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Attitudes can be contagious

From this perspective

My wife Elaine taught school for 36 years. Over the years, She worked with young children at several different levels. Often, Elaine would speak about the critical importance of helping each child to develop a positive attitude toward self, and a constructive attitude toward work and toward others. I often wondered why my wife placed so much emphasis on this attitudinal concept. Over the years, I have given much thought to the significance of this concept.and I have concluded the following:

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. But attitude, ah yes attitude, determines how well you do it. It has been said that “attitude often determines one’s altitude.” And this concept seems to be the bottom line of that which happens in much of life. And so , I reflect in retrospect as follows:

The eastern horizon had a faint tinge of pink on the edge of the skyline. It was not quite 5:00 a.m. But, the work began early on our dairy and vegetable farm. The memory of this day goes back three score and 16 years ago when I was a fifth-grader. My teacher, Miss Herren, often said, “Robert … a good attitude gets the job done and it will determine your altitude in life.” I really never knew back then what she meant. But as life moved on, I now fully appreciate her wisdom.

As the family chores got underway that morning, we discovered that there was an electric power outage. My first chore was to bring the dairy cattle in for milking from the pasture. But to my dismay, I discovered the cattle had challenged the non-functioning electric fencing. They were grazing in the neighbor’s corn field! It was quite a challenge to get the cattle back into their own pasture, particularly against their ‘corn feasting’ will. But I kept telling myself, “A good attitude gets the job done”. And then, to make matters even more difficult, we realized there was no electric power to run the milking machines; milking now had to be done by hand.

With the passage of events, I realized that time had fleeted by, and it was time to get ready for school. It was a small country school about two miles away. However, one more problem now surfaced, the tire on my bicycle was flat. With a positive attitude in place, a quick patch- job temporarily took care of that problem. So far, it had been quite a morning, and the sun was barely over the horizon. But, with a right attitude, the tone for action had been set in motion.

And so, that was the beginning of a new day, with several unexpected events. But then, for most everyone, every day has an event or two which may be unexpected. Somehow, we adjust and move on; it is all about how one’s attitude.

I have found that how one chooses to deal with events can be a most significant impact on the outcome. Having a positive outlook, being hopeful, excited about the myriad of possibilities … these are the steps which lead to positive outcomes. Worrying about what we have to get done, anxious about having enough time to do it, confused about the best way to get it all done… these can detract from successful results.

I have found that having a positive attitude is not something that can be learned by playing a video. The ability to stay positive must come from the within. It is a lifestyle choice that requires ever-vigilant attention and consistent effort. We all know people who seem to be always positive, optimistic, and energetic. Their smile is contagious and we want to bask a bit in their glow. We learn from one another.

You know, the people all around us are special gifts. These gifts usually come wrapped … low self-attitudes,struggles, feeling of self-centeredness, arrogance, anguish … these all are part of the wrapping. In many ways the wrapping is not pretty– and can make the gift inside almost impossible to find. But, by kindness, love, patience, and caring … on our part … we may slowly unwrap the gift and be most pleasantly surprised. And along the way. we may learn that we too, are gifts to others, as our own personable barriers are unwrapped by others. To be sure, we may all be so pleasantly surprised by what we discover hidden under the superficial wrappings.

You know, a positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results. Clearly, one cannot tailor-make all of life’s situations, but one can tailor-make the attitudes to fit those situations. I believe that attitude is contagious. A positive attitude gives energy to oneself and to others.

I have found that by keeping your attitudinal thoughts positive they become your words. By keeping your words positive they become your behavior. By keeping your behaviors positive they become your habits. When you keep your habits positive they become your values. And in the final step, by keeping your values positive they become your destiny.

To be sure, attitude determines one’s altitude You know, my wife Elaine and my teacher Miss Herren were very wise teachers indeed.

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor at SUNY Fredonia.

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