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Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life

“Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.” ~Gandhi

It was 1999 and my life stunk. I had failed miserably as a missionary for my church, I’d been sent to a mental hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I was in the process of losing the woman I thought I was going to marry.

I was in bad shape, and didn’t have a clue as to how I could right the ship, so to speak.

Now, 13 years later, I have a great job that provides for me and my family. I have a beautiful wife, two lovely children (with another on the way!), and plenty of free time to pursue the hobbies I enjoy. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and thanks to a few tiny little pills I take every day, I also enjoy good physical and mental health.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that everything changed completely overnight. It didn’t.

To deal with the loss of my girlfriend I did some therapy; I put myself back on the market and did a lot of dating; I consciously chose to let go of what I thought should happen and accept what had happened. Slowly, I healed until one day I realized that I was open to loving fully again.

Dealing with my mental illness is a challenge that continues to this day. I’ve put in place the foundation for good mental health by accepting the fact that I will need to be medicated for the rest of my life.

After making that choice, there has still been an endless parade of medications as we try to find the right cocktail for me. And even with the medications, I still have good times and bad. The medication, I’ve found, is a tool and not a panacea.

Making these outward choices has really helped, but there is one thing that really changed everything for me: I changed my attitude.

What caused that change? I read a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.

Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. He was forced to work as a slave laborer and watch as many of his peers died slow, miserable deaths.

He was separated from his own wife, mother, and father, and lost them all before the war ended. But what did Frankl learn from his time in the concentration camp? Here’s what he had to say:

“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances…”

When I read those words, something clicked inside of me. I intuitively knew that they were true, and I knew that I needed to learn how to give myself an attitude adjustment if I wanted to have any measure of peace in this world. So I began to study.

I read everything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with personal development, and I began to notice patterns in the books I was consuming.

Over time, the patterns became clearer and clearer until I was able to identify 10 “rules” of happy living.

I call these rules The Ten Principles of Personal Development. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Be loving toward everyone you meet.
  2. Forgive all who attempt to harm you.
  3. You become what you think.
  4. Look for ways to strengthen those who have less than you have.
  5. Always seek knowledge and truth.
  6. Always be honest.
  7. Never waste what you are given.
  8. Be grateful for all that you have.
  9. Develop a spirit of optimism.
  10. Have faith in something greater than yourself.

Once I identified the Ten Principles, I needed a way to make them a part of my life. So I studied some more. What I found is that the best way to make something a part of your life is to set a goal and follow through on it.

So I began to set one goal a month, doing my best to live one of the principles for 30 days or so. I used The EASIER Method of Goal Achievement to pursue my goals.

If you were trying to be more grateful using the EASIER method, you would:

  1. Envision yourself being grateful for everything that was given to you throughout the day.
  2. Assess your current levels of gratitude. In what situations do you easily express your gratitude? In what situations do you struggle?
  3. Create a strategy that will allow you to be grateful more often.
  4. Implement your strategy.
  5. Evaluate your progress as you go through the day’s activities.
  6. Report your progress to someone you love and trust.

The impact of my decision to live the Ten Principles was monumental. The more I tried to live the principles, the better I felt. The better I felt, the more I wanted to live the principles. I had created a positive feedback loop that was self-reinforcing.

There were still challenges in my life, of course; now, however, I was able to tackle them with a positive attitude, and that seemed to make all the difference. Little by little my attitude improved, and as my attitude improved, I began to enjoy my life more and more.

We all go through difficult situations in life. If you’re in a tough place right now, choose one of the principles above and set a goal to practice it as well as you can over the next month.

This might not immediately change your circumstances, but you will likely find that changing your attitude slowly but surely changes your life.

Photo by h.koppdelaney

Avatar of Justin W. Riggs

About Justin Riggs

Justin loves talking, writing, and thinking about how we can best use our time on this earth. Visit his blog at http://denvergoals.wordpress.com to learn how to transform your life and download your free copy of his e-book, Success! A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Achieve Your Goals and Dreams.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://twitter.com/StevenHandel The Emotion Machine

    Really great wisdom here. The most power we have over the world is our power over our attitude. We can’t always change external circumstances, but we can always change how we think and feel about the situation. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Justin Wolsey Riggs

    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I’m still amazed by the power of changing my attitude. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it…

  • Sundancebleu

    Thank you for this!  It really strikes a nerve for me.  You have given me a kick start in the right direction for becoming more the person I’d like to be.!  – Roger

  • http://www.facebook.com/azzahasn Azza Hasan

    :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/azzahasn Azza Hasan

    my spirit suffer , and it ‘s so in need to peace ,,,,,

  • Justin Wolsey Riggs

    Glad the post struck a nerve… I wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

  • Tinarose29

    cool, very very cool. Thanks Justin!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/julie.croteau3 Julie Croteau

    This is good and I am glad that you are well. I too try to keep these ideals and only when I forget do I really suffer- Julie

  • http://profiles.google.com/leahgraves14 Leah Graves

    I too have accepted the medication as a way to live a balanced life and to stay a good wife, sister, daughter (and stay out of the hospital)

  • Justin Wolsey Riggs

    Medication, for me, is a vital tool for wellness. I understand people’s reticence to use it, because it took me five years to be consistent with my med regimen, but when people ask for my advice, all I can say is that it has literally saved my life…

  • Justin Wolsey Riggs

    Julie,

    Thanks for the nice compliment. Whenever I’m feeling like something’s “just not right”, I pull out my list of principles, and usually I find that there’s one of them that I’m violating. Not always, but most of the time, just fixing that problem makes life a whole lot more enjoyable…

  • Justin Wolsey Riggs

    no problem! I was so grateful to be allowed to guest post on this great blog!

