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There are times when our attitude nearly causes our own self-destruction. The way we respond to some apparently unsolvable problem often makes the difference between learning to live with it or simply falling apart, reducing our value to ourselves and to those around us.

Its easy to wring our hands and wonder why we, of all people, have to be hit with such a dilemma. We lament, Its not fair, this is not a good time; others dont have these problems, why me?

You are not alone; everyone encounters serious bumps in the road at one time or another. You dont always hear about others difficulties or, if you do, they dont seem serious – mainly because they dont directly affect you. Its not easy, but the best solution is to learn to live with any predicament which you cannot change. If you cant change your fate, change your attitude, writer Amy Tan suggests. Not being able to control events, I control myself, French essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote, and I adapt myself to them, if they do not adapt themselves to me.

That doesnt mean that you have to meekly accept the full blow of what you are dealt. There are always actions which can be taken. You can try to improve the situation, you can ignore or insulate yourself from its most serious implications, or you can separate yourself from that environment. If you cant separate yourself, you can adjust your mental outlook; thats the way some prisoners of war were able to save their sanity during Vietnam and World War II.

Learning to distinguish between realistic worry and needless worry can improve a persons attitude. British statesman Benjamin Disraeli said, Nothing in life is more remarkable than the unnecessary anxiety that we endure, and generally create ourselves.

Anxiety based on reality – good worry – can help you take corrective action in times of stress. On the other hand, toxic worry, as defined by Ned Hallowell, a psychiatrist who treats cognitive and emotional problems, can prevent you from responding appropriately. Hallowell elaborates: If your worry leads you to take constructive action, then youre managing it well. But if it slows you down and causes repeated rounds of fretting, then you need to adjust your attitude.

Hallowell suggests you can improve your attitude and control toxic worry by discussing your concerns with trusted allies, digging for the most accurate understanding of the facts, formulating a plan which outlines the steps necessary to address the problem, and then being flexible enough to modify the plan as you take action and circumstances change. It is important to focus on solving the problem, and not to dwell on what went wrong.

Finally, you must take full responsibility for your attitude; only by accepting this responsibility will your lot improve. Changing your attitude may not change your fate, but it will certainly improve your life. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, publisher Walter Anderson once remarked, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life.

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