Guest Post: Attitudes That Transcend Platitudes
"When nothing is sure, everything is possible." –Margaret Drabble
Oh, my goodness. It's almost summer… and to top it off, perhaps you're "in transition" looking for work, or in a job situation that needs to change. Maybe it's time to pay school tuition, or pick a college. You might be dealing with a health or family issue that is draining your "reserves" of energy, time, and resources. Given one, two, or ALL of the above, it's perfectly normal to feel stressed, possibly depressed, or absolutely overwhelmed. And, honestly? Platitudes are probably the LAST thing you want to hear.
I understand. But, one thing life has taught me with absolute certainty is that every day holds the potential to create the life you wish to have. Again and again, timeless wisdom tells us that the potential of an uncertain day, an uncertain future, an uncertain circumstance, is unlocked by an attitude of expectation. Every day offers new moments, new hours, and new opportunities that can be full of expectation for a new you – and it starts with attitude.
But don't take my word for it. History is full of wisdom from those who have gone before us, giving us quotations like the one above. When you need a "shot in the arm" to keep looking for work, or inspiration to "keep your eyes on the ball," or the mental fortitude to "get up and get going" another day, try to consider the proposition that there is often truth in the platitudes that swirl around us. I'll take that a step further, and tell you that there is also fruit to bear that goes beyond the direct advice they give…. The platitudes about attitudes are just the beginning. You know, The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And there is always more than one road to your future, or as Lt. General Hal Moore says, "There is always one more thing you can do to influence the situation in your favor."
As an entrepreneur for most of my adult life, I am a firm believer in the power of expectation. I meet each day with the anticipation that it will bear fruit – whether my time is booked with clients – or not. I expect to make a living each day, and I take it a day at a time. Funny how a "freelance writing and media production" business that started out by taking it one day at a time, hitting the pavement, shaking hands, introducing myself wherever I was, and whenever I could, blazed a trail to … now, over 20 years later. Did I travel in a straight line from "zero to making a living?" Did I create everything I dreamed I would have in the form of stuff? Hardly. So far, my life has dealt me a very trying hand, losing two brothers and both parents at a very young age, having a tumor removed, watching my husband lose his job in this recession, investing in a business that failed, and dealing with a malicious identity theft, just to give you a few examples of some of my own challenges along the way.
I'm acutely aware of how immobilized the events of a lifetime can make you feel, no matter what your age or circumstances. I've experienced it myself, and I've seen it hundreds of times in others. So, for just a few moments, I'm asking you to suspend your doubts and disbeliefs about the possibilities for good that await you today. I'd like you to withhold your skepticism as you read this, and muster your courage to imagine that your future can hold even a fragment of the dreams you have. Just for now, hear me out. Read on to see some of the ways that I "reset my attitude" on a regular basis. For me, it's about delivering quality service and products in my business, creating daily happiness, and plain old survival. For you, it could be about something else. Just for now, in this moment, consider a few tips and actions that can make a difference in your life:
- Set out to give a slice of joy to someone today. Notice I said a "slice." You don't have to bite off more than you can chew. Perhaps for you it means a "whisper," a compliment, a "thank you," a phone call, an E-mail, or a wildflower. Acknowledge and accept the perspectives of others. We're all doing the best we can right now, in the "shoes" of our circumstances. If need be, set your ego aside for just one moment and reach out to others; "put yourself in their shoes." There is something you can offer someone you know or love that won't cost you a thing. And you know what? It can give you and them the possibility of a new outlook, or infuse your lives with a little optimism. This simple act alone can take your attitudes beyond platitudes.
- Get out on foot. Take a walk, and say "hello" to everyone you meet along the way. Notice everything, and marvel in the characteristics of your neck of the woods. Is there something you can do to help your neighborhood? Do you know the neighbors around you? Do you know their habits and routines? Admire their canine companions and their efforts to exercise. We Americans have become way too sedentary, and that lack of motion in our lives affects us in more ways than one, physically and mentally. There is a whole world out there, right in your own neighborhood, your own town, and your own city. You won't see it or experience it any other way but on foot. Taking a walk will clear your head, make you healthy, and introduce you to new friends and new ideas for charting a course to a more healthy and vibrant life.
- Do your routine tasks in a different way. We are the habits we do every day. Deliberately changing one thing daily can change everything. You've heard the platitude "You are what you eat." Take this to heart literally AND figuratively. Your daily routine keeps you in the place you are NOW. Take a look around you and catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror. Your daily routine has created the images you see. When you learn something new, your brain physiologically changes. When you alter your diet and exercise habits, you reshape your waistline. When you make an effort to listen to someone else's story, you expand your beliefs and your tolerances. When you take a new route to the market, or venture into a new one altogether, you see things you've never seen before. When you visit a coffee shop that's off your beaten path, you meet new people. When you make new choices, you create a new future.
- YOU are the architect of your life. There is a famous quotation that is often mistakenly said, "Circumstances make the man." The actual quotation by James Allen is "Circumstances don't make the man, they reveal him." Who you are is attributable in large part to how you have responded to your circumstances. I grew up in a home where my parents loudly opined about all of the politics of our country. As a young adult, I mimicked their words and attitudes boisterously as well. Then one day, with the emergence of a new issue that I felt strongly about, I realized that I could change my opinions if I wanted to. A light bulb literally went off in my head. "Wow. I don't agree with my parents on this issue. In fact, I don't agree with their politics at all anymore." I gave myself permission to change my beliefs in mid-stream, and I've never looked back. At my core, I ceased to be the person I was at a young age, and I have taken responsibility for that ever since. My actions reflect who I am.
- Let yourself EVOLVE with the transformation of a new decision. Make the decision to trust that your life will bring forth a new bounty. You CAN be different than you are now. As human beings it is hard-wired within us to fear the unknown, and to be terrified of change. But, as much as our fears give us comfort because they are what we know, they also bind us tightly, and can imprison us with self-doubt and inaction.
Simple changes in your attitude and routine can affect literally everything about you and bring on a new job, a new relationship, a new outlook, new horizons, new friends, and a new body, just to name a few of the potential benefits. If you take it one day at a time, you can move beyond the platitude "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," and create today, tomorrow, and ultimately your future, what it stands for, and your legacy. I don't know about you, but to me, that's something worth thinking about.
Di Chapman is founder of Words To Your Advantage, a speaking and writing service; and the Chief Communications Officer for Power Connections Inc., an executive career management and outplacement company. You can read more of her thoughts at www.thedailyjobhunt.wordpress.com.