This is the first in a series of articles about the life lessons I’ve learned over the years. Some of these I’ve learned on my own, others I’ve been taught. These are things that work for me. Maybe they’ll work for you.
Shortly before I got out of the Army, I started to collect a couple of tenets that seemed to make my days go better. Short sentences or phrases that when repeated, would remind me of some truth that can get me past a bad day or tough obstacle. These tenets needed to meet certain criteria. First, they needed to work. Second, they needed to be easy to understand. Third, they needed to be easy to apply. If they met this criteria, I would write them down somewhere. The idea is that these things are so good, they are worth living by. Over the years, I’ve collected 27 of them.
The first one I learned from a colleague in the Army. Positive Mental Attitude – PMA. It’s the best life lesson I have in my arsenal. When applied, I can’t go wrong. The idea is simple, be cheerful and positive as often as possible. Little is gained from being negative. As individuals, we are ultimately responsible for our actions and reactions. The only person I control is myself, and I can choose how I react to anything that happens, ultimately creating my own reality. That sounds airy, I know, but it works. If you try to be positive, over time it happens naturally. There will be days where it’s near impossible to look on the bright side. But trust me, it can always be worse.
There’s a quote that encapsulates this idea better than I can put it down on this blog. It is popularly attributed to the German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. And at the risk of landing on On Violence’s “quotes behaving badly” series, I’ll admit that I don’t know who really said this, as this page says that the quote is misattributed to Goethe. Whatever. It’s a good quote:
“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
I possess tremendous power to make a life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture, or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de–escalated, and a person humanized or dehumanized.”