Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz would tell his players, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
Victor Frankl, survivor of a Nazi prison camp and beacon of light for hundreds of other prisoners suffering under Hitler’s Third Reich wrote, “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
Isn’t it amazing that a football coach and prisoner of war are saying the same thing — that it’s not our circumstances that hold us back, but rather that attitudes we display in our circumstances? We all know people who delight in laughing at the cockeyed optimist — the one who always seems to be happy and on top of things, the person who has a bumper sticker on her car that declares, “Business is great, the sky is blue, and people are wonderful.” But what’s wrong with this?
A life of cynical pessimism is a poor second choice and does nothing but drive us deeper into sadness and depression, making us weaker, not stronger, and ultimately setting us up for emotional exhaustion. Oscar Wilde said a pessimist is one who, when confronted with the choice of two evils, chooses both. Bad way to live.
On the other hand, a spirit of optimism is life-giving. People who are upbeat regardless of their physical or emotional circumstances look for the good, just as bees gravitate to the center of a flower for their honey-making resource. But it’s not a onetime flyby. The bees in your garden need to fly back to gather the pollen from the flower again and again, through daily action. It’s the only way we can keep them positive, vibrant, and alive.
Without a regular renewal of our attitudes, we will remain stagnant and uninteresting, and we will be able to offer little to those who need us most. It’s just not possible to win at life and relationships with a self-defeating, unrenewed, boring, business-as-usual attitude. That’s why the real attitude winners are the ones who:
- Provide valuable service to others before thinking of their own needs
- When discouraged, dig deep to the source of their faith and confidence
- When trapped in a tunnel of misfortune, believe there will be light at the end of the tunnel
- When roadblocked by poor decisions, remember that God is still in control and that no failure is ever final
- Know that the greatest degrees one can earn are not academic but degrees of growth, persistence, and compassion for others
Be disciplined to review your attitudes and look to renew them on a daily basis.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.