Most of us believe our attitudes are caused directly by outside influences like unpleasant experiences or negative people. But while external pressures may trigger our feelings, we are the ones wearing those feelings like a suit of clothes. We can either be subservient to external events, few of which we have any control over, or we can take charge of our own response.
“Choosing your attitude” is not always putting on a happy face or feeling pressure to adopt the outlook that’s “officially” acceptable. Sometimes angry or sad are what’s called for. That’s why choosing your attitude is about being aware of what your attitude is, and that it does affect you and others. Once you are aware of the impact, you may view your attitude differently, even if the situation or person that upset you hasn’t changed. Then you can ask yourself, “Does my attitude help me or others? Is it helping me be the way I want to be?”
“Choose your attitude” asks only that you make your own choice and not try to pass it off on something or someone else. Once you accept that you are the only one who is choosing your attitude at this moment, you can decide whether to keep it or shape it into an attitude that’s more satisfying. You control your attitude, not the other way around.
As Bear says in FISH!, “You gotta choose where you’re gonna be as soon as you get out of bed. I consciously make that choice every day.”
Then this happened:
Okay, I didn’t really need to get into a car accident to teach this lesson, did I?
But, on the flip side, it had its intended effect because the following conversation took place later:
G2: Mummy, are you angry?
Me: No, I’m not angry.
G2: Yes! Yes! You’re angry!
Me: No, really. I’m not angry.
What really surprised me was that I was telling him the truth. I really wasn’t mad. Was I upset by the incident? Yes. I was concerned for my boys and bothered by the possible inconvenience of losing my car while it is being fixed at the workshop. But was I mad at the other driver? Surprisingly, no. Maybe it helped that I have been making an effort to get more sleep lately. Maybe it helped that she was so young, inexperienced and distressed that I couldn’t help but feel bad for her.
Did I adequately model “choose your attitude” for the boys? I hope so.