I remember once picking up an old photo album from the coffee table and thumbing through the pictures of my childhood. This time, the captioned dates and locations caught my attention. In 1951 I was in Arizona, 1952 Oklahoma, 1953 San Diego, 1956 Brazil, 1959 Alabama, 1963 Hawaii, 1966 Illinois. Change had been a way of life back then.
Every time I made friends, got attached to a house or my bedroom or bonded with a teacher, my dad would announce that it was time to pack up and move. Such was the life of an Air Force family. I accepted it as the way things were. I would walk into each new school wondering which of those faces belonged to my new best friend. Though I was young and just doing what came naturally, I think now that I’d somehow made a conscious decision to be optimistic and to make the best of the situation.
Being flexible, being open, and shifting your mind-set is a powerful choice. And, because it doesn’t always look like a choice, people often miss it.
Successful people adopt the proper attitude to react to ever-changing circumstances. They know what they picture in their mind will create the mood they’re in and the kind of behaviors that follow. Successful people have shown that the quality of life is determined not by what happens to them, but rather by what they do about what happens to them.
For instance, being able to work out effectively at the end of the day will depend on what sort of mood you’re in and how you picture that workout in your mind. If for hours ahead of time you’ve been dreading going to the gym because, say, you don’t like the clothes you brought to work out in, or you can’t bear to see that gorgeous blonde who always wears a skimpy workout outfit so that all the men will stare at her, you’ll produce a certain state of mind that, frankly, isn’t exactly conducive to going to work out. On the other hand, if you’re looking forward to meeting your girlfriend there and finding out all about her new job, or you can’t wait to take your favorite instructor’s aerobics class, you’ll produce a totally different state of mind and behaviors. Obviously, you behave differently when you’re angry or anxious than you do when you’re excited. So, you’re less likely to have a good workout when negative feelings intrude.
It’s an endless cycle. When you do have a great workout and begin to feel physically vibrant, you perceive the world differently with more life and enthusiasm. And, that of course, creates a mind-set to take care of yourself.
The key to getting to the gym, or to wherever you work out, consistently is to present things to yourself in such a way that you’re going to want to take positive action. In short, you have to be in charge of filtering your thoughts throughout the day.
Sometimes, though, that’s difficult. For me, it happens when I’m tired. I experience such a dramatic change in my thought patterns compared to when I’ve had a good night’s sleep that things begin looking sour to me. Instead of looking forward to new challenges, I start dreading every commitment on my calendar. Each question I’m asked can no longer be answered simply, because I read more sinister, ulterior meanings into the words.
So, knowing this about myself, I’ve learned that if I don’t get enough sleep, I can’t keep my mind shifted into the positive direction that serves me best. If I stay up too late, I’m less likely to get up at 6 a.m., full of life and ready to work out.
My attitude is that I’m in charge of what I think and how I interpret events, so I pay attention to the chatter in mind, and when it starts bad-mouthing the world, I respond accordingly. I shift my mind-set to keep me on track, especially when my health and fitness are concerned.