Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
Sometimes changing your circumstances isn’t possible – or simply not possible soon enough. You can’t get to a new job in an instant. You can’t make someone else change against his or her will. And you certainly can’t erase the past. So what options do you have left?
Change your perception, belief or opinion about your circumstances. Doing so will help you change your attitude and ultimately allow you to grow beyond the struggles you can’t control.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said it perfectly more than 2,000 years ago: “People are disturbed, not by things (that happen to them), but by the principles and opinions which they form concerning (those) things. When we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles and opinions.”
Modern behavioral science agrees too. American psychologist Albert Ellis, famous for developing rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), has proven that how people react to events is determined predominantly by their view of the events, not the events themselves.
Have no clue how to change your perception of things – and improve your attitude? Here are seven easy ways to start:
- Still your mind. – In order to gain conscious control of what goes on in your mind, you need to develop a keen awareness for this process. What helps is to hold still for a moment, take a deep breath and free your mind of all the chatter that’s going on inside and all around. This makes room for a change of state, for something new to enter. So give yourself a break. Don’t say you can’t. Yes, you have battles out in the world to fight, insecurities to overcome, loved ones to contend with and goals to achieve, but a break from it all is necessary. It’s perfectly healthy to pause and let the world spin without you for a while. If you don’t, you will burn yourself out. You must refill your bucket on a regular basis. That means catching your breath, finding quiet solitude, focusing your attention inward, and otherwise making time for recovery from the chaos of your routine.
- Change your focus. – From the awareness of your thoughts and emotions you become able to consciously redirect your focus. It’s time to take it willingly away from something that drags you down, and zero it in on something that inspires you. Focus on the next logical, meaningful step. There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them. So keep your hope alive through positive awareness. Don’t let the pain make you desperate. Don’t let the negativity wear off on you. Don’t let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Spend your energy moving forward. Change your thoughts and you change your reality. Our thoughts are the makers of our moods, the inventors of our dreams, and the creators of our will. That’s why we must sort through them carefully, and choose to respond only to those that will help us build the life we want, and the outlook we want to hold as we’re living it. (Read The Power of Intention.)
- Surrender your worries and embrace acceptance. – Realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace. Because inner peace does not depend on external conditions; it’s what remains when you’ve surrendered your ego and worries. Peace can be found within you at any place and at any time. It’s always there, patiently waiting for you to turn your attention toward it. Peace of mind arrives the moment you come to peace with what’s on your mind. It happens when you let go of the need to be anywhere but where you are, physically and emotionally. This acceptance of the way things are creates the foundation for inner harmony. The need for something to be different in this moment is nothing more than a worry, and worries simply lead you in circles. Remember, the same part of you that longs for peace is the part of you that experiences peace. It is not complicated to achieve and is as close as your next thought.
- Practice gratitude. – What you must realize is that you don’t really need more; you just need to appreciate what you have. It’s a beautiful and bittersweet way of thinking all at once. If you don’t have what you want now, you don’t have what you want, but you still have enough. Be thankful for what is, and also be thankful for what has not yet come to you. For that means there are still many possibilities available. Find peace in the thought that you can’t ever have it all or know it all either. You are always just a fraction of the whole. For if you weren’t, there would be nothing more to experience. Value what you know, and also value the countless things you don’t yet understand. For in what you don’t understand, there is the joy of growth. Life will always be incomplete and a bit asymmetrical. Realize this and embrace it. Be happy and sad at the same time, be hungry and thankful at the same time, be nervous and excited at the same time, and be OK with it. (Read Buddha’s Brain.)
- Reframe your struggles as growing pains. – Remind yourself that there’s scarcely any happiness, passion or success without struggle. If the road is easy, you’re likely going the wrong way. Everything that happens helps you grow, even if it’s hard to see right now. Circumstances will direct you, correct you, and perfect you over time. Sometimes these circumstances knock you down, hard. There will be times when it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong. And you might feel like you will be stuck in this rut forever, but you won’t. When you feel like quitting, remember that sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right. Sometimes you have to go through the worst, to arrive at your best. Because our most significant opportunities are often found in times of great difficulty. Thus, you will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.
