Do Others Control Your Attitude?

Do Others Control Your Attitude?

Author: David Holmes  Posted: October 07 2005  


One of my favorite quotes of all time is from William James: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”That is powerful. It fills me with hope every time I read it because it says if we can control our attitude we can control our life.

I had this discussion with friends many times about controlling your attitude and through these conversations I’ve learned this concept to be very difficult for many people to understand. It seems there’s a widely accepted belief that attitudes are the result of environment. For instance, if you have an abusive spouse you may be believe your attitude is the result of a bad home life—and, that you have no control over how you feel.

Consider this, if you wait for someone else to change before you allow yourself to have a winning attitude then you’re giving control over to others for how you feel. Why would you allow anyone to control you in this way?

Can I tell you something for a fact? That is, you make decisions about your attitude throughout the day. You are not at the mercy of anyone to allow yourself a winning attitude.

While writing this I am reminded of a specific time in my own life when I allowed someone else to control my attitude. I have one of the most cantankerous neighbors who ever existed (perhaps an overstatement but the woman is maddening in her attitude). She, like many people, is in constant pursuit for something to disapprove. In short, if this woman ever knocks on your door you may rest assured she’s not there to wish you a happy day.

For years I allowed this woman to change my attitude. The very sight of her made my blood boil. On many occasions, she was the topic of conversation in my home. I constantly asked friends and family what in the world could make this woman so bitter; I just couldn’t believe anyone could be as obsessive as she. I couldn’t see that I was allowing myself to become obsessive. I was hurt that she disliked me so much and I allowed thoughts about her to affect my life. Can you see what a negative impact one negative person can cause?

The ripple affect of my neighbors’ negativity went way beyond the tiny little details she was disapproving of. It affected me, my family, friends and anyone who would sit still long enough to hear me rant and rave about her. Then, one day, I read an amazing quote by Charles Swindoll: Mr. Swindoll says, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company …a church …a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past …we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude …I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you …we are in charge of our attitudes.”

Brilliant, except for one thing, I wasn’t being in control of my attitude. Not yet anyhow.

I immediately decided to take control over this situation, not by yanking this woman bald headed as I had dreamed of doing, but by changing my attitude. I began smiling and waving at my neighbor each time I saw her. I replaced my hateful thoughts about her with thoughts of love. I had pity for how miserable she was and I prayed daily that she would find peace. I became happier when I freed myself from the bonds of my bad attitude. The differences were amazing and they were immediate. The funny thing is that this neighbor doesn’t find nearly as much to disapprove of these days, I believe a positive attitude affects people as much as a bad attitude.

You have a choice. What are you going to choose?

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