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Do you believe that attitude is everything? If you don’t, perhaps you should. An attitude can make the difference between happiness and despair, success and failure, a good day or a bad day, and so on.

Let’s take a closer look at how attitudes define situations, and why cultivating the right attitude is important to business and personal life.

What Is Attitude?

Attitude is the choice a person makes about how to respond to events as they unfold. It is shaped by, and culminates from, our individual experiences and life lessons. Attitude manifests a person’s wisdom and ability to respond to challenging situations in positive ways. These responses not only define the course of their life and career, but also impact the lives of everyone in which they come in contact.

Charles Swindoll is widely recognized for his succinct and powerful piece on attitude, in which he concludes, “We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of life on attitude. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than success, than what other people think or say or do.

It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.

We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the only string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…We are in charge of our own attitudes.

The Freedom to Choose Your Own Attitude

The choice between a positive and negative attitude is just that: a choice. Sometimes it is the ONLY remaining choice. When facing a tough business decision, such as downsizing, relocating or diversifying, your attitude may be the one thing you can control.

Some of the greatest demonstrations of the human spirit and positive attitudes come from the darkest parts of history. Author Victor Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor, reflected on his experience as a prisoner in the notorious Nazi death camp in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning. Frankl makes the point that the only freedom that we truly have, that can never be taken away from us, is our attitude. People can be stripped of their dignity, be robbed of their possessions, and ultimately, face death; but they still control their attitudes. This freedom to own a perspective can be a powerful consolation during trying times, yet it is a choice that requires fortitude and character to make.

Meaning Comes From Attitude

Attitude has nothing to do with what is going on around you, or what is happening to you at a given time. Attitude is literally a choice about how you respond to those events.

Vistage speaker Morty Lefkoe suggests that everything that happens around us has no real meaning whatsoever. Events are simply events until we interpret them. We can ascribe meaning to events, or choose not. Ultimately we have to make the decision about whether an event defines us, or whether we are instead defined by our responses to those events.

Perspective & Attitude – Reaction vs. Response

Individual perspectives play a role in how one interprets the events taking place around us. If a person changes their perspective, they can change their attitude. One of the ways we can achieve this is by taking time to think through our responses. Vistage speaker Heather Anderson suggests we take a step back, slow down, and consider saying to ourselves, “That’s interesting” the next time we find ourselves faced with a challenging situation. If we slow our responses, we give ourselves the opportunity to define our attitudes.

As human beings, we naturally react to the events around us. While our reactions may be unconscious, our responses are conscious. It is said that mature people respond, and immature people react. Attitude really is everything. Make sure the choices you make in life reflect the right attitude, every time.