It’s a subtle difference, but one worth noting. I’ve always been taught that attitude is the way you think and feel about someone or something, and that feeling affects your behavior. The definition that comes up when I Google it, however, is: a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person's behavior. Settled. Wow. That’s final. Guess we better make sure the chosen attitude is a good one!
Being a teacher, I deal with attitudes daily. There’s the attitude of those coming to work – faculty and students. There’s the attitude of parents toward the teachers, and vice versa. There’s the attitude of students. As principal, I’m fixing attitudes throughout the day. My own children have taught me to adopt new attitudes toward numerous facets of life.
I looked up synonyms of attitude, and here’s what I found: view, viewpoint, outlook, perspective, stance, standpoint, position, inclination, temper, orientation, approach, reaction. The first eleven synonyms all have to do with the way we see something… our unique interpretation of what we see. The last one, however, deals with the actions we attach to what we see. The idea that an attitude is settled is mind-boggling to me. The implication is either that we compromised (settled for) or that we’ve put the issue to bed… gotten comfortable in our easy chair… become set in our ways. The ways of the world change by the moment. Who can become settled?
I warn my high school students not to include absolutes in their writing. “College professors hate absolutes,” I stress (which, ironically, is an absolute statement!). If an attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling, is that not the establishment of an absolute in one’s life?
I work with a great group of secondary students. They accomplish more than I ever even knew was possible when I was their age. I am constantly amazed at their “can-do” attitudes. They will be the movers and shakers of the next generation of the work force. That being said, I never cease to be surprised when I hear one mention the positive attitude he/she “puts on” for school. I am equally surprised to find out that the positive attitude comes “off” when he/she leaves this environment.
I have been called an “eternal optimist.” The truth is that I will always find the way in which God is working in my life… even if things are bad. I wholeheartedly believe He is in control of my life (an absolute I happily welcome). If I have developed a wrong attitude, He convicts me to fix it. How can I transfer this confidence to my students without proselytizing? My only choice is by example.
Our high school honor society uses Charles Swindoll’s poem “Attitude” as our pledge. It ends with this:
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.
In the end, it is up to each of us to choose our attitudes. All I ask is that you don’t just “settle.”