How Important is Attitude?

Billionaire J. Paul Getty was once asked to write a magazine article about how he became so rich, to which he responded, “Some people find oil. Others don’t.” Talk about playing into the hands of randomness advocates. I acknowledge that there’s a lot of luck involved in the way life turns out. But luck isn’t the only factor in the equation of life, so it’s unwise to depend on luck to guide your destiny.

The law of averages determines the long-term inevitability of things, i.e., it establishes odds. However, when it comes to the human experience, there’s an important additional factor to consider. Human beings, unlike any other species, are much more than just conscious creatures. Human beings can plot, plan, conceptualize, and even will things to happen. Unlike the flipping of a coin, human beings have the capacity to alter events.

In other words, a human being has the power of choice. He can decide to drive slower and lessen his chances of being on the wrong side of the law of averages. He can decide not to smoke and decrease his odds against dying of lung cancer. He can decide which business deal to work on and try to improve his chances for success. He can decide to stay single or get married or go skiing or just hide under his bed.

But whatever decisions he makes — whatever his choices — they will have a great deal to do with his odds versus the overall odds of the general population dictated by the law of averages.

To be sure, randomness and inevitability will always take their toll. But you have been given the power to intervene, to affect the odds in your specific case. William James was unequivocal on this point when he stated, “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

I thought about James’s quote when I read Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was a world-renowned Austrian psychiatrist who followed in the footsteps of fellow Austrians Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. The most remarkable thing about Viktor Frankl was that the majority of his remarkable accomplishments in the field of psychiatry came after he had spent three horrifying years in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl recounted, in vivid detail, the trauma, degradation, and suffering he endured during his incarceration by the Nazis. He described trudging through snow, ice, and mud, with no socks on his feet — frostbitten toes sticking through the holes in his shoes.

He recounted how the Nazis tormented him, beating him and hitting him on the back of the head with rifle butts, and what it was like to see friends and relatives stuffed into gas chambers or buried alive. Then, at the end of each brutal, agonizing day, sick from the pangs of starvation, he and his fellow prisoners would be given a cup of watered-down soup, with a single pea at the bottom of the cup, as their daily ration. He told of even having to sleep in his own excrement.

But perhaps the most fascinating reflection of all by this remarkable man who managed to survive three years of indescribable torture in Nazi concentration camps is when he stated, in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Throughout Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl emphasized that attitude was an essential, shared element among those who survived Auschwitz and Dachau. I was so impressed with Frankl’s emphasis on attitude as the key to his survival that it prompted me to take a closer look at the phenomenon commonly referred to as “positive mental attitude.”

I am still of the opinion that most people who expound the virtues of maintaining a positive mental attitude do not have a clear understanding of what it really means. In fact, when I was much younger, I was very cynical about people who advocated PMA, because those who most vociferously promoted its powers often seemed to be advocating a superficial approach.

Worse, I noted that this artificial approach often backfired over the long term. The problem is that if a person merely smiles and makes superficial proclamations about his attitude, or paints on a happy face and inundates everyone around him with positive statements, he is likely to become disenchanted with PMA at the first sign of failure.

To sustain a true positive mental attitude, you must do more than just emotionalize things; you must intellectualize them. By intellectualize, I mean analyzing and understanding exactly what a positive mental attitude is, and how and why it works. A true positive mental attitude is based on science, not mysticism.

Because atoms vibrate at tremendous speeds, and because all atoms are connected, it makes sense that a person’s thoughts have the power to attract to him the things, people, and circumstances he envisions. It’s a matter of science!

Therefore, theoretically speaking, our limitations are pretty much where we choose to place them. I use the term theoretically, because a positive mental attitude doesn’t give you omnipotence. But to the extent having a positive mind-set becomes a way of life for you, one thing is certain: You will have a better chance of succeeding at everything you undertake.

Make no mistake about it, Viktor Frankl’s positive attitude didn’t guarantee his survival in Auschwitz and Dachau, but it did guarantee that his odds would be much better than if his mind had been negative regarding the possibility of survival.

