Insights: Choose Your Attitude

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Whenever you’re having a bad day, bad week or even a bad month, it’s easy to get stuck in our own stuff. At these times, remember to adjust your attitude, as most of these things that are making life bad in that moment do not really matter in the long term. They are usually just life stuff that we all have to deal with—the washing machine not working properly, having to get your car repaired, leaving your phone at home. It is all just small stuff.

I am quickly humbled and reminded how small this stuff is when my friend and neighbor brings me flowers and some fruit even though she is in stage four cancer and feels sick all the time. Who should be bringing who flowers?

My friend reminds me of a quote from the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to chose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Suffering is part of life. How we deal with our suffering determines our future. This does not mean we do not grieve or feel sad or cheated or angry.  It just means we do not get stuck in these emotions. Finding a place of acceptance allows us to move on and find some sense of life within this pain.

Another quote from Victor Frankl: “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.”

Another friend of mine has kidney disease and is waiting daily, hoping to find someone who can donate a kidney. This can be the difference between life and death for her, let alone the struggle physically and emotionally that she has to manage daily. Yet every day she gets up, goes to work, goes to the gym, and takes her medication even though it does not make her feel good.  People at her work do not even know how sick she is. When I see her she never complains.

These friends taught me that sometimes we cannot change our situation, yet we can change how we see things, or we can change ourselves. I don’t know about you, but so often when I have a difficulty, I want it to change, rather than looking at what I can do or see things differently. This does not stop me from wanting both of my friends to get better or wishing I could do more.

What I know for sure is that suffering is part of life, and what is key is how we view it. I might not be able to change my friend’s health or even help them as much as I would like, yet I can help others who are struggling, from strangers to those close to me.

Wouldn’t it be amazing for my friend to find a kidney donor, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if my friend with cancer finds one day that she does not have cancer anymore?

What we can do is make sure we all look each day to see how we can help someone, maybe someone we know, or someone we do not. We need to do the best we can. Smile at someone who looks sad. Reach out to a friend who needs to be listened to. Donate to a charity that you know makes a difference. Bring flowers to someone you know who needs them right now.  And if you have it to give, a kidney—or make sure you sign up to be a blood donor with the Red Cross.

There are so many ways that we can make a difference. We just need to do what we can.

Another quote from Victor Frankl: “For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”

In other words, we all need to be all we can be, day by day, hour by hour.

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].

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