How to Transform your Life by Altering your Attitude
Let’s Understand Attitude
Before understanding the impact that our attitude has on our lives and learning the strategies to change it, we must first know what do we actually mean by attitude? We humans tend to believe that somehow we see the world objectively. We think what we see out there, is reality. However, its’s simply an illusion. The truth is every person looks at the world differently, and the source of his reality is not outside, it’s “within him”. Let’s take an example. If a devout member of the NAZI party in Germany in 1930s saw HITLER, he would have seen in him a great patriotic leader, someone who would make Germany “GREAT” again. On the other hand if a JEW saw him, he would have seen in him a ruthless anti-Semite, a psychopath, bent on exterminating the Jews. In both cases the external reality was the same, but both persons saw that in a completely different light, depending upon their own “LENS”.
What this example illustrates is that each one of us views the world through a particular lens, that “colors” and shapes our perception. This very “LENS” is actually our attitude. The great Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung defined it as “attitude is the readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way”. What it means is that you are already prepared in your mind unconsciously, how you would respond to a certain event in the external world even before it has occurred.
Carl Jung illustrated this idea with an example. On a hike, a group of friends come across a brook that must be crossed in order to continue the journey. One person, without much thought will just jump and cross it, without worrying about the possibility of falling. He simply loves the sheer physical pleasure of jumping and showing off to others. Another person is excited as well, but not about the pleasure of jumping, instead of the mental challenge the brook represents. He will try to find out the easiest and safest way of crossing the brook and gain satisfaction from solving this problem. A third person is just irritated by the idea of crossing the brook , he is clearly frustrated, but he simply wants to continue the hike and so will do his best to cross safely. The fourth person will simply turn back. He will say it’s useless to cross and rationalize his fears by saying the hike has been long enough.
In the above example, each responded to the brook according their attitude, the lens that colored their perception. Some saw it as an adventure, others a mental puzzle, some a hurdle and others just as a stop. Consequently, Jung concludes, it’s not actually the world outside that’s important, instead how you view it and what emotions it triggers inside you. Once you have properly understood this amazing fact about your psychology, you should set two goals for yourself. First, you must become aware of your own attitude and how it colors your worldview, by actively “observing” yourself. (As diving deep into the depths of your own mind is a topic in itself, I will write a separate article on it).
Secondly, you should understand that, it is completely in your power to change your attitude. Human mind is a miraculously flexible organ whose potential is unlimited. The feats you can achieve by altering your perspective are just extraordinary. Keep in mind that humans have developed this great organ after millions of years of evolution and it retains in it the essence of that time, with its rich neural connections and creative powers. So it’s fully in your control to change the “LENS” that you use to see the world, for better. Following are some really effective strategies for changing that lens.
Cultivate the mind of an explorer
As a first and the most basic step, you should change the way you look at yourself and your relationship with the world. From now on, you should think of yourself as an explorer, with the gift of consciousness, who is in front of this amazing universe that we have just begun to explore. You are not here to be a victim of natural forces, instead you have to “interpret”, make sense of the universe, and then use it to your advantage.
Most people are afraid of change and new ideas, so they cling to certain ideas about almost everything just as they grow up (most often these ideas are transferred to them by parents and society). They don’t dare to develop their own personal and independent worldview. Therefore, by the time they are thirty most of their thoughts have crystallized into dogmas, and they think they know everything that is there to know. They replace curiosity with conviction just because they think it’s comfortable. Such an approach is a death recipe for anyone, as no progress is possible if we only stick to the traditional ideas. Ask yourself, could we have reached this great peak of scientific age, if some of the great minds had not dared to challenge the traditional worldviews.
On the contrary, an explorer is a person who is constantly in search of new things. He is not afraid of experimenting, instead it fills him with the thrill of enriching rewards. Think of yourself as Columbus or Vasco de Gama, in search of “NEW WORLDS”, which could transform their own and their fellow human’s lives for better. The “ATLANTIC OCEAN” should not be the end of the world for you, it’s the way to the “NEW WORLD”. You see no limits to where your mind can go. Which idea could literally transform your and other’s lives? Return to a childlike curiosity where he wants to know everything that comes his way. You explore all forms of knowledge from all cultures and time periods. By opening the mind in this manner, you will unleash great creative powers within you.
