I suppose I could have created an easy post on this blog today by cutting and pasting a few feel good quotations about the value of maintaining a positive attitude. That’s not my style, in fact the easy way out is a reflection of poor attitude. October has been Positive Attitude Month in the United States. During much of the month, I’ve been mulling over what that entails and whether or not it personally applies. Sharing some of my reflections seems like a more positive way to create this little article for you.
Chirpy quotations and Internet top ten lists about positivity seem superficial when a person is truly struggling to cope with the harsh realities of life. Having a good positive attitude means possessing the full range of virtuous attributes. These include, but are not limited to having practical common sense, inner self-confidence, authentic humility, some sort of spiritual (not necessarily religious) foundation, persistence, resilience, and acting to helpfully contribute value to the world.
How can I salute Positive Attitude Month without coming off as sanctimonious and preachy? Is there a way of reflecting on attitude that doesn’t follow a popular formula?
Everybody has difficulties because that’s just the way life works. In modern society our difficulties tend towards the cerebral rather than just the basic difficulties that other animals and members of the plant kingdom struggle with. Many of our problems derive from the intellect. Although our challenges are mentally based, they are still difficult. We need the best solutions to our problems.
We debate in our own heads about whether or not we want to have a mate. If we do, we weigh the positives and negatives regarding prospective candidates. When a relationship doesn’t work out, someone with a positive attitude tries to remember what failed and what worked in that relationship. When a relationship does work, it’s because both partners communicated effectively and put forth shared, constructive, realistically positive efforts to maintain the health of the relationship.
It seems to me that most of our attitude problems occur at the interpersonal level. How do we deal with the challenges that others present to us and those that we present to others. We get sick, other people get sick how do we emotionally and intellectually care for one another? How do we survive and thrive? We don’t always get the jobs we want or we lose the jobs we have. Name a conflict we might have about life, how effectively we cope reveals our true attitudes. What we learn about our failures and our successes are what we use to structure our overall attitudes.
Some people seem to have inborn positive attitudes that are integral with their personalities. Some people appear to have personalities that lean towards negativity. How children are raised helps determine whether the person with the inborn positivity maintains that attitude. Likewise, if a child with an innate negative vibe is raised in a nurturing, loving manner, she or he will be more likely to adopt a positive outlook on life. Hence, it is more likely that a positive atmosphere will foster a positive attitude. Once the positive attitude is underway, the better the chance of the positive attitude remaining an integral part of life.
What has worked in my own life is remembering that a positive attitude cannot be forced. Anything that is forced causes an equal, opposing result. Whenever I force a positive attitude, the results are often feelings of futility and negativity. The most effective, satisfying way towards a positive attitude has been patient, long-term study, reflection, and practice. I do my best to maintain an honestly upbeat mental environment. You might say that I’ve had to steadily, patiently nurture myself.
I understand that there are plenty of serious problems going on each day in our world. I don’t deny they exist, but I don’t obsess over them either. Keeping a balanced attitude about the state of the world and my place in it are important to me. It seems like my meditation practice helps me transcend knee-jerk reactions to events. The result is a realistic attitude that leans towards the positive. This balanced attitude is quite helpful as I become older and need to deal with the problems of aging. I don’t want to become too focused on myself nor the overwhelming problems of the world. I want to be engaged with the world in a helpful, positive way. In the end, that’s all that matters anyway.