Attitude Matters Most

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

–Maya Angelou

If I asked you to stop and make a list of the five biggest problems you are dealing with right now, what would you write? Go ahead and take some time to think about it, and make your list.

What if I told you that with the snap-of-a-finger, all those problems could be gone? What would happen to your list? Do you think it would stay empty, or would it be replaced with a new set of problems that you consider to be the new five biggest issues you are now dealing with?

I would venture to say that everyone would fill that list back up fairly quickly. Life is really good at giving us problems. They are always there, no matter what you do; no matter how smart you are; no matter how positive you are; problems will always exist. That is just the way it is. So, the question is, what problems do you want?

I learned early in raising my own kids that, no matter how annoying or frustrating a stage of their childhood might be, it did no good to wish that stage away. As soon as they grew out of one stage, it was replaced by something equally as challenging, if not more challenging to deal with. The trouble was, once I finally felt like I was getting equipped to deal with one problem in parenting, it changed and I was faced with a new challenge that I was much less equipped to handle.

The same can be said for many challenges in our professional lives. No matter how hard we try, this year seems to throw new things at us that we are not expecting and are often not prepared to handle. It took me a long time to realize that everything we do, or encounter in life, often brings changes which in turn can bring challenges. Life is really good at never staying the same and I have learned that it can always get worse. That may sound very pessimistic, but that is not my intention. My intention is to show that we must be honest in our perceptions about our perspective on life. Change is not easy, and change presents problems because we are not equipped with all the answers.

A counter-argument to change, and the problems that come with it, is that it can sometimes lead to becoming stagnant and complacent. Using the thinking: If I do not change, then I will not face the problems change can bring. Avoidance, though, will present its own set of problems. The problems avoidance creates will not be any better than the ones you might face while moving forward and you also remain stuck in the same situation that caused you problems in the first place. Avoidance seems to double the issues.

What the most successful people I have encountered do during times of change that sets them apart is retaining a positive attitude about the change, regardless of the circumstances. They realize their reaction to the change at hand is what makes the difference. Things change, of course they do, but how we react to that change and how we attack problems is our choice. As educators, we are part of a profession of change; and it changes a lot. Ultimately, our job is to make a change in our students. It is our responsibility to be the change. So, change is unavoidable in our profession. In this, the attitude we have each day is the most important thing we bring to our jobs. As educators, our attitude can be buried in comfort, support, trust, inadequacies, and a variety of other deeply personal things. While our attitude is extremely personal, it is never a secret. Regardless of the reasons behind our attitude, we wear it on our sleeves. Our students, our colleagues, our loved ones, can all tell us how positive or negative our attitude is on a minute-by-minute basis. We always need to remember, our attitude is always our choice; it is always in our control.

There are problems in front of us that take a great deal of time to change. Problems where we will need to play the long game. We can wish the problems away and replace them with new problems, or we can meet these issues head-on and get to work on finding a solution. The first step is asking- do we truly understand the problems we are dealing with, and then asking how our attitude is impacting the solutions we are striving for in those situations.

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