- Look for the beginning in every ending. – Everything in life has to come to an end sometime. It’s important to acknowledge and accept the end of an era – to walk away sensibly when something has reached its conclusion. Closing the door, turning the page, moving on, etc. It doesn’t matter what you call it; what matters is that you leave the past where it belongs so you can enjoy the life that’s still available to be lived. This ending is not THE END, it’s just your life beginning again in a new way. It’s a point in your story where one chapter fades into the next. Take a look at the first page of this new chapter; it’s a beautiful one. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- When all else fails, use your body. – The mind reflects your body by responding to its levels of tension, rate of breath, speed of movement and mental focus. Likewise your body mirrors your thoughts, feelings, mood, and responds to your state of mind, the questions you ask and the words you speak. So if the mind and body are intrinsically connected – meaning that one has a direct affect on the other – it becomes clear that if we directly and consciously take control of one, it will influence and transform the other. So by mindfully adjusting how you use your body you can directly influence your state of mind, and dramatically transform your attitude. Just imagine you’re sitting there in a bad mood, shoulders hanging forward, shallow breathing and frowning. Go ahead and do this right now to experience how it influences your state of mind. And then do the opposite: stand up straight and put a big smile on your face. Take some deep, strong breaths and stretch your arms into the air. Notice how you feel better? Bottom line: Take the vehicle your creator has given you and use it! Your body is the best tool for changing your attitude in an instant.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the mind is your battleground. It’s the place where the greatest conflict resides. It’s where half of the things you thought were going to happen, never did happen. But if you allow those thoughts to dwell in your mind, they will succeed in robbing you of peace, joy, and ultimately your life. You will think yourself into a nervous breakdown, into depression, and into defeat. I know because I’ve been there.
Truthfully, there is so much about your fate that you can’t control, it makes no sense to neglect all the things you CAN control. You can decide how you spend your time, whom you socialize with, whom you share your life, money and energy with. You can pick your words and the tone of voice in which you speak to others. You can select what you will eat, read and study every day. You can choose how you’re going to respond to unfortunate situations when they arise, and whether you will see them as curses or opportunities for growth…
And most importantly, you can choose your attitude, which dictates pretty much everything else.
How about you? What helps you change your attitude from negative to positive when life gets stressful and painful? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.
Photo by: Kren
This article could not have come at a more appropriate time to affirm positive steps I’ve taken and remind me to keep looking forward.
I’ve been embroiled for the past seven years with a vindictive, narcissistic ex-spouse who has tried every angle to twist the truth in an attempt to destroy me. Presently, he has created a major child custody battle. His antics used to render me nearly nonfunctional.
In his efforts to destroy my, I credit him, though he does not know this, for being the catalyst to change me into the person I am today. I’m stronger, focused on truly living each day appreciating what I do have, and silencing the old voices in my life that were his lies to listen to the voices of truth that are a positive reality in all aspects, except where he is concerned. I’ve learned to focus my energy on being active in my children’s lives and my community to make a positive difference to someone else.
Yes, each ‘ending’ is also an exciting new beginning. Thank you, Marc and Angel.
Life is amazing, in the positives and negatives. I too am in the mist of a similar life altering event, but the day my ex kicked me out of our house, I knew I had to start my life. I now have custody of my 2 kids, and working on getting visitation rights to my 2 older step kids. It now is exciting to realize I truly can do what ever I want to do. Extreme pressure on coal produces a diamond.
Sandra Pawula says
I so agree with you. In Buddhism, it’s said that “the mind is the universal ordering principle.” Everything depends on our perceptions.
I’m a big fan of #1. I find so much freedom in stillness and the space for new solutions and ideas to arise.
Hey Marc. I just want to say that what you and Angel write about is really helping me out. For the past few months I’ve been suffering from depression caused by a severe loss in my life. Your words really inspire me and it makes me realize that there is far more to life than feeling sorry for myself. Thank you.
For me, it really all about positive reminders, which is why I have read and re-read your parts of book and many of your articles several times over the past year. Doing so has helped me stay on the right path.
I so look forward to my bi-weekly dose of inspiration from your emails and blog posts. Today’s post has given me much to think, cry and smile about, especially as a new cancer patient who has not come to terms with the disease.
I try to keep the beauty of each moment in mind. I try to be as present as possible with the time I know I have right now. And I’m really only beginning to realize how much I was once overlooking.
