The late author Stanislaw J. Lec wrote, “I wanted to tell the world just one word. Unable to do that, I became a writer.”

Having become a writer myself, with fifteen books published in 29 languages, the challenge is how to distill hundreds of thousands of words on numerous topics into a few words that best serve you in this time and place.

Since this site is titled “Positively Positive,” and it reminds others that Your Attitude + Your Choices = Your Life, I thought I’d write this blog around these themes.  So here goes:

E.M. Forster once wrote, “How do I know what I think until I see what I do?” Forster’s words point to a deeper question: In order to live a positive life — to cultivate the best possible attitude and choices — shall we focus more on “fixing” or improving our inner, subjective world of thoughts and emotions — or shall we focus more on what we do?

In other words, is “attitude” a form of thinking or feeling — or is attitude best revealed through our behavior? How do we know if someone has a more positive (or negative) attitude except through their facial expressions, words, and actions?

And how do we make a choice? Is choice a mental decision, or do we chose by acting? In my book The Laws of Spirit, a woman sage demonstrates key universal laws in a mountain wilderness. At one point we come to a fork in the road and she asked me to choose which path to take. I peered as far as I could up each trail. Then, pointing to the left, I said, “I choose this path.”

“I see,” she said — “but now, please make a choice.”

Puzzled, I repeated myself, “Maybe you didn’t hear me — I said I’m going in this direction.”

She smiled, nodded, and said, “Fine. Now the time has come for you to decide…” I had no idea what she was getting at, so I just shrugged and started walking. Over my shoulder I heard her say, “Thank you for making a choice.”

I made my choice by setting out, not by ruminating or making statements. I discovered what I thought by observing what I did. Reminds me of that old Zen saying: “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.”

Maybe it seems as if I’m merely quibbling with words, but these words seem to have considerable importance as to how we can live a positively positive life (moment to moment). Attitude and choice center around how we actually behave — what we do — the actions we make from moment to moment.

I don’t personally know how to “fix” my thoughts or will myself to feel differently from the way I feel in a given moment. Emotions are the weather patterns of the body; sometimes a calm, sunny day; sometimes dark clouds; sometimes a storm. Of course there are many methods, systems and techniques to try and change our emotional state. Sometimes they help, and sometimes they don’t. But we have no direct control, by our will, over what thoughts or emotions arise in any given moment. Anger passes naturally, but we can’t banish it in an instant. We have no spam filters to avoid particular kinds of thoughts (although we may sometimes learn to shift our perceptual filters).

I can’t will myself to feel terrified or happy or grateful or confident, or to think only positive thoughts. But I can learn to behave in a happy, grateful, confident, and positive manner.  And there is the key to your life — and, I suspect, to the late E.M. Forster’s heart. You will know what you think when you see what you do.

In closing, I might ask a final question:  If you were climbing a sheer cliff wall, clinging 500 feet up — would you rather put your attention and energy into getting rid of the fear of falling, or in climbing well?  If you chose climbing well, then extend this choice into everyday life — focus more on living well, doing well — to the quality of attention and action you bring to the moments of your day. Some authors advise us that the key to life resides in our “being-ness” or about believe or intention.  As for me, I’m with old E.M. Forster — the horse I’m betting on is effort over time.  Of this, I’m positively positive.

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Dan Millman, a former world champion athlete, coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor, is author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior (adapted to film in 2006), and numerous other books read by millions of people in 29 languages. Dan teaches worldwide and has influenced people from all walks of life, including leaders in the fields of health, psychology, education, business, politics, sports, entertainment and the arts. Dan and his wife, Joy, live in Northern California.

Dan’s most recent book is: The Four Purposes of Life: Finding Meaning and Direction in a Changing World.

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