This blog is a part of series of blogs I’m writing on 11 Life-Changing Lessons on Leadership, Relationships and Personal Life.
Lesson Eight: Attitude is Everything
During a difficult season in my life I asked a mentor of mine if we could have lunch. All I remember about his advice was a few Bible verses he wrote on a napkin and handed it to me before we left. That Bible verses ended up becoming a part of a major life message for me. The verses read: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16,17,18) I’m sure I had read those verses before but for some reason that day they stood out and changed my life.
“Rejoice always.” Another more modern version of that scripture read, “Be full of joy.” So, I put the word JOY on the top of a page on my journal. When a person has joy, this is something much more than the happiness of a good meal or great movie. Joy comes from the inside and it’s connected to your well-being.
After I put the word JOY on paper I simply wrote, “My goal is joy.” It had been a draining season of life and the joy that I had glimpses of at times, seemed out of reach. As I studied the word joy in the Bible, I realized that over 500 times we are commanded to practice the habit of choosing joy above anything else.
If my goal was to have a deep-seated mindset of joy, how could I attain it? The words “pray continually” or “pray constantly” didn’t seem to fit with the issue of joy, but the more I investigated prayer the more I realized there is a promise connected to prayer. Philippians 4:6,7 says, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The more I looked at this, the more I began to believe that as I spent time regularly with God in prayer and talk with him about everything, with thanksgiving, I would experience more peace. Interestingly enough, as I studied people who lived with joy, they also had peace. But even more interesting was that most of them had the same problems and issues anyone else had but they had chosen a different mindset. I decided to commit to 20 minutes of prayer a day. For some that might sound spiritually wimpy and others that might be more than they have ever done. But I found that the 20 minutes or so of prayer, over the long haul, grounded me and often changed my perspective and mindset.
Give Thanks in All Circumstances
This is the phrase I had the most trouble with, but it became the most powerful phrase in the scripture my mentor handed me. My problem was with giving thanks “in all circumstances.” Was I truly supposed to thank God for the death of a parent or war or drug addiction of a friend? Then I noticed, it didn’t say give thanks FOR it said IN and that made all the difference in the world. I could thank God in my mother’s passing even though I truly grieved her loss. In her passing she was free from the pain of her cancer. She was with God in heaven. There were plenty of things I could thank God in my circumstances. Thanksgiving is a key that can unlock your unhappy and even depressed emotions.
Here is what I learned: Thankfulness is an attitude that transcends circumstances. Your circumstance may never change but your attitude can change and that makes all the difference in the world. We have friends who have a sign in the kitchen that reads: “I complained because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” I like what Martin Luther once said, “I cannot stop the birds from flying over my head, but I can stop them from building nests in my hair.” That’s a great perspective.
I decided to make thankfulness a habit in my life that would transcend circumstances. Here is what I began to do every day, practice thank therapy. Thank therapy is writing down 20 reasons why you are thankful each and every day. I do it every morning and it keeps my perspective in the right place. A few years ago, I interviewed Joni Tada. Joni has spent her entire adult life confined to a wheel chair. I knew that as radiant as she is, she has faced extreme pain and suffering. As she wheeled herself into our studio, I was once again overcome by her joyful spirit despite all of her challenges. I put my notes aside, looked in in the eyes, and asked her, “Joni, how do you remain so joyful in the midst of all your physical struggles?” She paused for an extra-long time, (silence is never comfortable for radio) and she gave me this response. “Jim, I think I just disciplined myself for so many years to give thanks in all circumstances that it has become my reflex reaction.”
Tears came to my eyes. It was the answer I had been looking for through that scripture. What Joni had taught me was the way to live a joy-filled life was to discipline myself to make the attitude of thanksgiving, with prayer, my reflex reaction. How about you? Are you ready to take the challenge of living with a daily dose of thank therapy?
Next Week: Lesson Nine: Delegate and Do What You Do Well