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Attitude Determines Your Altitude

By Orrin Woodward

Imagine your brain as a garden and you as the gardener.  What do you allow to grow in the fertile soil of your brain?  Ideas have consequences in a person’s life, much like plants produce fruit in a garden.

The key question is what fruit is being harvested from the plants growing in your garden?

Attitude is a choice, being the ability to choose the proper response consistently, no matter what the stimulus.  It’s not what happens to you in life that matters as much as how you respond to what happens to you.

No one can plant weeds in your garden without your permission, but sadly, most people are not tending the garden; therefore, weeds grows as a matter of course through the associations they have in life.

Most people allow life to plant any seeds in their garden, producing whatever results the seeds create.  Sadly, this surrenders the results of life to ones surroundings, rather than to ones choices. Attitudes in life determines the altitudes of life.  When one decides to move on, one must assume the responsibility to tend his garden, pulling weeds daily, while nurturing the proper fruit producing ideas.

Why is it easier to have ‘stinking thinking’ than it is to have positive thinking?  It’s the same answer as to why it’s easier to have weeds grow in a garden, than it is to have fruit.  We didn’t make the rules of the game of life, but we must learn to apply the rules in our favor to win in the game.

Most people when they fail at a task, quickly develop coping mechanisms like blaming, excuse making, etc, to lessen the pain of defeat.  But people with a positive attitude know that a temporary defeat is only another lesson on how not to win.

Thomas Edison was asked how he failed hundreds of times on his way to discovering the incandescent light bulb.  His answer should be learned by all potential achievers.  Edison said that he hadn’t failed hundreds of times, but actually had successfully learned hundreds of ways that it wouldn’t work.

Failure is never final to a person with a good attitude.  All winners discipline their thinking to ensure that the failures in life are merely stepping stones to further advancements.

No one has to be a failure in life, but all of us will go through failure events.  Whether we ultimately succeed or fail, has much to do with our perspectives on failures.  Winston Churchill, a man with a stellar attitude, said, “Success is going from one failure to another with no loss in enthusiasm.”

There are five key concepts to tending your mental garden, allowing the right attitudes to prosper while choking out the ‘stinking thinking.’

The first key idea is to develop a thankful spirit.  One won’t find a negative person who has a thankful attitude, conversely, one won’t find a positive person who isn’t thankful.  What are you thankful for in your life?

Many times, thankfulness is a matter of perspective, one can easily identify things that are not going right in life, but attitude is helped by focusing on the blessings, empowering further improvement.   Bitterness and resentment is like drinking poison, expecting someone else to die.  Let it go, as one cannot get better until bitterness is released.

There’s a humorous story told of two young brothers.  One terminally a positive spirit, the other, oppositely, a negative spirit. The parents decided to run a test, wanting to see if they could affect the attitudes of the two young boys.

At Christmas time, the parents filled one room with games, toys, and nearly any gift a young boy could desire.  In another room, the parents loaded a wheelbarrow full of horse manure. On Christmas morning, the parents opened up the room with all the toys, allowing both boys to see into the room, but only letting the negative child enter.

Not surprisingly, the child played for a while, and then, complaining that he couldn’t find all of the toys that he wanted, sat in the corner pouting. Instead of recognizing all of the gifts that he received, he focused on the few things that he still lacked, robbing him of the joy in life.

The parents, with the positive child in tow, headed to the other room with the horse manure, opening up the door and letting the positive boy enter.  Right away the boy enthusiastically ran around the room, searching frantically, looking for something.

After watching this for several minutes, the parents asked him why he was so excited. The boy, looking up at his parents with a twinkle in his eye replied, “With this much horse manure, I’m sure there’s a pony in here somewhere!”

The young boy had an attitude, an attitude that each one of can choose on a daily basis.

The second key to a healthy attitude is to guard your associations.  There is an old southern saying, “If you hang out with dogs, you get fleas.”  Tell me who a person associates with, and I will tell you the persons attitudes.  Birds of a feather flock together.

Since associations do influence us, it’s critical to ensure the associations are influencing our attitudes in a positive direction.  One cannot hang out with upbeat, forward looking, moving on people without developing an upbeat, forward looking, moving on attitude.

Conversely, one cannot hang out with negative, bitter, resentful, complaining, critical spirited people without becoming negative, bitter, resentful, complaining, and critical spirited oneself.  If I want to develop a positive attitude, then I need to surround myself with other positive attitudes.

The third key to a healthy attitude is to focus on serving others.  When one is serving others, it helps in providing a greater perspective on ones own challenges.  Self centered people are so wrapped up in themselves, that they cannot see, let alone serve, the hurting people around them.

Predictably, self centered people have attitude issues, because they are internally focused, all their issues become magnified, having no comparison to another’s troubles. Serving others is one of the best ways to maintain a positive attitude, lightening your own load by lightening others loads.

One cannot help another without feeling better about ones self.  This is a principle of life, neglected by many, but a key factor in all healthy attitudes.  By serving others through their challenges, it gives strength and encouragement when facing your own.

The fourth key idea in maintaining a positive attitude is to stay active.  Human beings were made to work, and find contentment in a job well done.  When one is truly pursuing a noble objective, one is happier and finds the good in life.  But, when one is idle, having too much time on his hands, one can start nitpicking others, nitpicking life, developing a critical condemning spirit.

If you cannot find anything to do, then find someone else that you can help, working for them.  I would rather work, read, think, and learn for free, rather than get paid to be idle. The toughest times in my own life have always been a result of self-centeredness, and a corresponding lack of productivity.

Working hard in a worthy cause, completes yourself through helping to complete others.  Remaining idle is a recipe for physical and mental disaster.

Lastly, the people with the most consistent, positive attitudes are people with a purpose. Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, described that our mission in life wasn’t invented more than it was detected.  Each of us was created for a purpose, but one must get out into the world, focusing on serving others, detecting the purposes and joy created when making a difference in others lives.

Our lives have meaning and purpose, detecting that purpose, producing results, and sharing with our gifts with others in need, is the goal of every life well lived.  Life is a gift given from above, what a shame that most of us give it back unopened.


Orrin Woodward is the co-founder of Team, a leadership development and training company, and the New York Times best-selling co-author of Launching a Leadership Revolution.

Named by the International Association of Business as a Top 10 Leadership Guru, he is dedicated to building leaders and entrepreneurs and promoting freedom and prosperity.

Orrin blogs regularly at Orrin Woodward. He lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida with his wife and four children.

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