Eleanor Duff says
I understand this intellectually, but struggle with the fact that when things have changed in my life it sometimes seems like the “bad guys” won. Taking it on the chin and focusing on what you have may save you sanity to some degree, but it often leaves a sense of disquiet, and turning the other cheek does not necessarily come with a sense of acceptance. I can’t quite reconcile my feelings of defeat. Perhaps I am just not that noble. Where does this leave justice or fairness? Just asking for some clarity.
peter mathew says
That is the difference of thoughtful living, thoughtless living and living in reality. Reconciled minds never create, they just survive, but minds like yours searching for clarity, justice and fair play are restless and such minds only can create. Light and darkness, success and failure and many such opposites can’t be eliminated. In this duality we have to evolve our reality and live to leave something for the future. This is merging with the Ultimate One, Salvation and in Sanskrit it is called ‘Advaitham’ ie., the way to unity. Thank you “marcandangel” for initiating this discussion and all those who participated.
Exactly my issue as well. grrrr
Once again your skilled writing on subjects that are so important come at a crucial time in my life….thank you for always making me feel better and stronger and beautiful!!
This was exactly what I needed to hear today! As I get ready to face a very difficult few weeks I can go back to this article and it will help me stay focused on the positive. I thank God for sending this to me and answering my prayers and as always, Marc and Angel for being there.
Thank you for such an inspiring post. In answer to your question about what changes one’s mood, I have gotten into the habit of acknowledging to myself the mood I’m in, and then consciously reversing it and telling myself “just do it”. There is no “trying” … only “doing”.
Eleanor was asking in her post, “where’s the fairness and justice?” I have always believed that “life isn’t fair”, so I don’t think of fairness and justice at all as something owed to me in this life. I really like many of the Buddhist concepts, but believing in karma is one concept I don’t subscribe to. Nor do I believe “what goes around, comes around”. Saying those things to yourself feels like a crutch to me.
David Rapp says
I think its fair to note that all of these are LEARNED. Very few people are born with these concepts. These things are best studied and practiced, then they can begin working for you.
For me music works wonders. My mood changes as soon as I change the beats. When i feel too low i try to hear some fast beats to cheer up and most of the time it helps.
Meditation and intense focus on the present moment – it always helps me clear the chaos I can’t control out of my mind.
Linda Gebelein says
I’m having ovarian cancer surgery on Tuesday. There is very little about this situation I can control. These ideas come to me at the perfect time.
Sandy Peckinpah says
This post came at the right time (it always does). Once again you’ve given me the gift of insight. I struggled all weekend in the process of having to move boxes of my son’s belongings. Although he died many years ago, having to go through his things made the loss even more palpable and fresh. I cried the whole weekend. I woke up this morning, anticipating another day of sorrow, but I read your post and decided I didn’t want to feel pain today. It doesn’t mean I will never feel the pain again, it just means I’m giving myself a choice today. Great post, as always. Thank you.
Its so easy to wander back in to insecurity. Not a pleasant place but familiar. I found myself alone, sad and sinking.
And I remembered short blurbs from your book. Flip perception. Lonely can become solitude – frustration with another person can become a lesson in boundaries and practice in self-pacification.
Emotions are just that – emotions. Some negative but some wonderful! We wouldn’t know the joy of soaring in the sunshine without the dark cold cave now and again. 🙂 TY r
Great article Marc and Angel.
Which brings me to my point of view about free will.
The way we choose to perceive things and our desire, are the main aspects of our free will. And that’s what we should focus on.
Sure, you have some control over your actions (sometimes your will to make a change isn’t strong enough and it doesn’t produce an action. In this case prayer or meditation strengthen your will and give you tools to produce action).
But you have no control over the outcome.
Life is a journey with ups and downs. And you can suffer or enjoy every moment of it.
This choice is yours.
When life gets painful and stressful the thing that helps me the most clearing my mind, is listening to the right song in the right moment of time that explains the whole situation that I am going through – just closing my eyes and just concentrating on the words of the song carefully. It helps free all my worries and struggles that are in my mind
Thank you for letting me share my thoughts,
Marc And Angel’s articles are always great inspiration!!!
