Attitude, that engine that underlies our outlook toward the world. When things go against us it is hard to keep our attitude upbeat. Sometimes I want to just sit and sulk and watch TV until my head rots.
Life can be a tough place. You get turned down for something you wanted; you get sick; you have a car wreck; it seems like there is never enough money. This is the “real” world we all live in. It seems to want to suck the life out of us.
What can you do? I’m going to sidestep the Christian message at this time. I hope you have the assurance that, no matter what happens to you here, you have something better waiting. But this is not the place to go into that.
Well, what I can do is work on my attitude. When I feel beat up it is easy to want the bitter satisfaction of wallowing in it rather than picking myself up and getting on with things. Wallowing is not productive and it does not help anything. It is just a way of feeling sorry for yourself.
My wife has always been good at acting like she is upbeat even when she is not. It serves her well as a fitness instructor who has to lead multiple classes everyday. I used to think this was silly and maybe a little fake, but now I see it as a very healthy technique for managing everyday bad situations. Many people demonstrate that if you act the way you want to feel then after a while you really begin to feel that way.
Harry Stack Sullivan said “It is easier to act yourself into a new way of feeling than to feel yourself into a new way of acting”. Gretchen Rubin‘s Third Commandment is “Act the way you want to feel”. She goes on to say “Although we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act.”
Simple, Not Easy
Few important things in life are really this straightforward or simple. When you are really hurting it is hard to act upbeat or encouraging. Sometimes your feelings really do influence your actions. But it is a 2 way street. Deciding to have a good attitude really can help bring us to a better place. Sometimes it may be slow, but it may also be fairly quick. Either way, I recommend learning to act ourselves into feeling better and acting better. It is not dishonest. It is good behavioral psychology to bring about an attitude change by modeling the behavior we what to have.
Enough vague, general philosophy. I have had some strong headwinds in my career lately. Things that cause me to reevaluate my path. It is depressing at times. I want to make art, not worry about things like marketing or advertising. Why does it all have to be hard?
It has to be hard because life is hard and only the strong survive. If it were easy, there would be no accomplishment. In this school everyone does not get a ribbon for participating. If I want to be one of the survivors, one of the successful artists, I have to be able to fight the battles. I have to pick up and keep going when I feel knocked down.
There are peaks and valleys, in art and life. One of the important coping skills is to realize that neither lasts forever. I may be in a deep valley right now, but I know I will rise to a peak when I get my attitude together and get back to pursuing my craft with a solid focus. I can’t control when, but I can know that it will happen. It has in the past and it will again in the future.
Meanwhile, fake it until you make it.