Everything we encounter in life becomes easier based on our attitude. Life does not need to be tough but most of us make it become so because we resist what comes our way in life based on our perspective on what is good vs. bad or right vs. wrong. When we have travel plans and it starts raining, we get irritated with the weather. The same rain is highly appealing to folks around the world in drought-stricken regions. What that tells us is that the rain isn’t the issue but our attitude towards the rain. When we expect a big promotion at work, but the promotion goes to someone else, we are frustrated and very ticked off. What if we got the promotion, got a raise as a result of it and then got laid off when the organization went through layoffs and let go of some of the highly compensated folks. That same promotion had both a positive and negative connotation to it. When an event from a perception standpoint is both positive and negative the problem isn’t the event but rather the attitude towards the outcome associated with the event. I could keep going on and on with examples to this effect that demonstrate that attitude is everything in terms of our inner peace and happiness.
Outer vs. Inner Attitude
What then is inner attitude? When we encounter a suboptimal situation in life, there are some of us that smile our way through it while it is killing us on the inside. This still causes mental turbulence and unhappiness. In this case, our outer attitude is appropriate but our inner one is not and that really doesn’t help our cause. When the inner attitude demonstrates poise in the face of adversity, our outer attitude automatically showcases the same. The reverse is not true. Having the right outer attitude doesn’t guarantee the appropriate inner attitude whereas our inner attitude when appropriate automatically surfaces into our outer attitude. When your face and your actions demonstrate the right outer attitude but you don’t feel the same on the inside, you are essentially bottling up your true feelings. Suppression of any kind is never a good thing, because invariably the bottled-up emotions surface elsewhere. Developing the right inner attitude doesn’t happen automatically…we need to work at it. Living in this materialistic, high-stress world ensures that we are conditioned to complaints and irritation. We seem to automatically defer towards behaviors and attitudes that cause us greater stress and unhappiness. In 2008, Malcolm Gladwell wrote the book “Outliers” that talked about needing 10,000 hours of practice to be truly good at something. In 2014, a Princeton University study corrected Malcolm Gladwell’s opinion and said what was needed was 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice”, i.e. deliberately working towards mastering something. If the right inner attitude, assures us of inner peace and happiness, then one would think 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is well worth the effort, even if it does nothing more than gets us on the path towards sustained mental calmness.
We constantly encounter the dualities of life, happiness-sadness, victory-defeat, wealth-poverty, etc. and are constantly faced with decisions in terms of how we respond to them. Do we let ourselves respond with highs when we are victorious and then lows in the face of defeat? Life is filled with suboptimal situations, including death, and having the right inner attitude when we confront these situations is critical to maintaining a life of equanimity, a poised life, a happy life. Here is Rudyard Kipling’s poem “IF”, which is a message to his son and highlights how he hopes his son embraces inner attitude as a virtue above all others.
IF – By Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
The underlined lines are written on the walls of the players' entrance at Wimbledon.