Troy Peterson says
Thank you Marc and Angel. These articles always come at the perfect time.. In the morning.. I’m currently in situations, that stem from me being young wild and free.. Not having a care in the world. Thinking I really knew myself, but when reality set in,it was a facade.. So I totally understand the concept of closing that era in your life to start anew. With that being said, sometimes you can have bad days, (we’re human) but there’s so much we have to experience and look at to be thankful for. And that can turn your gray skies blue.
Liz Wood says
Inspiring. Thank you so much.
I always find it Amusing when I look back after a year or so at all the coming tragedies I worried about… that ended up Never happening.
Thank you so very much for this beautiful article. I am indeed in the same predicament as you have mentioned, feeling like quitting, unable to understand the circumstances… confusion in life. But, yes this article has made me to think for a while and see things differently.
When I feel down or need to change my attitude to a positive direction, I read and look for answers to my dilemmas in places like Marc and Angel’s blog. Thank you for all the wisdom you share!
Helpful article. Well written and inspiring.
Rose Costas says
Thanks for this post. I am a bit off at the moment and reading this just helped me to become centered again.
Thanks for also reminding me that if things are going easy it is not the right way. I have been struggling for a while and the pain is great and I keep asking my self why me all the time. This helps me to redirect my focus and start looking at things differently.
Mitko the Productive says
Another great article!
As some CEO’s like saying: ” Change your attitude or you will be changed. Bad attitude can not be changed, however, skill level can be changed through training.”
Lisa Hills says
Thank you very much for your life changing writings. I’ve been having insomnia problems lately and through this I have figured out why. I am a terrible procrastinator…my house and my lIfe can get in a really big mess. When I have a really big mess… like right now every pot and pan and fork in my house are dirty and I’m down to only the clean underwear that is too small or else the elastic is worn out. I feel guilty going to bed and leaving this mess, so I jUst don’t go to bed! Right now it’s 4:43 am andI’m lying on my couch still fully clothed and uncomfortable. Can’t go to bed till everytHing’s done so instead of getting it done, I just don’t sleep…lol. Gotta change my lazy attitude and my lazy body. Got any suggestions for that now?
Marc and Angel, I always get bored of reading books and educational blogs… but your articles have helped me learn. I personally like the simplicity of your thoughts for most complex issues in our life and simple ways to resolve them…
I appreciate your work and would like to learn more from your writings. Thanks.
Naomi D. Tate says
Hello Marc and Angel. I am new to your site but absolutely love it…. I wish there was some kind of way to convince you to be my mentor…. Hint…. Hint…. Lol. Anyway, I was googling, “How to think more positively” and up pops your amazing site. Your latest post about Ways to change your attitude when you can’t change anything else really identified with me, 1. Because I realized I am doing some of these things, but it added an additional perspective as well as further knowledge on techniques that work, and 2. It inspired me to start my own blog on being Solutions Focused. I wrote an affirmation a few years back for a class. It reads,” I am bigger and brighter than all my problems, and constantly choose to be solutions focused.” The only thing I know about blogging is how to write content, but once I get going I would love to have you guest post or vice versa. Please keep me in mind, I just started yesterday, I will be dropping in regularly. If there are any tips you would like to pass along please feel free, my mind is a sponge!
I love what you two are doing here. It gives me hope for this world…. People are trying to be better people!
Naomi D. Tate
Ola Olajumoke says
In the past, music was my favourite “get-away tool” whenever I was down and out. I was a music addict (not that I was depressed tho). Then I quit the addiction. It was then that I realised that music is just a total distraction and that it does very little to make things better.
Its like taking anaesthetics to numb your pain. we all know that anaesthetics just mask the pain on a short term, they do nothing to heal the source of the pain.
I discovered self-reflection just afterwards and ever since life, for me, has never been the same. It has taken on a new meaning and whenever I’m down and out, I don’t try to numb the pain, I just head straight for the source of the pain through self-reflection. Through this exercise I get a diagnosis (clarifying the reason for the pain) and then I seek help or medication (Please, pardon my medical terminologies :D) through amazing blogs as this, books, prayers and so on.
Now with this knowing, I have been able to redefine problems and challenges as opportunities for growth (physical, mental and emotional) rather than whatever negativity they seem to represent.
Danii Turnbull says
Nice reminder that we really do control our experience of the world. Sometimes it feels difficult to change our attitudes when nothing is going to plan. By finding that peaceful place within us and choosing to act rather than react to our circumstances, we give ourselves great opportunities to grow.
