There’s something about motivational quotes on Facebook which make me cringe. Despite sounding meaningful at first blush, there’s not always anything substantial (never mind practical) underneath. It’s the advice of an armchair critic; they’re cobbled together with what I assume must be good intentions, but there’s the whiff of an ivory tower about them nonetheless. This photo of GamesRadar’s Iain Wilson sums up my thoughts on the matter.
That said, I recently stumbled across an exception tacked to the wall of our staffroom. It’s exactly the sort of thing which plasters itself across your social-media newsfeed, all positivity and assurances we are (to misquote Fight Club) ‘beautiful and unique snowflakes’. For some reason, its words struck a chord. Here you go:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”
The guru in question is Charles ‘Chuck’ Swindoll, a senior pastor from Texas. In case this makes you wary, focus for a moment on what he’s saying. It’s an expansion of the glass half-full argument. If you go into a situation thinking the worst, that’s probably what you’ll find.
For context, I’d recently been feeling overwhelmed by work and/or life in general. This transformed me into something of a misery. I left every morning expecting the day to be difficult, setting off a snowball effect where minor setbacks just contributed to my bad mood. Being realistic, it didn’t matter how justified my cynicism was – it hadn’t helped in the slightest.
That’s why Disney and Pixar movies are like concentrated hits of hot-chocolate. They’re simultaneously life-affirming and optimistic, warm in all the right ways without being unrealistic where it counts. Saying this might come across as odd when you consider how many of their films feature anthropomorphic animals, yet the heroes wrestle with universal struggles anyone can relate to. Better still, these stories champion self-reflection and development as a person.
Zootropolis is surprisingly astute not only in its representation of racial stereotyping, for instance, but also the difficulty with overcoming our own presumptions. The film’s protagonist, Judy Hopps, naively buys into the notion that her world’s creatures have advanced beyond their baser instincts; both predator and prey co-exist in peace. Obviously, this isn’t the case. Even she isn’t immune to thinking the worst of predators based solely upon their reputation. It’s not a twist of fate that helps her, though. It’s Judy’s can-do attitude.
Although this may seem painfully sentimental, there’s a lot to be said for focusing on what goes right rather than wrong (if purely to keep us from becoming depressed). A small kindness can make someone’s day. Staying optimistic can make ours.