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Life Isn’t About What Happens To You, It’s About How You React To It

Life Isn’t About What Happens To You, It’s About How You React To It

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

I am sure many of you would have encountered this famous quote by Charles R. Swindoll. Swindoll, who was born on October 18th, 1934, is an author and an educator. He emphasizes the importance of our attitudes in life, and how each morning when we wake up, we have a choice as to which attitude we will choose to embody that day.

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For Swindoll, attitudes are “more important than facts”, “more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes.” They are more important than what people think, say, or do, “than appearance, giftedness, or skill”. According to Swindoll, attitude can “make or break a company… a church… a home.”

Our attitudes shape our feelings, beliefs, and very often our behaviors. Our attitudes, whilst sometimes indifferent, are often either positive or negative. They play a big part in life – which at times can be immensely harsh. Things and events will happen over which we have no control.

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For some – they will accept the harsh reality of their situations, blaming their circumstances for their shortcomings. For them, the event and the outcome are seen as equivalent. They will make rash decisions, clouded by emotions. Decisions which they will regret later on.

For others, harsh realities are not accepted. These people are remarkable individuals. They succeed, despite. Despite what has happened to them, their past, and their difficulties. They overcome chronic diseases, disabilities, and human injustices (among others). They overcome despite adversity. Why?

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Because they recognize that they always have a choice as to what attitude they want to embody. Each and every day. They have a positive mentality, and a lot can be said for developing a positive mentality. For example, studies have shown that your perceptions of your age, have a direct impact on your life expectancy.

They also recognize that they have a choice as to how they react to everything that has happened in their past. They have control over their emotions. They overcome the odds, despite their situations.

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Consider the following examples:

  1. Jim Carrey, dropped out of school to support his family when he was 15, and at one point he was homeless living in a caravan. This did not stop him from achieving his dream of becoming a comedian.
  2. Bethany Hamilton’s arm was bitten off by a shark at age 13. She was back on her surfboard one-month later. Two years later she won first place in the Explorer Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championships
  3. Benjamin Franklin dropped out of school at the age of 10 as his parents could not afford the fees. This did not stop him from educating himself.
  4. Richard Branson has dyslexia. At school his grades were poor. Yet he has achieved mega success.
  5. Stephen Kings first novel was consistently rejected by publishing houses. His wife retrieved the manuscript, urged him to complete it. It has sold 350 million copies worldwide.
  6. Oprah Winfrey gave birth when she was 14, lost her child and ran away from home. She was also repeatedly molested by her cousin, uncle and family friend. She has achieved despite this.
  7. Thomas Edison failed a lot of times (there are debates that this figure is anywhere from 1000-10000 times) before he created the light bulb. Imagine the world without a light bulb?
  8. Kriss Karr was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 32. Instead of feeling sorry for herself she tackled the disease. She created a new nutritional lifestyle and created several self-help books and documentaries.
  9. Franklin Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down, at age 39. This did not stop him from leading his country.
  10. Charlize Theron at age 15, witnessed her own mother shoot her alcoholic father in an act of self-defence. This painful experience did not stop the actress from becoming the first South African actress to win an Academy Award.

Countless other examples exist, not only in terms of celebrities, but also in terms of people you may know personally.  The fact remains, these people recognize that life can be hard, things and events occur that are out of our control. But we always have a choice as to how we react.

And ultimately we are responsible for our own lives

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain, and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” -Walter Anderson

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Last Updated on December 16, 2018

12 Simple Ways You Can Build A Positive Attitude

12 Simple Ways You Can Build A Positive Attitude

We all look for a better and happier life, but somehow we realize it’s our attitude that makes it hard to lead the life we want. How can we build a positive attitude? Grant Mathews has listed out the things (from the easiest to the hardest) we can do to cultivate this attitude on Quora:

1. Listen to good music.

Music definitely improves your mood, and it’s a really simple thing to do.

2. Don’t watch television passively.

Studies have shown that people who watch TV less are happier, which leads me to my next point…

3. Don’t do anything passively.

Whenever I do something, I like to ask myself if, at the end of the day, I would be content saying that I had spent time doing it. (This is why I block sites I find myself wasting too much time on. I enjoy them, but they’re just not worth it when I could be learning something new, or working on projects I care about.)

Time is incredibly valuable.

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4. Be aware of negativity

A community that considers itself intelligent tends to be negativity because criticizing is seen as a signaling mechanism to indicate that you’re more intelligent than the person you corrected. This was irrationally frustrating for me – it’s one of those things you’ll stay up all night to think about.

5. Make time to be alone.

I initially said “take time just to be alone.” I changed it because if you don’t ensure you can take a break, you’ll surely be interrupted.

Being with other people is something you can do to make you happy, but I don’t include it in this list because nearly everyone finds time to talk with friends. On the other hand, spending time just with yourself is almost considered a taboo.

Take some time to figure out who you are.

6. Exercise.

This is the best way to improve your immediate happiness.

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Exercise probably makes you happy. Try and go on a run. You’ll hate yourself while doing it, but the gratification that you get towards the end vastly outweighs the frustration of the first few attempts. I can’t say enough good things about exercise.

Exercising is also fantastic because it gives you time alone.

7. Have projects.

Having a goal, and moving towards it, is a key to happiness.

You have to realize though that achieving the goal is not necessarily what makes you happy – it’s the process. When I write music, I write it because writing is inherently enjoyable, not because I want to get popular (as if!).

8. Take time to do the things you enjoy.

That’s very general, so let me give you a good example.

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One of the things that has really changed my life was finding small communities centered around activities I enjoy. For instance, I like writing music, so I’m part of a community that meets up to write a song for an hour every week. I love the community. I’ve also written a song every week, 37 weeks in a row, which has gradually moved me towards larger goals and makes me feel very satisfied.

9. Change your definition of happiness.

Another reason I think I’m more happy than other people is because my definition of happiness is a lot more relaxed than most people’s. I don’t seek for some sort of constant euphoria; I don’t think it’s possible to live like that. My happiness is closer to stability.

10. Ignore things that don’t make you happy.

I get varying reactions to this one.

The argument goes “if something is making you unhappy, then you should find out why and improve it, not ignore it.” If you can do that, great. But on the other hand, there’s no reason to mope about a bad score on a test.

There’s another counterargument: perhaps you’re moping because your brain is trying to work out how to improve. In fact, this is the key purpose of depression: Depression’s Upside – NYTimes.com

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I can think of examples that go both ways. I remember, for instance, when I was debating a year or two ago and my partner and I would lose a round, I would mull over what we had done wrong for a long time. In that way, I got immensely better at debate (and public speaking in general – did you know debate has amazing effects on your public speaking ability? But now I really digress).

On the other hand, there’s no way that mulling over how dumb you were for missing that +x term on the left hand side will make you better at math. So stop worrying about it, and go practice math instead.

11. Find a way to measure your progress, and then measure it.

Video games are addictive for a reason: filling up an experience bar and making it to the next level is immensely satisfying. I think that it would be really cool if we could apply this concept to the real world.

I put this near the bottom of the list because, unfortunately, this hasn’t been done too often in the real world – startup idea, anyone? So you would have to do it yourself, which is difficult when you don’t even know how much you’ve progressed.

For a while, I kept a log of the runs I had taken, and my average speed. It was really cool to see my improvement over the weeks. (Also, I was exercising. Combining the two was fantastic for boosting happiness.)

12. Realize that happiness is an evolutionary reward, not an objective truth.

It’s easy to see that this is correct, but this is at the bottom of the list for a reason.

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