Put another way, while we are never free from the inevitabilities of life — illness, accidents, natural disasters, and the like — we are free to choose our attitude toward them. And in so doing, we can at a minimum swing the odds in our favor and dramatically increase our chances for success.

Find out the 10 books I recommend for all ETR readers at the bottom of this article here.

[Ed Note: Robert Ringer is the author of three #1 bestsellers, two of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time. Through his books, articles, speeches, and seminars, he has helped more people transform their aspirations and goals into reality than perhaps any other author in history. His articles appear regularly in Early to Rise, A Voice of Sanity, WorldNetDaily, and numerous newspapers nationwide. Gain immediate access to A Dealmaker’s Dream and many bonuses for 66% off here.]
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  • Jared

    The life
    that you are living is life filtered through and hampered by your judgments.
    Judge not lest ye be judged. Judge not. Yes, you pride yourself on being nonjudgemtal. Nonetheless you are a judging machine. You do
    nothing more readily or easily. And you are paying the price. When people affirm that they are nonjudgmental
    what they really mean is that they don’t judge behavior that they have already
    judged to be acceptable. All else is fair game. All your hard work, smart work,
    inspired action, massive action, visualization, affirmations, mind movies,
    positive thinking, meditation, self-hypnosis and other attempts at creating,
    attracting or manifesting your desired life are filtered through and impeded by
    your judgments. Doing all the right things and not making the progress you
    should be making? Your judgments.

    Your
    judgments are a ball and chain that you drag with you. The only drag on your upward trajectory. You may
    get to where you want to go, but it will take much more time, effort, energy
    and struggle. You still insist that you are nonjudgmental. If that were the
    case, there would be nothing holding you back. You would always be experiencing
    the flow and infinite abundance of the universe. Total joy and success. The
    fact is you judge everything from traffic, weather, climate, bodily symptoms,
    your progress and circumstances, to the wage of workers in China and Malaysia.
    Meet the filter and drag on your life.

    Judge not
    lest ye be judged. BE. Not will be. BE. Present tense. Now, ongoing. “Be”
    equals living. You are living your judgments. The good news is that it all
    changes when your judgments are curtailed.

    If you truly
    were nonjudgmental you would live in constant unbounded joy. Stress, sadness,
    unhappiness, frustration, worry, fear, nervousness, envy, jealousy and other undesirable
    feelings and states are always the result of your judgments. And judgment
    always results in stress, worry, fear, disappointment, frustration, anxiety,
    unhappiness and/or sadness. All of these impede your progress. They drag you
    down. They all lower your energy and vibrations.

    Judgment is
    death. The death of your hopes, dreams, progress and joy. Slow, minute by
    minute, day by day, and emotionally agonizing. Judgment is darkness. All the
    success programs and modalities that you try result in less than stellar
    results. Because of the filter of your judgments.

    Your
    judgments define your life. Definitions are limits. When you define “car” you
    draw a circle and say that everything within the circle is a car and everything
    without isn’t. In this way your judgments limit your life and block you from
    the infinite resources and abundance of the universe.

    On the other
    hand is observation. Observation is power. Observation results in joy.
    Observation results in appreciation and gratitude. In this way observation raises your energy,
    attitude, outlook and vibrations. Observation is lift. Judgment is drag.
    Observation brings lightness. Judgment brings heaviness. Observation is life.
    Observation is light.

    When you
    observe and appreciate the total all is-ness of the universe you are in sync
    with and in the flow of it its infinite abundance. Your judgments of isn’t are out of sync with the
    universe’s is-ness, are error and always block its flow.

    When you
    look at the world what do you see? Do you really see? Do you observe or do you
    judge? What do you see without your analysis? Without your opinion? Without
    your perspective? Without your judgment?

    What you see
    is stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. People and their stuff. Money, appliances, gadgets, houses, cars, clothes,
    food, toys. And so much more. Stuff, assets, goodies. This is real. Wealth is
    real. This is reality. That’s all there really is. What you see, the only thing
    that you can possibly ever see is wealth.

    There are
    two significant judgments that are holding you back and eroding your dreams and
    your very life force. One is poverty and the other is “too much”. A double
    curse.