  • Niall

    Hi, thanks for this article – its really great to read about someone who has achieved so much and overcome many unhelpful ways of thinking and really improved their life as a result. Its quite inspirational. I have a question that I hope you can help with; how did you bring the idea of “you become what you think” into practice, and make it beneficial? Every time I read it, part of me gets scared and only a small part of me feels hopeful – its kind of a statement that could go both ways, and if I’m honest I tend to focus on the aspects of it that scare me, which can cause me to get quite low… I’ve kind of identified it as a recurring theme in many things that bother me, and I think it has been engrained in my way of thinking since I was very young – kind of a bad self-reinfocing cycle! So I guess I’m asking how to apply it positively, to change this. On top of it being included in your ten principles, I’ve seen its a quote by the Buddha himself too, which has helped convince me of its significance for developing a good mental state. So I would be delighted if you could give an example or two of how its benefitted you… Sorry, I realise this has been quite a lot to ask, and has been a bit wordy! Really appreciate any help you can offer! Thanks! x

  • http://twitter.com/amcluna Maan Luna

    Hi Niall. 
    The idea that “you become what you think” is a crucial and powerful mindset that is known by many, but represented by a few. Being scared is normal and you are in perfect shape. Nothing is wrong about you. What might be wrong, are the THINGS THAT SURROUNDS YOU. You are as you said, reinforcing a bad habit of working on negative ideas. Ways to use “You become what you think” to your advantage is first of all, be a POSITIVE PERSON. Think positively, Talk positively, Do positive things. Secondly, get rid of hindrances. Treat them as garbage that needs IMMEDIATE disposal. It doesn’t mean you want to abandon those negative areas (let’s be honest, some people can’t get enough of holding us back) in your life; however it just means that you love yourself enough to look past the things that stops you from excelling.

  • Niall

    Thanks, thats instantly made me feel better! I’m really going to work hard to change this way of thinking for the better! (see, talking positively already!). One thing, what do you mean by “things that surround you”, do you mean external influences, or the perhaps the way I think of myself which in a way surrounds me? Or both perhaps? – sorry to be pedantic. Thank you very much again! x 

  • lynn fux

    You have touched my heart and I want you so much to know you are not alone in this world. Lynn Fux. Feel free to contact me on Face Book

  • Justin Wolsey Riggs

    Niall,

    I second everything that Maan Luna said in her response. For me, negative thinking had become a way of life. I still struggle with “thinking thoughts of greatness”. My best advice is to learn how to recognize the negative thoughts, acknowledge them, but then send them on their way. On the other hand, when you find yourself being positive, acknowledge that as well, and try to let it snowball. The more you practice this, the more you’ll find yourself thinking positive things about yourself and life’s circumstances.

    Best of luck to you,

    Justin

  • Niall

    Thank you both very much! You’ve made my day. 

    Best Wishes,

    Niall

  • Rob1409

    I’ve been married a year and we are staring down the barral of a divorce. I have add and anxiety and im just starting to fix it. After reading this I feel I can fix this problem and maybe fix my marriage, thank you!

  • Lainie

    I was diagnosed with MS several years ago. I became disabled, and then depressed, as I saw my life with my son and spouse slipping away from me. I wanted to die. Then I read Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. It changed my life; it saved my life. I still read it every week. It is wonderful to hear from someone else who had a similar experience. Thank you.

  • Isabel

    I identified myself to some parts of it. As you mentioned, We all go through difficuld situations in life and for me, let go is something that I work on everyday. Baby steps but at least I`m trying and I am positive that someday I`ll be somewhere like you: with a beautiful family and a new and great story in my life. This is the kind of magic in the world, we share optimism to the others, and this article inspired me. Thanks!

  • Jenifer Lamug

    Wow! Today is a wonderful day for reading such a beautiful article. Good attitude really is one ingredient to success and mindset is everything.

  • Nicole Chavez

    I agree with idea that changing attitude to be happy can
    make you happier. I feel as if when you have a positive attitude more people
    want to be around you because you are fun and wanting to make the best out the
    life you have. Along with that, you are living to live enjoy yourself. Also
    with changing your attitude you are grateful for the life you have. In this
    state of the world it is as if everybody takes life for granted and nobody
    appreciates what is given to them. With having a great attitude and being
    grateful for what you have makes the world so much better. I love being around
    people that don’t take things for granted because they have money or just don’t
    care for the life they live. Being around people with awesome attitudes and who
    are happy just to be living not because of what they have is just amazing to
    me. Seeing people that don’t have as much as I and they are happy makes me
    happier because I know that even losing things I value, I can still be happy
    and enjoy my life. I love The 10 Principles of Personal Development that you posted
    here. I feel like with using these one month at time could make anyone happier.
    I am also determined to test them out and make myself happier because even if I
    have really nothing to complain about it wouldn’t hurt to be happier than I am
    right now. I also just want to be more grateful for life as you say in this
    post because I feel at time that I am not grateful enough and take too much for
    granted and that is not the way I want to live.

  • Clueless

    I’m trying to improve my attitude but get sucked in negative thinking. I always think people don’t like me. I hate feeling this way. I want to feel comfortable and confident like I used to. Feel in a way I lost myself. I never used I be like this.