘Jesus Love Me’ when I’m happy.”
Everyone in the room was speechless. Happy? With all she had gone through, how could this little girl be happy? A few of the team members had to leave the room for a moment to regain their composure and wipe away their tears.
As Dr. Brown later said, “Whenever I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, dissatisfied or unhappy with some part of my life, I remember Mary, and I am both humbled and inspired.” Her example made him realize … that no matter what is happening in his life … he has the power to determine whether or not it’s going to be a good day.
And so do you. YOU have that same kind of power because…
2. YOUR attitude is always YOUR choice.
You see … your job, your boss, your company, your spouse, your kids, or your friend didn’t give you a bad attitude, and they can’t give you a good altitude. It’s a choice you made.
Of course my audience of 1000 business people were initially skeptical. They wondered how a person could possibly have a good attitude when the economy was bad, their futures were uncertain, their work schedules were crazy, and their personal lives were out of balance. In fact, I’m sure many of them were thinking, “There’s no way I can have a good attitude in the midst of all this chaos. I can’t help the way I feel.”
But I helped them realize they were living a lie. They may not have known HOW to get and keep a good attitude, but they could indeed have one.
That’s what my book “PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success” is all about. A book filled with how-to strategies that transforms attitudes.
As Judith Knowlton later said, “I discovered I always have choices, and sometimes it’s only a choice of attitudes.”
And no one made the point more profoundly than Dr. Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi death camps in World War II. In his book, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” he writes, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked throughout the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
So please, please, PLEASE, don’t ever cop out and say someone else or something else made you feel bad, sad, or mad. No! YOUR attitude is YOUR choice. And the good news is … no matter how good or bad your life or work happen to be, YOU get to choose YOUR attitude about all of that.
All you have to do is remember…
3. YOU always have two different ways of looking at the same situation.
You can look at positively or negatively. It’s your choice.
When I was speaking at DigiKey, one of my audience members Todd Doyle gave me the perfect example. He told me that he wanted to teach his children a lesson … that you don’t always get everything you want in life … and that a part of growing up is learning how to deal with disappointments.
So when he hung the Christmas stockings, Todd put a variety of small gifts in the stocking of each of his children, but he put some lumps of coal in his own stocking. Before he had a chance to teach his lesson, his little 4-year old son patted him on the shoulder and said, “That’s okay, Dad. We can use the sock to dust the TV and the charcoal to make a snowman.”
Once again, you always have two different ways of looking at the same situation. You can look at it positively or negatively.
That lesson really hit home for Jerry Smith when he was working as a builder in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was the 1980’s, and some major forest fires were ripping through the area.
As he was eating his breakfast at a local restaurant, he noticed a teenage boy and girl come in with their parents, all looking as if the end of the world had arrived. The mother began to tell anyone who would listen how a forest ranger roused her family from their campsite in the middle of the night. He told them, “You’re in a fire danger zone. Get in your car and leave immediately. There’s no time to gather your belongings. Just get in your car and head east toward the highway.”
As the mother lamented, “We had planned and saved for this camping trip for years. It is just terrible. Our vacation is ruined.”
A short time later another family came into the restaurant: a mom, dad, two boys, and a girl. All of them were smiling, laughing, and in good spirits. They sat near Smith, and the mother began sharing her story. “We were amazed at the way the ranger took control of a difficult and dangerous situation. We scrambled to get dressed and in our hurry, I was barefoot; my daughter was wearing my husband’s boots, and the boys were in their socks. What an exciting adventure! This is a great vacation and one we will remember forever.”
Interesting, isn’t it? The same situation but two families seeing it totally differently.
Your attitude is one of the most powerful or most debilitating factors in your life and your work. By remembering these 3 simple tips, you can be certain that your attitude is working for you instead of against you.
Select three difficult situations in your life this week. And then spend a couple of minutes figuring out how you can look at those situations more positively.
Make every day your payoff day!
Dr. Alan Zimmerman