I once read a book that made a particularly big impact on my life. It was Man’s Search for Meaning, written by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. In his book, Frankl tells the story of his life as a concentration camp prisoner. This remarkable man survived four different camps, and somehow managed to remain positive throughout the entire experience. His story is moving; in fact, one quote in particular never fails to humble me:
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that 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.”
When I think about these words, I can’t even fully fathom the horrific experiences that these people lived through. They lost loved ones and they were starved, cold and abused. But still, they found it in their hearts to share what they had to give. I hope that if I were in a similar situation, I would find the strength to help people, too.
Some of you will remember that a few weeks ago, I wrote about the Eight Strengths that lead to success. Over the course of my career, I’ve discovered that these eight critical factors have to power to make or break a career, a marriage, or a family.
“Attitude” is the first of these strengths. It means staying positive when things get hard, trying again when you don’t succeed, and learning from your mistakes. Before you do anything in life, it’s extremely important to make sure that you have the right attitude in place. If you don’t, you won’t even get off the ground. And, as I learned from my time in the military, the right attitude begins with good thinking.
For years, leaders and visionaries have known that our thoughts determine our attitudes. The great Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius said, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” And he was right. The people Frankl was writing about kept an attitude of human kindness, despite the fact that everything else was taken from them.
I’ve seen a lot of people start working towards a goal with confidence, excitement and great ideas. But as the challenges begin to pile up (and they inevitably do), many people start to lose that energy and eventually, they give up. That’s why attitude isn’t just about starting strong. It’s about continuing to think positive thoughts all the time—no matter what you’re going through.
It’s as simple as this: we can choose our thoughts. Our thoughts determine our attitude. Our attitude affects our behavior, and our behavior determines the direction of our lives. So before you start your next project, make sure you’ve got the right attitude in place. You’ll need it if you want to succeed.