If you read this column often, you know I believe in the old adage that says, “Attitude not aptitude determines your altitude.” I experience it. I see it. I have witnessed countless examples in my life and in the life of others. I know it to be true.
“Optimism is my superpower!” — Victor Perton
You also know I have mentioned my friend, Victor Perton, before. He’s a successful Australian political figure, businessman and author. He writes tirelessly about the impact of optimism and claims it to be his superpower. The great thing about the superpower of optimism is that its not exclusive to Victor or anyone, but available for all to harness and use.
I watched a movie recently with Bradley Cooper. “Limitless” is the story of a young underachiever who through a set of unusual circumstances learns of and obtains a pill that dramatically raises his IQ and gives him limitless abilities. Everyone that I have spoken to about this film has reacted with a wish that they had such a pill. Many say that they would pay any price for the advantages they’d receive.
Optimism and a positive attitude will not give you incredible powers. Maybe not limitless power, but living an optimistic life will substantially increase your happiness and ability to succeed at anything you choose.
“A positive attitude will not give you the ability to do anything but will give you the ability to do EVERYTHING … better than you can with a negative attitude.” — Zig Ziglar
People wish there were pills to take to increase their success, but are reluctant to adopt a life of optimistic positivity when it is free and requires only the decision to adopt and change. They’d pay anything for a pill but will not use what is free? It’s one of those facts that makes me go “hmmm.” I guess the difference is taking a pill requires no effort, but to change your life philosophy takes a decision and the discipline to change engrained habits.
Children seem to have a limitless amount of optimism, but their environment and the examples of adults seem to wear it away. If we truly want to have a profound impact in our school system, there should be daily training of how to become and remain a positive person and how to harness the power of positivity and optimism for greater achievement. It should begin during a child’s first day of school and continue through graduation.
I occasionally substitute teach. When a retired school teacher and friend found out I had decided to sub, she said, “Beware … they will tell you subbing is like a walk in the park. What they don’t tell you is that it is Jurassic Park.” She was encouraging and supportive but gave me her warning. She asked why I decided to sub. I responded that I do it because it inspires my writing and because the district is terribly short on willing substitutes.
I sub in the district where I attended K-12. They gave me a great education. I think I owe it to them to give back and so I sub. The students are kids. Some are disciplined, some are not, but the thing I see most is pessimism. Many of these kids are not anticipating a successful future and their actions reflect that belief and as such, their pessimism becomes their self-fulfilling prophesy.
On my first day of five in a science class, I decided first to get to know the students. After introducing myself, I asked about their hopes and dreams for their life after graduation. A few had a vivid vision of a successful future, while the majority did not. It wasn’t that they hadn’t thought about it, it was that they didn’t believe there was anything positive ahead. I shared my philosophy and told them that our personal beliefs are usually our own self fulfilled prophesies and it was important for them to dream and dream big positive dreams of their future. I also shared that dreaming big positive dreams isn’t in of itself a solution but it’s a beginning. After dreaming, they should then write their dreams down into goals … then goals into action items. I explained that action causes reaction, so they should immediately take their dreams and written goals into their counselor’s office and ask for help.
I left school that day believing there must be some type of organized curriculum for creating and installing an ongoing teaching of how to live a positive and optimistic life. It should begin in Kindergarten and continue through graduation. Yes, I understand this is touched upon in health classes and a few other areas, but it isn’t enough. The proof was in their eyes and answers of these students. The evidence is in low test scores, drop-out rates, discipline issues and the lack of an available and high level, trained and educated work force.
I absolutely believe and can prove that we are largely who we are, what we are and where we are in life because of what goes into our minds. Facts, figures, dates and calculations are great but if they are pumped into a mind that is pessimistic and operates in the belief that there is nothing positive ahead, our education dollars are wasted, and we are cheating an entire generation of students.
We are better than this. Our students deserve better.