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May 26, 2017

Attitude is Everything

Happiness depends on what we think.

As Alice Cooper once sang, school’s out for summer, and when I asked my children how they felt about that, their reactions could not have been more different.

My son Richard just concluded Kindergarten and when I asked him if he was excited for summer, his face lit up with a huge smile, he nodded vigorously and I heard him utter sounds that roughly translated from kid to adult as “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

My daughter Lilia is moving from the fourth to the fifth grade. When I asked her about summer, however, she offered a hound dog face in response, all big, sad eyes and droopy frown.

The funny thing is, both kids actually like school. They’re good students with plenty of friends and great relationships with their teachers. So why such a different reaction?

When Lilia was asked about summer, she thought back to all of the awesome things she does while at school. She thought about playing with her friends at recess, learning about wolves during Genius Hour and doing science experiments as part of the school’s STEAM program. She realized she would be missing those things over the summer and that made her sad.

Richard, on the other hand, thought about all of the awesome things he does when school is out. He gets to spend more time playing with his action figures or imagining he’s a superhero, fighting bad guys with his twin brother. He’s also excited for trips to the beach, the pool and the zoo. In short, he’s thinking about all of the things he has instead of all of the things he’s going to miss, and that makes him happy.

As adults with jobs and homes and big responsibilities, we often find ourselves in Lilia’s camp thinking about all of the things we don’t have and how much better our lives would be if we had them. But we would be wise to adopt Richard’s mindset instead, by consciously thinking about all that we have; not just our possessions like a car or a home, but our relationships or health. Science has even proven that such an “attitude of gratitude” make us happier. And I think we could all benefit from a few more Richard-like big smiles in our life.

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