TIt’s All About the Attitude, Stupid!

It’s All About the Attitude, Stupid!

© David Burton 2020

It's the Attitude!

     We all know one or more of those eternal pessimists. No matter what the situation, they will tell you that it will turn out badly and they’ll go on endlessly explaining why nothing good can come as a result of whatever is going on or happening to them.

     In life there are pessimists, optimists and realists. There is a key difference between a pessimist and a realist. What do you think if there is a glass half filled with water placed on a table in front of you? Is it half full or half empty? This is the classic question that is used to arrive at the attitude of a person and see if he is a pessimist or an optimist. But there is the third kind also who is known as the realist. Realist and pessimist are far apart on a continuum that has pessimist at one extreme and the optimist at the other extreme. The key difference between a pessimist and a realist is that while a pessimist has a negative approach to life, a realist approaches life in an objective manner.[1]

     The pessimist continually has a negative outlook and always expects undesirable outcomes. The moment a pessimist encounters a difficulty he/she would prefer to give up, rather than try to make it work somehow. A pessimist thinks that nothing can be done in a given situation and does not try to do any adventurous things. He/she thinks that a worse situation would result from a bad situation, and the worst situation would result from a worse situation. He/she always manages to find faults in situations and makes it difficult not only for himself/herself but also for others as well.[2]

     Opposite the pessimist is the optimist who nearly always looks on the more favorable side of events and expects the most favorable outcome.

     But there is one more type of person and that is the realist. A realist is someone who tends to view or present things as they really are at the moment of occurance. The realist doesn’t worry about what was (even though he/she is aware of what has transpired) and also doesn’t dwell on what could be. He/she simply accepts what is taking place at the moment and acts accordingly.[3]

     I’ve had various medical procedures where it would have been easy to assume a negative attitude leading up to the procedure. These have included a heart valve replacement, a knee joint replacement, a few root canals, some dental implants and some back surgery. Rather than taking a negativist or overly optimistic approach to these, I chose to be more realistic and to allow the outcomes to be what they would be. In other words, I didn’t dwell on the potential bad outcomes or the possible negative side effects, i.e., pain, discomfort, immobility, etc. On the other hand, I didn’t over-optimistically expect some magic outcome. While hoping for the best, I chose to accept the procedures on a come-as-whatever basis and to proceed as necessary.

     I’ve also observed others who underwent similar medical procedures who expected and planned for the worst, to their detriment and to the detriment of those attempting to support and aid them. Usually, the consequences of their procedures were considerably less severe than they had convinced themselves they would have to endure. They spent so much time and effort on worrying about what could go wrong or how bad things could be that they were miserable before, during, and even after the procedure. This, in spite of the fact that the bad outcomes or negative side effects that they had been worried about either didn’t occur or were much less severe than they had conjured up.

     I’ve observed that there are some among us with a negative attitude that they themselves create and reinforce. Some of these people seem to always want to punish themselves to prove that they are victims. Victimhood is a major element in their lives. Here’s two examples.

     1. Wife asks husband to drive her to the local ATM and back again. Husband agrees, but just before taking wife to ATM, she becomes angry with husband and she tells him she now doesn’t want his ride to ATM. Instead, she’ll call a cab. This is the classic “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face”. Wife apparently wants to perceive herself as the victim – not getting a ride back and forth to the ATM with husband. She can now console herself with her perception of being a victim once more.

     2. Wife asks husband to pick her up from gym after husband runs an errand. She finishes gym at 11:30 am and asks when husband can come. He tells wife that he should be at gym between 11:00 and 11:30 unless there is a traffic tie-up somewhere. She is happy. But, a moment later, she once again gets angry with husband because of some other triviality and now tells husband not to bother picking her up, with the lame excuse that he said he could be delayed if a traffic tie-up occurred. He says, that if he were to be delayed, she would only have to wait a short while, but wife is really not interested in anything rational. Once more, she assumes the attitude of the martyr and wants to see herself as being punished. Again, she is willing to “cut off her nose to spite her face” in order to wallow in self-victimhood.

     People with this attitude wonder why they often don’t get along with others. The reason? - their attitude. It’s not pleasant being around the perpetual martyr.

     The issue I’m addressing here is attitude. One’s attitude makes a great deal of difference in how one handles any situation. Any overly negative attitude, i.e., being the eternal pessimist is definitely the wrong attitude. Being the Pollyanna optimist is also the wrong attitude. But I’m convinced, if one assumes a realistic attitude, perhaps touched with dollop of optimism, one can be much happier and can achieve much better outcomes from potentially bad situations.

