Attitude is Everything

Jillian - Westminster, Massachusetts
Entered on March 1, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, hope, illness
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that attitude is everything.

Since as long as I can remember, my dad taught my two sisters and me about the power of positive thought. When I was in 2nd grade, my family moved to Alpharetta, Georgia for a three month period, during which I found myself disgruntled by the stucco housing, lack of snow, and school commencement time, which was 45 minutes earlier than it had been back home. Waking up was torture and we weren’t easy to rouse, yet my father refused to let his three girls greet the day with anything short of a smile. He’d come into our room singing, laughing, and asserting that every day—even today—had the potential to be the best day of our lives. Admittedly, there were times when we still scowled over our cereal or trudged to the bus stop in a bleary haze, but, for the most part, his infallible grin was infectious. We could not alter the situation we had been presented with—the school was not going to start later to appease three north-east coast kids who disliked mornings—but my dad showed us that the one thing that we could change was how we dealt with it.

At eighteen, my alarm clock is now my cell phone and school starts at 7:30, not 9:00, but I still try to rise every morning believing that the day is brimming with potential. The potential for laughter, learning, and spontaneous joy. I try to always be mentally prepared to have the best day of my life.

From 2nd grade to junior year my dad continued to cheer me on. Whether I was professing my aversion to soccer practice or complaining about a project for school, he would always remind me “that it was all about attitude.” And it is. It may be easier to expect the worst out of situation, but plunging in with a positive outlook is always more fruitful. A positive attitude can turn trash into treasure, and paint a gray world with a neon glow. Having a positive attitude is different than being optimistic. An optimist believes that the most favorable outcome will occur, but someone with a positive attitude recognizes that even though it may not, and often doesn’t, it’s perspective that really matters. Events happen in your life that will change you, but it’s your decision how. You choose the shape into which you are molded, and this freedom relies on your outlook.

Two years ago my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation. Throat surgery stole his ability to eat solid food so he began to research the recipes for his favorite kinds of soup. He lost dozens of pounds and most of his hair, but never, throughout all he had to go through, did he lose his smile. Instead of cursing his illness with bitterness and despair, my dad adopted an attitude of hope and gratefulness. Every day still carried the same potential for beauty, love, and adventure, and always, as before his illness, his favorite question to ask his three daughters and wife, and each of his many friends, was “how lucky are we?”

He couldn’t banish the cancer through self-pity, so he fought it with grace, determination, and a positive attitude, because attitude really is everything. As long as there is existence, there will be suffering, and as long as there is suffering, people will have the ability to decide how they deal with it. There will always be the option of choosing a smile, and for that, how lucky are we?