The first time I heard the phrase “choose your attitude” was in the late 1990s or early 2000s when the large corporation I worked for had us implementing the concepts from a book, and movie called “Fish.” Fish was based on the “world famous” Pike Street Fish Market in Seattle Washington. This story was well known. People would come from miles around to watch the workers at this market throw, pack, and sell fish. The Pike Street Fish Market operated on four guiding principles: Play (have fun with what you’re doing), Make Their Day (give customers an experience to remember), Be There (be fully present when you are with someone), and Choose Your Attitude. It was this last principle that had me thinking.
I always believed in the power of positive thinking, but this somehow went beyond that. It was about making the choice to be happy, and to feel good despite all outside circumstances. As I was kicking this around in my head, my parents returned from a trip overseas. They had chaperoned a class of High School kids in Europe, and the events they shared with me solidified my understanding of what it meant to “choose your attitude.”
The first person I talked to was my Mom. When I asked how the trip went, I heard about numerous misadventures, including a Tour Guide who got lost forcing them to walk all day, lost luggage, and a flight delay that had them in the airport for 24 hours. Wow! It sounded like this trip was a nightmare. After I talked to Mom, Dad got on the phone. Despite the fact that I already knew it was a disaster, I asked him to tell me about his trip. As he started with the words “Sometimes I just cannot believe…”I thought “oh here it comes.” To my complete shock, his next words were “how blessed I am!” Dad went on to tell me about all of the wonderful things they had done, and places they had seen. He had the time of his life, and was truly grateful.
Knowing my parents as well as I do, I knew that they would not have been separate on this trip. They would have been side-by-side sharing the same experiences and events. Despite this, they came back with vastly different descriptions of the trip. I finally understood that choosing your attitude, often meant adjusting your focus. Every event has positives and negatives. It is the aspects you choose to focus on that ultimately determine your experience. In choosing your focus, you choose your attitude, and eventually change your personal reality.
I recalled a time when I had some free airline tickets to use, and decided to take my Dad to Washington D.C. for the day. We would fly out, do a whirlwind sightseeing day, and then fly back. To me, flying had always been a means to an end; transportation. The day of our trip, our flight was delayed meaning we would have even less time in Washington. As we boarded the plane, I was irritated and recalculating our day in my head. Dad however could not have been happier. He had a window seat, and after take-off he looked at me and said, “If we had to turn around and land right now, this would still have been a great day!” Wow. This was a profound statement to me. I had been focused on arriving at our destination, while Dad had been enjoying the journey.
I learned a lot from my Dad about “choosing my attitude.” Throughout his life, most of the people he’s known have had more money, or nicer things, but that never stopped him from living the life of his dreams. He often says he’s “the richest man on earth,” and “I wonder what the poor people are doing.” As Mom and Dad raised five kids together, they set an example of how to live on a budget while still making the greatest memories that any family could hope for.
With these observations, I began to practice “choosing my attitude” with conscious effort. For example, when I was running late and found myself stuck in traffic, I would normally get agitated. When I caught myself thinking nasty things about the car in front of me or focused on being late for whatever appointment I was heading to, I would instead focus on “me time.” I drive a convertible, and would turn my attention to the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and the music coming from my speakers. What could be better than that? Either way, I was going to arrive at my destination late. This way I would arrive in a great mood instead of angry and flustered. Not only would that make my appointments more successful, it was a much happier way to be.
There have been many times since then when I have had to “choose my attitude.” Of course the biggest of those times was after my Fibromyalgia diagnosis. For the first couple of years, I allowed my attitude to be one of anger and hopelessness. Eventually I realized that no matter how hard I fought, or how much I hated it, the Fibro wasn’t going away. It was time to choose a new attitude, and I chose to live. I began to negotiate with Fibromyalgia instead of fighting it. They say fighting for peace is like screaming for silence. In fighting my Fibromyalgia, I wasn’t winning anything. Instead, I choose to accept it as a part of my life because it is. Once I began to consciously choose my attitude in a good way, my life turned around in many good ways. I choose to be happy. I choose to live to the greatest extent possible. I choose to change the things I cannot accept and to accept the things I cannot change. I have taken my own power back simply through those two little words: “I choose.”
What are YOU choosing today?
Julie-Anne Braun is an author who writes about overcoming suicide, Fibromyalgia and other challenges and staying optimistic. You can connect with her at her site (http://www.julie-annesjourney.com/), and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NothingbutRespect)