     I’m in no way trying to trivialize life’s tribulations. Let’s face it; some of us have a great deal of pain to deal with. However, it is essential for one’s well-being that we understand that circumstances, events or situations are not the final word on one’s quality of life, no matter the severity. It’s how we respond to these conditions and the fear and other negative emotions they elicit that make the difference. And more than anything, it’s about making the mental shift in attitude that allows us to power through whatever life throws at us. In fact, it’s all about attitude. It’s always been about attitude. And always will be about attitude.[4]

     It’s all about the attitude, stupid! “Even in the most seemingly mundane situations, there’s always an opportunity to make a difference if you are mindful of what is happening around you and are willing to go that extra centimeter. As Confucius points out, it’s the attitude that counts!
     “If you’re working in a store, for example, you don’t need a sophisticated AI behavior analytics system to help you spot a shopper who can’t find what they’re looking for but is too embarrassed to ask the staff for assistance. All it takes is paying closer attention to the body language of the people around you followed by a tactful question asking if the befuddled shopper needs some assistance. A small intervention can make a huge difference.” (Ref. 5)

     Try to remember that when something good or bad is happening to you, it doesn’t pay to dwell on what might or might not be the result. Instead, focus on how to react to what is happening, i.e., concentrate your thoughts and efforts on what you can do to create a positive outcome. That's "ATTITUDE". While “having a great attitude will not be enough to allow you to do everything well, what it will do is allow you to do everything better than having a bad attitude will.” (Ref. 6)

     One’s attitude determines our relationship with others. The eternal “sad-sack” or the eternal pessimist drives people away. In the short story, The King of Norway by Israeli writer Amos Oz, we are told the story of Zvi Provizor, the constant bearer of bad news. This man lived on a kibbutz in Israel. Zvi Provizor, “loved to transmit bad news: earthquakes, plane crashes, buildings collapsing on their occupants, fires and floods. He read the papers and listened to all the news broadcasts very early in the morning, so that he could catch us at the entrance to the dining hall and astound us with the story of two hundred and fifty coal miners hopelessly trapped somewhere in China, or six hundred passengers drowned when a ferry capsized in a storm in the Caribbean. He also used to memorize obituaries. Always first to know which famous people had died, he would inform the entire kibbutz.
      - - -
     “{The result of Provizor’s constant attitude of doom and gloom:} ”The other kibbutz members avoided him. In the dining hall, they rarely joined him at his table . . . behind his back {they} called him the Angel of Death . . .
      - - -
     “Every evening, Zvi Provizor would sit alone, utterly still, on the bench next to the fountain he had installed with his own hands . . . If you passed by and said good evening, he would return the greeting and tell you about the floods in south-eastern China.” (Ref. 7)

     A lesson to be gleaned from the Amos Oz story is that no one wants to be near the eternal pessimist and constant bearer of bad news. Notice how people tend to be drawn to the person with a positive attitude and shy away from those with negative attitudes. The lesson to be drawn is: It’s all about the attitude!

     Now that the entire world is going through the Coronavirus pandemic, the gloom-and-doom crowd has been its glory. They repeat the statistics of the number of people testing positive for the Covid-19 virus, they talk of a coming Armageddon by telling whoever will listen the most recent death toll from the virus and talk of the dire predictions of how many will eventually succumb to the pandemic. Their attitude is one of negativity and hopelessness. For them, their oft-repeated cry of “the sky is falling” has become a fact rather than a prophecy. We have even witnessed the creation of a new word concerning these Chicken Littles – that word is “doomscrolling”, which describes one’s incessant need to consume somber stories on TV, via social media, in the print media, and on the radio.[8] I hear people constantly repeating the bad news, both real and imagined, as well as predicting the unbearable consequences that will remain after this pandemic crisis passes, e.g., all old people are going to die from the virus, all people in nursing homes are doomed, all schooling will be online, all shopping malls will go out of business, all restaurants will be take-out only, we will all have to wear facemasks forever, there will be no more handshakes, hugs, or kisses, etc., etc., etc.

     The people who are reveling in all the negatives – both real and imagined - are reminiscent of Eeyore in A. A. Milne’s classic Winne-the-Pooh children’s tales. Eeyore, the old gray donkey, is perennially pessimistic and gloomy. He always expects the worst to happen. The pessimist’s pronouncement of, “if you think it’s bad now, just wait” always enjoys advantages over both the realist’s, “so what, life goes on” and the optimist’s, “oh, come on, it can’t be that bad”. Realistically, the Eeyore’s simply do not have enough information — yet — to issue the sort of dire warnings that they are expounding. But, it makes them happy – sort of – to be continually spouting their messages of impending and worsening doom. The rest of us need to be content with ignoring their Eeyore-like ass’s brayings. We need to maintain the realistic and/or optimistic attitudes that have always carried us through trying times. [9]

     Rather than taking a positive attitude, the “glass is half empty” crowd has done just the opposite and they are "happily miserable" as a result. Unfortunately, they are trying to pass on their negative attitude to everyone around them in their firm belief that “misery loves company.” My suggestion to these naysayers is: Get a life! Think positive! And always remember, "It's the attitude, stupid!


  1. Difference Between Pessimist and Realist, Nedha, differencebetween.com, 14 May 2013.
  2. Difference Between Optimist and Pessimist, Nedha, differencebetween.com, 3 September 2011.
  3. Difference Between Optimists, Pessimists, and Realists, Michel, glowballwebnetwork.com,
    Accessed 16 October 2019.
  4. Why It’s All About Attitude, Steve Rizzo, success.com, 25 January 2017.
    Richard Brown, BrownBeat, 11 October 2018.
  6. "Attitude" it’s not what happens to you that counts, it’s how you react to what happens to you. That's "Attitude", Domenic Circosta, Linkedin, 8 July 2014.
  7. The King of Norway, Prospect, 24 April 2013.
  8. Are you a ‘doomscrolling’ junkie? The new, scary coronavirus habit, Melkorka Licea, New York Post,
    14 April 2020.
  9. The Eeyore Syndrome, Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, 7 April 2020.

  2 July 2020 {Article 420; Suggestions?_43}    
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