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If you don’t like something, change it!

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Maya Angelou

My mother’s greatest gift to me was her optimism. I believe it was the glue she used to hold our family together in some of the more difficult days of our family’s early life.

For me, those lessons in optimism started at a very young age. I can remember coming home from a rough day in Kindergarten, walking through the front door and complaining about my teacher, or mean kids, or dumb kids, and Mom would say “Oh no, we’re doing that over, you’re not bringing that attitude in here. Go back outside and come in again without that terrible attitude.” She would make me literally go outside and come back in through the front door again. I would do that but walk back in more irritated than the first time, saying “this is really stupid Mom!” and she would say “Oh no, let’s take that over, try it again but this time the attitude stays outside.” She might make me do that two or three more times until finally I would walk in and break into laughter and she would then say: “Oh Keith, welcome home! How was your day?”

I’ve shared that story with teams of soldiers and employees and executives I’ve led throughout my life at various stages of my career to explain where I got my own optimism. It’s that optimism and finding a ray of sunshine in a stormy sky that has sustained me in times of hardship like losing parents, my brother, my disabled son’s surgeries and other struggles, and time of financial or professional stress.

There were a few times later in my adult life when I was feeling down about something and my Mom would confront me even in those later years by saying: “What you REALLY need right now is an attitude adjustment.” I sometimes hated admitting she was right, but it was true and it’s so amazing to me how while the glass can be correctly described as half empty, it can also be correctly described as half full, but seeing the potential is always a stronger perspective with greater possibilities than seeing the downside. Our attitude can truly help us endure, to stay the course, to overcome, to adapt, and to ultimately achieve.

Research has found repeatedly that our attitudes can influence not only our emotional health but even our physical health. Being optimistic and a more positive thinker has been linked to significant health impacts including:

• Increased life span • Lower rates of depression • Lower levels of distress • Greater resistance to the common cold • Better psychological and physical well-being • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

So if you’ve caught yourself in negative thinking or negative self-talk, try giving yourself that do over and try it again without the negative attitude. Walk back in through the proverbial door and realize actually there were good parts of yesterday or last week if you really look for them. This week will have many of those good things to offer as well.

So I hope you will see today with all the potential it brings for a new week and a brighter future. See the potential in yourself and if there is something in your life that you’ve come to realize you can’t change, then change your attitude – and then see what happens!

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