Life is 10% what you make it, 90% how you take it

A reader writes, “I desperately want to move to California, but I have about a year left in school. Also, I have to stay with my current job until January next year to get my retirement benefits. The wait is becoming unbearable and it seems as though everything is happening to keep me from going to California. My question is how do I put up with being here until next August so I can leave with a Bachelor of Graphic Design, an Associates Degree in Photography, and $23,000 in cash? As I think of all the things I will get if I just wait, I guess it makes sense, but I have no passion about my current position and I don’t know how to become passionate about it. I feel like now that I’ve gotten a glimpse of what I want my future to be, I’m determined to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Any inspiration you can give would help.”

Your first problem is you don’t know what your problem is. Your second problem is your attitude. And your third problem is you are living in the future, neglecting the present, and forgetting the past. Now, let’s consider all three issues.

You think your problem is that life is unbearable because you have to continue in your boring job until January and stay in school until August next year. Your problem is not a boring job or tedious study, but the wrong attitude. You seem to think that as soon as you arrive in California, your life will be filled with excitement. But I suggest that before you change your address, you address your attitude. You see, if you don’t work on changing it now, when you move to California you’ll be bringing more than luggage; you’ll also be bringing your attitudinal baggage. In other words, if you think life is terrible where you are, it will be terrible wherever you are because life is what you make of it.

Your priorities may be mixed up. You think your choice of job and place to live are important for your happiness, but those decisions are minor ones. The only important choice you have to make is your choice of attitude. Irving Berlin (1888 ~ 1989) expressed this idea well when he wrote, “Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it.” This sentiment is also echoed by Preacher Charles Swindoll who wrote, “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.”

So, it is not your current position that counts, but your current disposition, for attitude is everything. Yes, if you wait a year, you’ll be able to leave for California with $23,000, but remember, a man with $23,000 and a poor attitude is a poor man, and one with $250 and a good attitude is a rich man. So, set your priorities straight.

You are studying Graphic Design and Photography so you can launch a new exciting career. But how can studying what you love be tedious? Can it be you want the glamour without the work? What will happen after you start your new career and discover it, too, entails work? Will you grow bored and change careers again? Didn’t you once dream of becoming a Programmer Analyst? You succeeded in that goal, but now are bored and want to change direction. I’m not suggesting that you should abandon Graphic Design and Photography. I’m merely suggesting that before you change careers and make a big move, you need to change your attitude.

What exactly do I mean by a good attitude? I mean that you take pride in yourself and resolve that no matter what you do, you will always do it to the best of your ability, and do it with pride. If you’re a student, become the best student you possibly can. If you’re a Programmer Analyst, take pride in your work and do your best. If we are always doing our best, how can we be bored or uninterested? Enthusiasm is a natural byproduct of a commitment to excellence. When you adopt a winning attitude, regardless of the job you decide to take, you will always be a winner. Change that attitude so you can stop whining and start winning. It’s okay to change jobs, but change your attitude first.

Another characteristic of people with good attitudes is that they always look for (and find) the good. You are spending far too much time looking for what is ‘bad’ about your situation. It’s time to change your focus by looking for the good, counting your blessings, and appreciating what you already have. If you cannot appreciate what you now have, what makes you think you will appreciate what you will have? Yet another attribute of positive thinkers is their empowering language. For example, instead of saying, “I HAVE TO stay with my current job,” (which makes one feel like a victim), they would say, “I CHOOSE TO (or WANT TO) stay with my current job because I want to receive my retirement benefits.” (This type of statement makes one feel in control of life.) As you develop a positive attitude, it will sustain you under all circumstances, and you will finally realize what happiness is all about.

Another mistake of yours is to live in the future, fantasizing about a better life. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t set goals. Not at all. I don’t want you to be like most people who spend more time on planning their vacation than on planning their lives. By all means, set goals and make plans. But once you have taken the necessary steps to reach your goals, return to the present. Don’t drift into a dream world, allowing the present moment to slip by.

Spend less time silently dreaming and more time silently listening to your intuition for guidance on which path to follow. And take advantage of the potential power of the present moment. For at this moment, now, you have the power to choose, decide, and act. You can decide, for example, to change. You can commit to doing your best, looking for the good, being grateful, and using empowering language. You can also decide to develop patience and self-discipline.

Additionally, don’t dwell in the past, but learn from it. For we can’t move ahead until we have learned from our mistakes. Finally, I suggest you pick up one copy each of Keith Harrell’s “ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING” (HarperBusiness, 2005) and his “ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING WORKBOOK
(HarperBusiness, 2003).

Thank you for writing. We all wish you well. I am confident that you will make the right choices and look forward to learning of your future successes. I’ll end by quoting from three wise people.

“A great attitude does much more than turn on the lights in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before the change.” — Earl Nightingale (1921 ~ 1989)

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” — Thomas Jefferson (1743 ~ 1826)

Two-minute ATTITUDE drill:
TO EVERYONE: You can trust me. I’m committed to excellence. I care about you as a person.
EVERY DAY: Do good. Do your best. Treat others as you would be treated.
FOR TODAY: Nothing negative will escape my lips. (Author unknown)