An Unequivocal Truth

You have everything you need to create a wonderful last part of your life, whether you have two months or twenty years left. No need to save up for it, get smarter to understand it, or lose weight to fit into it. You don’t have to find a place to store it or figure out how to keep it clean.

You don’t need a partner or a nice house or fancy clothes to enjoy it. And there’s no reason to wait to appreciate it! It exists whether you take advantage of its bounty or not. It’s beautifully simple. But what is “it”?

It’s your attitude.

Did you feel a slight letdown when you read the answer? That happens to me sometimes when I realize I can solve a problem or make something better simply with a non-tangible commodity that might require a little bit of work on my part. It’s often easier (and always lazier) to just throw money at a problem to make it get better or go away.

Do you think it’s reasonable to ask that we work just a little bit to enhance the last years of our lives? Improving your attitude may take just a smidgen of effort on your part — not a lot, but some.

Have you ever heard the saying:  “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond”? It’s a worn-out cliche, but it’s completely true. The secret to your happiness is your attitude.

Let me share a couple of personal experiences of how attitude adjustments work.

Years ago, when I quit smoking, I did a lot of research about how I would be the most successful with the least amount of discomfort. I was nervous that with every craving, I’d grab my desk or steering wheel and hang on for dear life. Initially, I found myself squinting and cringing — my whole body tense until the craving passed.

Eventually, I changed how I responded to the craving. When a craving would reach out to grab every cell in my body, I opened my arms, leaned into it, and invited it in to fill me up and then pass through me. And it was over much quicker than if I’d white-knuckled it. My attitude made the difference. Instead of being a victim of the cravings, I was the conqueror.

Another example of how changing my attitude worked to enhance my life was when I broke my wrist. I was training dogs for the Humane Society and the cute little roly-poly pooch that I was walking on leash crossed in front of me and I tripped over him. I took the entire fall on the wrist and hand that clenched the leash. After surgery I spent three days in the hospital. When I got home, I was unable to do pretty much anything. I couldn’t write, type, bathe myself, blow dry or style my hair, or drive. “Why me?” I lamented. I moped around and felt sorry for myself for days. Then it dawned on me that my poor attitude was making things worse.

As the brilliant sunlight streamed through the living room window, I stood, legs apart, arms outstretched, face soaking in the warming rays. Instead of “Why me?” I said, “I am open to whatever this experience brings to my life.” I felt a calming sensation wash over me as I began to realize this accident allowed me to slow down, to reflect, and to appreciate the bounty of my life. Instead of being the victim, I conquered the hardship by relaxing, reading, letting others do for me (not so easy), and by acknowledging all I had in my life. The seven weeks of being incapacitated flew by, and my life was changed … for the better.

Even the prospect of death can be enhanced through a positive attitude.

Outstanding health, while it’s lovely to have, especially as we age, isn’t a hard-core guarantee that the last part of your journey will play out in a positive fashion. Sometimes it’s a rough go for people towards the end of their time on earth. We’ve all heard, however, of people who face imminent death and/or hardship with an open heart, filled with contentment and peace. Now that’s some seriously uplifting attitude. Those who can be uplifted even in the face of that kind of adversity serve as role models for those of us who might follow in their shoes especially those of us with similar challenges.

What to do …

Today I’m suggesting we not wait until the last weeks or months of our lives to work on improving our attitude. I’ve grown and expanded the way I respond to life with more patience and gentleness. I am kinder to myself by not giving in to negative knee-jerk responses. I am more willing to wait until my attitude can be comforting and supportive.

For a list of ways to improve your attitude, read Paula Lawes’s article.  Among her excellent suggestions, she talks about the benefits of living in the present moment, and being grateful. Her suggestion for hanging with positive people to improve your attitude is something I’ve successfully incorporated into my life, and it makes a huge difference!

So, the next time the reflection in the mirror shows a grumpy person with a negative attitude who is scared about time running out, try turning it around. I guarantee you’ll feel better, and you’ll be a great role model for those around you.