Hi Marc & Angel , thank you again for an beautiful and inspiring blog which also comes at a great time for me as I am on some tough medical treatment. I hope you have heard Allegri’s : Miserere Mei Deus on YouTube – it is true complimentary medicine. Best wishes.
Whether the things you’re struggling with are huge or minor, attitude is arguably the biggest contributing factor in how it ultimately goes for you — never underestimate your own ability to determine how you handle rough patches.
andy Omni Runner says
I take a breath and tell my self that this will be over eventually. Just deal with it the best you can and try to get through it. I learned this in the dentists chair.
Knowing there is an end to the discomfort makes it easier to get through.
And as you say, every ending is a new beginning. Knowing that something new will be here shortly helps me get through those difficult transitions.
Thank you so much for this post. Been going through a tough time in my head and i felt this article was written for me. So useful.
Marc Chernoff says
@Eleanor Duff: I believe Patti is on the right track. Life isn’t fair, it’s what you make of it.
@Everyone: Thank you, as always. Your kudos and shared wisdom motivates Angel and I like you can’t imagine. Really enjoyed reading your comments on this particular post.
Pamela DeFelice says
I just read this a couple of days later but I do believe everything happens for a reason. Thank you for this message, reading this helped me change towards a better attitude with something that happened at work. When you are a loner which I have accepted and know my limits reading these helps people such as myself. Good job Marc and Angel!
“And most importantly, you can choose your attitude, which dictates pretty much everything else.”
This final statement is so powerful in its simplicity. Thank you.
I love how gratitude makes it on to almost every list. It really is the key to living a happier life. 🙂
Thank you for this post, love the help!!
To those still struggling,
I read every positive blog and book I can. I also keep an online gratitude journal. I do this online to keep me consistently contributing. Some days I truly cannot come up with 5 good bullet points. Some days I feel negative and trying to be positive only turns me toward resentment of having to try so hard. That is OK. I realize that while we all struggle to different degree’s, I struggle more than many. Whether it’s nature or nurture or both, sometimes it’s OK to just accept the downer. Sometimes it is too hard to fight it and I don’t feel I can fight it, or fake it till I make it anymore. I had several decades of that, and I made it work but at great later emotional costs. Now I am in therapy and its need a long, slow road. My point is that whether you get therapy, group therapy, take a class or find an online group where you can totally be yourself… Be yourself to the point of being with people who can accept you for all the pain you feel now, feeling accepted for who you are and where you are is essential. Bad days are allowed, messy houses are allowed, outing depression is allowed. I say this because if you seek, you will find you are not the only one with this struggle. Sometimes you need to feel it, move through it, love yourself for it as you would if your best friend was going through it. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Example, one day I caught myself breaking an egg and spilling some on the counter, I thought to myself “I am so bad at that”, then I noticed my thoughts and decided I would never say that to a friend. I would say “everybody spills a bit of egg sometime, we have 11 more eggs, it’s no big deal.” I can see from various incidents that I can think harshly of myself. I am trying to learn to be kind to me. Trying to spend time with others who are kind to me, despite my messy house. I am no longer hiding my “so called” maladies. And those who are truly friends know these things and love me anyway. Those friends who do not love me anyway are not truly friends. I can’t call myself fixed yet, I have many downs but the ups are poking through. I couldn’t believe it, I filed paperwork yesterday after 3 months of piles. Its not complete, but it’s a start. Aren’t you proud of me? Thank you for the positive view and hearing out those of us who are still coming up for air, Anna
Michael Sullivan says
Just wanted to say thanks for your article. It provided valuable insight I did not have… MS…
Great advice that has helped me see the lighter side of things and how to change things from negative to positive. Acceptance is also key. Thanks for sharing this very helpful post.
I just wanted to say: Thank you.
The words you both write are helping me survive a really bad moment in my life. It keeps reminding myself I have the strengh to move on and be better and happier.
My mantra for changing perspective is – I thought my life was a tragedy until I realized I had a choice. After which any one of these suggestions can be used.
Thank you so much for another inspiring post. One of the things I love so much about this community is that there are no haters in the comments. The commenters are also inspiring to me.
I have found that the process of finding that ‘peace’ can be difficult despite the effort made…but a little weed has never failed in facilitating that process ;-D