As I reflect on 2017, I realize that I’ve learned a few lessons on attitude that were long overdue. These reflections may not be revolutionary to readers but for those of us who keep banging up against the same doors and wondering why they aren’t opening, well…read on and maybe you’ll find some pointers for your own journey.
1. What we do when no one is looking is who we really are.
Although we minimize the little things we do in our lives, it’s really the sum of these actions which define our true nature. As an example, if someone gives you some extra change at a cash register- do you give it back? Do you bring your grocery cart back to the rack at Stop and Shop or do you leave it in the parking lot?
If I can’t excel at these little things, how can I have an expectation of being excellent in the bigger aspects of my life? As I fine-tune my attention to these little things, I enjoy a sense of satisfaction and am actually empowered to excel in all things. Who knew that the grocery cart could be so transformational?
2. Act on purpose, not on feelings.
It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the frustrations of our professional and personal responsibilities, that forward motion becomes impossible. Not so long ago I just didn’t feel like getting up. I had three deadlines for articles not written, an office full of patients to be seen and having just had hip surgery, I was aching and sick to death of the crutches. After hosting my very own solitary pity party, I came to grips with the fact that I couldn’t afford to feel miserable. MIA wasn’t an option and was something I would definitely regret. Suddenly I wanted to be better than THAT; I wanted to be better than the self-pitying slug I felt myself to be. I stepped away from my emotion and walked into my purpose. I talked myself into prioritizing the day and knocking it all out, one step at a time. I came away with a profound sense of well being and accomplishment.
That was a turning point for me- getting beyond the selfishness of myself and purposely taking responsibility for my over scheduled life. Now, I catch myself when I start to say, “I feel” and change it up to “I am or I will.” I like the sound and strength of that affirmation — it makes me want to be a better person. Being a conqueror is preferable to behaving and feeling like a victim every single time.
3. “Something good is going to happen today. “
An attitude of expectation is inspiring. No matter what ‘s going on, I say those words each morning and it gets me excited. I’m choosing to look for that “good thing” that IS going to happen. And now that I’m more receptive to this positive spin, I see good things everywhere. I’ve got gas in my car. That opening in my schedule due to a last minute cancellation is now an opportunity to make a call that I haven’t had time to make. Make yourself look for the positive and if you’re honest, you’ll see it and make the most of it. Further, believing that something good is going to happen is almost a guarantee that it will happen. Don’t miss this opportunity, expect good things and they will happen.
…is essential to an excellent life. And isn’t it frightening how many times we neglect being grateful? How about when you’re about dying for a Starbuck’s and the one time that you can get parking and go in there’s no line? Or, you must make the dreaded ride to Stamford and for reasons that defy explanation, you take 95 and make it to Exit 8 in a record 11 minutes?
Being thankful restores the true perspective that we are not in control of our lives. Remembering gratitude keeps my feet on the ground and opens my awareness to how minor I am in the universe. It keeps me humble. And it keeps me happy. And you know what? It’s impossible to be happy and selfish at the same time. Write down three things each morning for which you are grateful- it gets your head in the right place for the day ahead and the double bonus is the amazing sense of well being that accompanies this act.
5. Circumstances don’t make us who we are, they show us who we are.
It’s how we respond to the challenges we face that is revealing. We will have times of suffering and pain, that’s a promise. Our response to such circumstances is self-defining. Excellent people will persevere, go the extra mile and with shear determination find their way through adversity. Excellent people will be content and calm in these moments and expectant of good outcomes. Excellent people know that adversity is a moment in time, not forever. There is no better example of how this sensibility can be applied than with Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust and author of Man’s Search for Meaning who wrote:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Everything can be taken 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.”
If Viktor Frankl came away from the Holocaust with that sensibility, are we not capable of the same, and more, in our mundane everyday lives? I think so.
Choosing to be an excellent person in 2018 will be very rewarding — not just for you but also for those around you, who will learn by your example. Remember, excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude. Use times of adversity to hone your skills and grow closer to becoming the person you choose to be. Excellent people exceed expectations, and so will you.