Vail Valley Voices: The power of a positive attitude |

Vail Valley Voices: The power of a positive attitude

John Horan-Kates
Vail, CO, Colorado

I love this expression from Clement Stone: “There is very little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”

He speaks volumes about how you can approach every day. Positive attitude can be looked at from a whole variety of important dimensions, including courage, confidence, passion, enthusiasm, patience and humility. Attitude even includes the simple gesture of a cheerful smile.

On the other hand, attitude can have more negative dimensions ” such as arrogance, selfishness, complaining and comparing. But we’re not going there today because there’s not much value there.

I define attitude as an overall outlook on life, a mindset or way of thinking that affects everything you do. It’s your demeanor.

For this occasion, let’s look at attitude from just two perspectives: courage and humility.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Courage is that quality that enables you to face challenges with confidence and resolve. It’s the moral strength to persevere. When you are courageous and step out to meet a test, you signal to those around you that you can be counted on to do what is required.

And courage goes well beyond the physical prowess or endurance that we tend to think of first. A more subtle dimension of courage is the ability to admit your mistakes versus hanging on to being right. Giving up control of a project or an idea takes courage.

Who are some of the leaders who were courageous? For me, Abraham Lincoln comes to mind immediately because of how he faced daunting challenges on multiple fronts. Martin Luther King Jr. had very strong convictions, which were the deep commitments to what he stood for. And his courage was not wavering from these convictions.

Another aspect of courage is the way we respond to fear ” certainly the fear of danger, but more importantly, the fear of failure or the fear of what others might think. Then there’s the fear of being isolated or seeming awkward.

It takes courage to bet on your ideas and take a calculated risk in spite of your fears. Courage is about the willingness to step out, to be bold, maybe even audacious ” as Theodore Roosevelt once implied, to step into the arena.

Humility is another valuable element of attitude. While some people think of this quality as meekness ” some say weakness ” I believe it’s more about respect and an unpretentious way of holding yourself. As opposed to exalting oneself, it’s about getting beyond your ego.

To many, humility is born from one’s spiritual perspective and has to do with yielding to a higher power, however you conceive of that. In the end, if you say you’re humble, you’re probably not.

I like the way Gen. Douglas MacArthur turned a negative into a positive when he said, “We’re not retreating. We’re advancing in a different direction.” That little difference is really a big difference.

A positive outlook is a huge asset for everyone ” students, teachers, parents, leaders.

Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor, once referred to attitude as “the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose our own way.”

How would you describe your attitude?

This article has been written in connection with Exploring Potential, a character-development program offered in Eagle County high schools. John Horan-Kate, president of the Vail Leadership Institute, can be reached at 970-926-7800 or

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