What attitude do you take in your life?
-by Tijl Koenderink
A healthy attitude in life is one of the most important things a parent can give its child. Skills and knowledge can be learned, but life attitude is something that will stick with you forever and it will be the determining factor whether or not you will acquire those skills and knowledge.
In a Vipassana retreat I once spent ten hours a day, for ten days, in total silence. Everyday at 7 p.m. we were shown a video of guru S.N. Goenka, which was the high point of the day. One of the stories he shared with us stuck with me, because of the profound truth it holds.
There is a mother in old India, who has three sons. One day she needs oil to cook, so she calls son number one, gives him 10 rupees and asks him to get some oil from the market. Her son goes to the market, buys the oil, but on his way back he unfortunately trips and loses half of the oil. He makes his way home, where he cries hysterically to his mother: “It’s so awful! I fell and lost half of the oil. This is the worst day ever!”
His mother tries to calm him down and says: “It’s only oil. It’s not that bad.”, but yet she still does not have enough oil to cook. The next day she sends her second son to the market and he goes and gets some more oil, but on his way back he also trips, falls and loses oil. As he comes home he tells his mother: “This is the best day ever! I fell, but I am still in one piece, the vase is also still in one piece and I even managed to save half of the oil. How awesome is that!?” His mother is less enthusiastic.
On the third day she sends her third son, because she still needs more oil. He goes to the market, buys oil, falls and trips (motor skill issues presumably run in this family…).
He comes home and says: “Mother, I fell. I am in one piece and so is the vase. I saved half of the oil, but I also lost half of the oil. That is the reality as it is. Now I will go back to the market, work for this merchant for two and a half hours, so I will make enough money to buy half a vase of oil. Then we will have the full vase of oil we intended to have in the first place.”
This great metaphor shows a philosophy I truly believe in. It is not about optimism or pessimism, but about the fact that there is always something you can do to make it better.
“What can I do to make it better?” should be the guiding question in life.
Bear in mind three important things.
Put the emphasis on ‘I’. I am responsible, me!
Put the emphasis on ‘do’. Not talk about, not philosophize, but DO.
Remember it is about making it ‘better’; not perfect, just better.
As long as we do those things we will move ahead in life. If you are helping someone else then the question is: what can you do to make it better and what can I do to help you with that?
This is all about mindset, attitude and also a little bit about attribution style, which is about explaining the causes of events. It is also about change; if something is not going right in your life, should you change yourself or the environment?
Tijl Koenderink is the founder and master trainer of Novilo, a company that helps schools, teachers and parents create a place for gifted and talented childeren.