William James of Harvard University, known as the father of American Psychology, once said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” Now, I hope you will allow Dr. James’ statement to soak in, because it contains tremendous potential to help any of us become happier and more successful human beings. After all, isn’t this what most of us want our lives to be?
One time I saw a sweatshirt with the words “I have an attitude” printed across the front. To symbolize the word “attitude” there was the picture of a duck with the most awful facial configuration that you can imagine. The dictionary defines “attitude” as a state of mind or feeling. Unlike computers, which can only store facts, statistics and other data, the human mind has the capability of storing feelings and emotions. The marvelous human mind, with its many and diverse powers, is what produces thoughts, and these thoughts become the basis for our actions.
Our actions therefore are the result of not only what we think, but also how we feel. As it relates to our personal success, it is important to realize that actions trigger feelings and feelings trigger actions. Our thoughts and feelings produce “attitudes.” As Dr. James points out, “human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” There have been a number of studies conducted, and they all conclude pretty much the same thing — mental attitude accounts for about 85 percent of our success in life, while skills and knowledge make up the balance. It might be good to stop here and ask you this personal question, “Have you had an attitude check-up lately? If you are not doing as well as you think you can and should, could it be that you have a negative attitude?”
At this point I would like to share a true life experience that can help us see how important our attitude really is and why it controls our lives. In the 1958 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves, during a late inning of a very crucial game, power-hitting Yankee catcher Elston Howard was up to bat.
With the count three balls and two strikes, the Braves manager went out to the mound to talk with Warren Spahn, his great left-handed pitcher. The manager said, “Don’t give him a high outside pitch, because he will hit it out of the park!” It was too late! Warren’s computer-like mind registered the thought, “high outside pitch,” which is exactly where the ball went! The manager was right: Elston Howard hit it out of the park.
As Elston circled the bases, Warren Spahn threw his glove down in the dirt and made what has become a classic statement. He said, “WHY would anyone motivate themselves or others with the reverse of an idea?” You see, because of the way our minds are constituted, we always move in the direction of our currently dominant thought. The chances that Warren Spahn would have been successful in pitching to Elston Howard would have been greatly increased if the manager had simply said, “Keep the ball low and inside.”
Now, please give this some serious thought: The reason attitudes control our lives is simple — we always move in the direction of our currently dominant thought. When we are thinking good and true things, and have worthy goals to strive for, the resulting positive attitude will definitely give us the advantage. It’s your attitude and not your aptitude that will determine your altitude.
Editor’s Note: THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY – Begin your day on a positive note – 365 days for $12. This will benefit the Bookcase for Every Child project. Go to www.apositivemomentwithjim.com to subscribe.