    Poverty does
    not exist. There is only wealth. Poverty is just a point of view. Poverty is a
    judgment. And just not lest your judgment come upon you. You call somebody poor
    because they don’t have what you think they should have or what you would like
    them to have. In judging anybody poor you bring that judgment on yourself
    because you almost certainly see yourself as not having everything that you
    would like, everything that you want or everything that you think you should
    have. Once you judge poverty anywhere you bring that judgment on yourself. And
    it will hold you back. You may have enough. You may have more than enough. But
    this judgment drags you down and holds you back. It’s a liability that is
    making you less than you could be. Your judgment is like hiking with a heavy
    weight on your back. You will never go as far, and high and fast as you could
    without it.

    If “poverty”
    is one thing, it is struggle. No matter how much a person has, if his life has
    become a struggle he’s poor. When you make the judgment of “poverty”, you bring
    the judgment of struggle on your life. Things become much more difficult.

    Are you one
    of the millions who only support politicians who most readily and broadly judge
    “poverty” and “misfortune” and then invoke the harshest judgment on those judged
    to have more than they need? Your double curse.

    You actually judge that some people have more
    than they should have, more than you think they need. And then go so far as to
    judge what should be taken (taxed) away from then. You actually judge what
    everybody should and shouldn’t have. Congratulations . You have brought the
    judgment on yourself that people should not have more than they really need.
    And should have their “excess”, their abundance, taken away. Do you really want
    to be in that place? All the while proclaiming your nonjudgmentalism.

    Do you want
    to live the judgment that people shouldn’t have more than they need? Do you
    really want to pass judgment of “poverty” because somebody doesn’t have what
    you think they should which is also you?

    You have
    brought the judgment of poverty on yourself because rather than appreciate you
    judge “poverty” when you look at people and perceive them to have less than you
    think they should have (like yourself).

    What could
    be more judgmental then judging what people should or should not have? Should or
    should not be allowed to keep? Why would anybody want to bring those judgments
    on themselves?

    The story of
    our economy is the story of a progressively expanding judgment of poverty. At one
    time “poor” meant not having food or a roof over one’s head. Then it came to
    mean not having what most others had. Now it means you don’t have the latest
    and the best. There are those that are promoting the idea that the 99% are poor
    and misfortunate. If this definition ever takes hold, disaster. All actions and
    policies that come from the judgment of “poverty” can only result in a greater,
    more intense experience of poverty. Not more poverty, as poverty does not
    exist. But a more widespread experience and consciousness of poverty, more
    evidence of “poverty”.

    This holds
    the key to economic recovery and unending growth. Judging poverty leads to even
    more ”poverty”. Always. Negative is negative and drags folks down. It always
    leads to poverty inducing action. And most inexcusably, it encourages, enables
    and perpetuates judgment of “poverty” that others pronounce on their lives
    rather than the empowering option of observation and appreciation. We have more
    struggle because we have continually progressively chosen to see more
    “poverty”. We can easily reverse the
    process.

    You will see
    what you do see. See poverty and you will continue seeing even more poverty. It
    is only possible to observe what is. Only wealth can be observed. “Poverty” cannot be observed as it is only a
    perception of the nonexistent isn’t that results from the ego’s
    analysis/judgment.

    Darkness
    does not exist. Literally and absolutely doesn’t exist. It is only the
    perceived relative nonexistence of light. “Poverty” is just another avatar of
    darkness. It is the ego’s perceived nonexistence of wealth. And nonexistence
    does not and cannot exist. People in darkness see darkness. And they are surely
    wont to see “poverty” rather than appreciate the light of wealth.

    Light and
    wealth are observed and appreciated as they are real. Darkness and its avatar
    poverty can only be perceived as a result of the ego’s judgment (opinion or
    analysis). Do you get that wealth IS and is, therefore, positive? And that
    poverty is negative, the negation of wealth. Choose now. Positive or
    negative? Abundance or struggle? Your
    future depends on it.

    The only
    choice: appreciation, lightness, growth, success and joy. Or judgment, burden
    and struggle. A choice that we face
    every moment. Choose now. And NOW. And again. The infinity of all that’s out
    there or the definity established by your opinions and analysis?