Embrace the pain
The way this world is made and organized, obstacles, frustrations, pain and suffering is almost inevitable. It’s because you are not the only individual in this world, instead millions of other organisms and objects inhabit the earth. This makes it inevitable that their interests clash, they compete and hurt each other. Normally our attitude towards pain and suffering is that of avoidance. People have organized religions and entire value systems around this single notion, on how to avoid pain. But you must understand “ALL ATTEMPTS AT AVOIDING HARDSHIP ARE FUTILE”, and even if some monk decides to live in a cave meditating and reaching ultimate contentment, this example cannot be followed by everyone as it will essentially spell the end of human civilization and more importantly, it just sucks. So your attitude towards hardship should of “EMBRACING”. Not that you should actively pursue trouble, instead whatever comes your way, you should embrace it.
Recall the example of the hike. The guys that embraced the brook as part of the hiking experience, ultimately found a way of using it to their advantage. Some for thrill and others for mental victory. On the contrary, the ones who avoided it, lost the rest of the hiking experience and more importantly, the thrilling pleasures they could derive from the brook. If you make a habit of retreating back from every “BROOK” that comes in your way, you can never reach the top of any mountain. Remember you cannot control your environment, but you can surely control how you respond to it. It’s as if you cannot remove the brook from the path, but you can change your attitude towards it so that it does not become a hurdle.
To motivate yourself, consider the example of Malcolm X. In 1946 he was sentenced to serving an eight year prison sentence for burglary. Now, prison is one of the most horrific places in the world, particularly for a youth of 20 and it usually hardens the criminal in his ways, narrowing his already narrow world view. But Malcolm decided to reassess his life and his attitude. Until then, he had lived his life as a carefree hustler messing around here and there. But now he would change. He used the time in prison to discipline himself, a quality he utterly lacked. With so much time at his disposal he started reading books in the prison library and earned himself a degree. He practiced to become an expert speaker. Once he got out of the prison, he had this amazing principle with him of using every adversity to his advantage.
On a commercial note, there are various examples that people have used their bad experiences to make money or get famous. For example some of the greatest works of poetry and literature that later became bestsellers were composed in the prison or very harsh circumstances. Similarly, you can also use your experiences as a creative force. As a matter fact, great artworks especially in poetry have been produced as a result of great pain. In a new Netflix show, “THE POLITICIAN”, the character of Infinity Jackson, who was falsely told by her grandmother that she had cancer, later on writes a book on her experience and that becomes a bestseller. Remember people crave for new and exciting experiences, and reading about such experiences or watching them in a movie, gives them a satisfaction that they somehow are living that.
ACTIVELY PURSUE YOUR “PEAK EXPERIENCE”
Normally as we get older we tend to put limits on ourselves. This is a direct result of people’s constant judgments and negative remarks about our abilities, which we experience over the years. Additionally, it also rationalizes our laziness. It kind of becomes a self-fulfilling dynamic. But such an approach is just an attempt on part of others to keep you down. You should not play into their hands. You must tell yourself, that you are capable of much more than you are told.
In ancient times, ambitious and high achieving people, for example Alexander and Caesar felt that they were descended from Gods and partly divine. Such self-belief would translate into extreme confidence, and others also felt that radiating from them. Obviously you do not need to have such a belief as it’s a superstition, but it’s all about the story you tell yourself. If you tell yourself that you are a loser, then that’s what you are going to be. On the contrary, having a belief that you are destined for something great and big, will make you confident and resilient in the face of obstacles. Reading about the lives of great achievers in history and their ups and downs will surely give you a great level of comfort.
The great American psychologist Abraham Maslow gave a concept of “peak experience”. These are moments in which you are lifted from the daily grind and feel something larger and sublime. Such moments can come from getting out of your normal comfort zone, overcoming obstacles, travelling to a different and unique culture. You should intentionally put yourself in such surroundings to get a feeling of Peak experience. Such sublime moments have the ability to change your attitude about life for good, and keep inspiring you. For example, the great founder of Buddhism “GAUTAMA SIDDHARTHA BUDDHA” had a similar experience. He was a prince and lived in the confines of the palace. Once he came out and saw poor and crippled people. This experience touched him so deeply that he left everything behind in search of enlightenment and created one of the greatest religions in the world.
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