Attitudes that propel you forward.

6 min. to read.

There’s one thing, and only one, that truly has the power to either derail you or propel you forward.

You can have the worst circumstances possible, and this one thing will push you past them.  You can have every advantage, and this same thing can steal the opportunity from you. That one thing?

Your attitude.  Attitude, that combination of emotion, story, and values, is how you go about the task in front of you. My last post in this series looked at attitudes that are holding you back in personal and spiritual growth.

Today, we look at the other side.

This one thing can move you forward.

Photo Credit: Unknown
Photo Credit: Unknown

Whenever I have the opportunity to speak to high school students, this is something I think about.  My high school years were largely spent awash in insecurity, struggling desperately to avoid looking bad.

Conversations with high school students today have made clear that all these years later, it’s still the same way. I always want to give them a better way to see themselves.  With one particular group I presented the basics of Ephesians 2:10 and the concept that we are God’s artwork.

At the end of the presentation, I asked them to email me the answer to this question: “If you knew you were loved and you didn’t have to be afraid, how would your life look different?”  I was not prepared for the level of authenticity and self-awareness that those emails contained.

One response inspired me.  The author was articulate; someone used to performing at a high level.  That’s not what impressed me, though.  She was clear about her weaknesses.  She identified fear that was holding her back.  And she asked for help.

It took me almost 40 years and a lot of brokenness before I got to the place where I could do that!  She had an attitude of openness and humility that moved me to want to help.  More than all her talent and drive, that attitude is going to take her places.  It’s the gateway to serious personal and spiritual growth.

Word Art by Marc Alan Schelske. Photo Credit: Marek Uliasz
Word Art by Marc Alan Schelske. Photo Credit: Marek Uliasz

An Attitude Multi-Vitamin

Consider that attitudes are ways of being.  They are a package of emotions, story, and values that shape the way you act.  Think of them as the way you travel your life path. Just as there are attitudes that can limit your growth, there are others that can propel you forward in growth. (Here’s a great conversation about just that.)

Here are five.

Path 1 – Inside-Out Focus.

This attitude is counter-cultural.  Our world focuses desperately on appearances, product, and reputation.  These are real things that matter, but they are also external things that naturally emerge as the result of how you live.

If you know that the Artist who made you has a good and beautiful purpose for your life, you can focus on identity and character rather than appearance and performance.  When these core things are healthy and growing, the external things will naturally follow as a result.

Path 2 – Gracious Expectation.

We are wired up to jump to conclusions.  This shortcut allows us to make decisions about people and circumstances without really knowing them well.  But it’s also judgmental and can shut down relationships and opportunities.  What’s worse, we often limit where God can show up in our lives.

But what if you started in a different place?  You already know that God is working in you, despite your weaknesses and sin.  If that’s true of you, maybe it’s true of others.  Begin with the assumption that (even if you can’t see it or understand it) God is already at work in the lives of the people around you.  This creates a gracious expectation in your life, a relational humility, that allows God to work in your life through others.

Path 3 – Heart of a Steward.

The highest goal in our culture is to be the boss.  Entrepreneurs are the new heroes.  But the attitude that comes with this–“I’m in charge, and I will make the calls”–gets in the way of emotional and spiritual growth.  Even if we want to be leaders, we have to master following and listening.

The Bible uses the imagery of a steward to communicate this idea.  The steward was a servant in wealthy households trusted to manage the house and its resources in alignment with the goals of the master.  Instead of seeing yourself as the CEO of your life, you will grow much faster if you see yourself as the steward. Your life is God’s. Everything you have has been entrusted to you to fulfill God’s purposes in your life. This creates accountability and humility.

Path 4 – Open-Handed Intentionality.

Spiritual growth takes time and space, but many of us schedule and structure our lives so completely that we don’t have space for “teaching moments” to happen.

If we see ourselves as the CEOs of our lives, we always have to be on the move executing our plans, but if we are stewards, then there are times we can wait.  More than that, we can be OK with unexpected changes in our course. Since God’s purposes are a higher priority than our plans, these “left turns” don’t have to cause us stress.  Rather, we move forward in life with intentionality, at the same time maintaining an open and flexible spirit.  You know… just in case God wants to do something other than what we planned.

Path 5 – Change Through Attention.

Our culture tries to bring about transformation through surgery, legislation, education, even through shame and fear.  But the Bible teaches that lasting change happens because of attention. By beholding we become changed. Instead of attempting to change through great effort, we pursue transformation by focusing our attention on those things that matter.

Any one of these attitudes can change your life, but all of them together create a greenhouse environment where your growth can take off.

In the Comments:  What attitudes do you find help you grow the most?

6 thoughts on “Attitudes that propel you forward.

  1. I’ve worked on numbers 1 & 5 quite a lot, and they have made a huge difference. Numbers 2, 3 & 4 on the other hand, need a lot of work. I’m an expert at jumping to conclusions. I see the need to have the heart of a steward (though I never heard it put that way before, and I like it), but I mostly act like a CEO. I’ve read a lot about the need for quiet time, meditation, etc., and I’m trying to implement it. My mind is a whirling merry-go-round most of the time still! I keep going back to #3, and I’m thinking that one needs a book of its own. I know I would read it!

    1. Hey Cherise, I like your suggestion of a book for “heart of a steward.” That one feels really hard for me. I’m so wired to the idea that if I earned it’s mine, whether talking about money, or skills, or reputation or whatever. But, it’s quite a freeing thing to think of everything I have as God’s. That mean’s God’s ultimately responsible for providing what’s needed. That really hits on the trust issue with is an ongoing growth area for me.

      By the way, thanks so much for leaving a comment. I love hearing what you think.

  2. Gracious expectation really hit home with me. It makes me think about the fact that even as I believe I am accepting of those around me and am grateful for grace for my shortcomings, it is very easy to not pay that forward – to place expectations on those around me and create unhealthy environments. The idea of seeking first God in this area is inviting. Thanks Marc!

  3. I’ve walked all of these “paths” in the past, but I’ll admit, my whole attitude about life right now, stinks. I find myself being “fed up” with life, and just wanting to go home. But, as your article points out, I understand that God is at work here on this earth, as well as in me. And, against my understanding, God has actually created me for a purpose (I have yet to figure out just exactly what that purpose is. I don’t see the point). Yet, I am thankful, thankful that God hasn’t lowered the “boom” on me. Although I see where life could be better, I definitely see where life could be a lot worse. I’m not concerned about my “attitude” at this moment, because I know God. I know He has a purpose for my “stinking attitude” at this time. In my studies of the life of Jesus Christ here on this earth, I can see where He displayed some “attitudes” Himself. The one attitude that I can relate to at this time in my life is the brief not-wanting-to-go-to-the-cross attitude Jesus displayed in the garden. Jesus asked God to allow “this cup to pass” Him by. Yet, Jesus obeyed His Father. Over the past 16 years, I have found that when I have been “kicking and screaming” my way through life, God had a plan for it. I am grateful that God had a plan then, as well as I’m sure He has one now.

    1. Hey John, you and me both. So glad God loves and works with us, even when our hearts and minds are uncooperative. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

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