Last weekend, I was swimming with the family at Bishan pool when I heard a China-born swim coach remind his young students “态度决定命运!”. It means “Attitude Determines Destiny”.
It was such a fascinating statement that I stopped swimming to listen further and I kept brooding on it. I went home and did online research, finding out that it was the title to the following saying (I’m not sure who the author is)
Change your attitude, and your behavior will change.
Change your behavior, and your habits will change.
Change your habits, and your character will change.
Change your character, and your destiny will change.
How true! All these, many of us know in one form or another, but it had never been laid out to me in such a clear, logical manner. I spent the rest of the weekend discussing this with Isaac, stressing to him how every step (attitude, behavior, habits and character) are essential to building one’s future. Of course, I don’t know how much he will remember of this conversation, since he is still young and inexperienced in the ways of the world.
I’ve always wondered if being a journalist was a good thing, because there was so much unhappiness during my SPH bond. But one thing that was beneficial was that it led me to meet so many different types of people in a very short time, and sometimes I got the opportunity to tell their unique stories.
As I looked back at people I’ve met over the years, the four steps manifested themselves in different ways, but always had similar roots in habitual behavior.
There was this army major, who spent his time blaming young NSFs for his mistakes of poor judgement.
There was this girl, who couldn’t help but keep making the wrong decisions in love, breaking up other lives along the way.
There was this person, who kept lying and covering up in almost everything at work, until it became chronic and known to everyone else.
There was this person who spent his time plotting against others, but never actually doing any real work. As far as I could tell, he didn’t really have any real skills either.
There was a writer who was addicted to plagiarism, but somehow was always let off the hook.
The pattern continues, and you get the idea. People who do the things they shouldn’t do, keep doing it until it becomes a fixed habit. Then they get stuck, because they really can’t stop.
What was the attitude that led to the behavior in the first place? The idea that they can get away with it? That it was an acceptable thing to do to survive in this cruel, unforgiving world?
Some will scoff, saying that you can’t be a goody-two-shoes if you want to rise to the top, because the bad guys always get ahead. The question needs to be asked – do you want to rise to the top, and where is the “top” anyway?
The peak of a corporate firm? Or the peak of your technical skills?
The peak of being a multitasker? Or the peak of being able to live with contentment?
The peak of being able to fool everyone (eg. cheating pastor of a big church)? Or the peak of self-awareness and humility?
How then, did such attitudes get planted? Through upbringing? Through peer influence? Through multiple failures or successes in life?
I don’t know, and I worry for my children as I seek to put them on the right path God instructed parents to. I keep making mistakes in parenting and I keep asking myself if I am doing right by my kids. I look back at my own life, and I wonder what did my mum do right so that I didn’t grow up with the wrong values.
Or was it that I was blessed with righteous and caring bosses in SAF, SPH and Microsoft that led to my current outlook on life? I’m not saying that I’m great at what I do, but my bosses all taught me the unshakeable values of doing my best no matter the size of the assignment, and being brutally critical of my own work and behavior because there is always someone better…..You know, there are few greater blessings than having wise mentors.
Or is it genetic? Are chronic liars and competitive people born that way?
Again, I don’t know, but all I know is that shaping my future, and hopefully my children’s values, all starts with my attitude, and for that, I thank the nameless coach for such precious wisdom. I’m not saying that man is in full control of his life – God is. But we have been given free will to decide what kind of life we want to lead, and what is our attitude that will please God and men?