Most people regard attitude as something that can be developed or studied. It’s subject to control.
It’s not uncommon to hear someone say they’re “working on” or “maintaining” their positive attitude. We treat attitudes like muscles that benefit from exercise. Whether we hit the gym frequently, or avoid it altogether, we invariably hold ourselves accountable for the condition of our attitudes. The couch potato has only herself to blame for her bad attitude. The diligent weightlifter can praise himself for the strength of his.
Attitude is subjective
Our attitude about attitude reflects something deeply cultural. It supposes willingness to shoulder responsibility and bear the weight of consequence.
In other words, if we’ve lost control of our attitude, we are willing to accept that we’ve lost control of ourselves.
What’s most interesting about our concept of attitude is how very different it is from other concepts of esteem, happiness and humanities.
Kindness, for example…
“Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” was written on a placemat at a restaurant in California in the 80’s. Eleven years later, Anne Herbert, the placemat author, went on to publish her aptly named book, “Random Kindness & Senseless Acts of Beauty”. The idea of doing something for no obvious personal reward has become the dominant definition of kindness.
Kindness is more than an action
With this collectively accepted definition, kindness is not conditional. You do something kind or you don’t. Unlike attitude, people don’t work on kindness. No one goes around saying, “I’m working on my kindness today.” But why not? Why can’t kindness be a subject to putting in work? Perhaps it is time to shift our perception of kindness.
Kindness is charity
Instead, we should treat kindness as a charitable quality. Charity involves helping someone; providing something they need but can’t get for themselves. We generally assume that something is material or physical. In reality, charity often has little to do with money.
It’s impossible to ignore financial matters, however, and in this realm, charity tends to flow in one direction. Though rich people may be generous with their money, they stay rich and they are the giver rather than the receiver in perpetuity. But in life as a whole, especially in relationships, charity rarely drives one way.
We lean on each other for many things. Gifts and cash are among them but these are acts of kindness in isolation. What really matters is a more unconscious exchange. It’s our expression of love, compassion and companionship.
These are qualities that we can and should “work” on. Kindness is not what we do but how we become. It’s not a forgettable act of goodwill. It’s the self-practice of a lifetime.
Attitude and Kindness
Our perspective of attitude is unlikely to change dramatically. We’ll continue to monitor attitudes with therapy and intelligent technology. We’ll keep training, for better days.
Perplexities will remain. We will continue to wonder why our strong attitude had a bad day. Or why our good attitude didn’t protect us from feeling like crap, no matter how ripped it is, no matter how many reps we did.
Life is this complicated. But it is worth the work we put towards it. I believe the key is to apply this very attitude we have about attitude – towards developing kindness.
Author: Courtney Capellan
Courtney is a writer and digital analyst for digitaladvertisingWorks. She teaches yoga, enjoys golf and has an insatiable appetite for reading fiction. You can follow Courtney on Twitter.