Why Attitude is the Greatest Alchemy of Life

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ~ Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)

One of my favourite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Its prose is poetic and its theme, wise. In a nut shell, the ancient art of alchemy is the coveted ability to turn lead or mercury into gold. Imagine what a valuable skill that would be…

The Alchemist by David Teniers the Younger

The Alchemist by David Teniers the Younger

Everything you touched transformed literally into gold…  But in a broader sense we are all alchemists. You see, attitude is the raw material of personal alchemy.

By harnessing our most helpful and positive thought processes we can turn any perceived negative situation to our advantage, thus transforming undesirable substances into the elixir of happiness.

alchemy - Jabir_ibn_Hayyan

I love the saying, when life gives you lemons make lemonade. We’ve all known people who can step into a pile of steaming dung and seemingly come out smelling of roses. And there are others who appear to have it all: beauty, talent, fame, money, and on the surface they seem to be highly successful. But if you were a fly on the wall you might understand that issues can plague them just as much as the rest of us. Illness, heartache, family strife, or any kind of situation could be causing them misery, sadness and anxiety.

We all have our ‘stuff’ to deal with. Not least of which is that annoying little voice that likes to chirp up at the most inconvenient moment to tell us that we’re not good enough.

Or is that just me?

No matter what is going on around us, if we stop comparing ourselves to others and just focus on being the best person we can be, we can handle these sticky situations and mutate them into the precious metals of our lives…

The Alchemist by Joseph Wright

The Alchemist by Joseph Wright

When I look back on my saddest moments and greatest life challenges, I know that’s when I grew the most. When the chips are down you learn more about yourself than you do when it’s all plain sailing. My inner strength was forged in the fire of suffering. But it’s like Jesus said, “This too shall pass.” With the benefit of hindsight I’ve been able to get some perspective and see how my attitude either helped or hindered me in those times.

When I was faced with the ultimate choice to either change or die, I think you can guess when I finally created my gold.

Attitude is a very fluid thing, it can change according to our mood and circumstances, but the trick is to be aware of our thoughts and our self-talk, and when it dips be able to alter it accordingly. I know that I’m normally quite a ‘high’ sort of person but I can sometimes get pulled into a ‘low’ when things don’t go my way, which tends to happen fairly frequently.

Attitude - Charles Swindoll

I try to be a constant practitioner of gratitude, because unless you’re dead, things can always be worse. There have been days when, as Zig Ziglar so aptly put it, I needed a ‘check-up from the neck up’.

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Speaking of Mr Ziglar, here’s the man himself. Attitude Makes All The Difference:

Gratitude lets you see the beauty of your life which opens you to possibilities and better, more positive outcomes. We can’t second guess the universe, we can only play the current hand that we’re dealt with and try to make the best of it. Sometimes a duff hand is the most amazing blessing in disguise, even though in our despair we may ask, “Why is this happening to me?” The answer may not always become clear until after the event.

attitude - gratitude

Wounded souls have undergone healing, and are capable of deep compassion, empathy, strength and love.  The desire to serve and make things better for others often comes from experiencing a hardship that we want to spare our fellow man. Pain, whether it be emotional or physical is the main ingredient in our noble quest for transformation. Heartache is metallurgy for the soul.

It’s not our intelligence that will make the difference.  We could be the brainiest person in the world, but if our thoughts about us and others were negative, a high IQ wouldn’t count for much. If we have the attitude to know that we don’t know everything we can always learn from someone who has gone before us.

Our attitude is the thing that makes the biggest difference. If we evaluate where we’re at and adjust our settings accordingly we won’t get thrown too far off our course. It’s the only true thing we have complete control over.

attitude - living-success

After conducting countless experiments Thomas Edison might have rightly announced he was never going to invent the electric light bulb, but after being questioned about his apparent lack of results Edison was quick to respond:

“Results!  Why, man, I have gotten lots of results!  I know several thousand things that won’t work!”

So our thoughts and beliefs either elevate our attitude or they drag it into the gutter.

The sheer exuberance, innocence and enthusiasm for life that my children regularly demonstrate shows me how important that sense of wonderment really is. Magic is real to children.

Succumbing to wallowing in our weaknesses and problems is probably the biggest roadblock to leading the life of our dreams. When we have a purpose and passion in our lives it provides motivation to ditch these badly formed, ill-informed thoughts for ones that will better serve our inspiration. Brendon Burchard nails it in this clip where he talks about shifting our dominant frame:

People with charisma and warm, uplifting auras are a pleasure to be around, we are drawn to them like metal filings to a magnet. On the other hand, the moaning minnies of this world tend to repel both people and happy circumstances. They are caught in a perverse cycle of victimhood which makes it harder to manifest the life they want.

It’s like the crab that’s  trying to clamber out of the bucket, but is caught in the pincers of another crab who wants to hold him back and prevent him from escaping. The remaining crabs pull him back in, sealing their collective their fate. Only this time, the pincers pulling us downward are our mind, and sometimes other people. Great explanation of the crabs-in-a-bucket theory.

Helpful tips

  • Sometimes it can be useful to imagine we are shape-shifters, and metaphorically use the qualities of the creature best placed to deal with our current situation so that we can run with the challenge.
  • Learn to reinvent ourselves.
  • Balance our time between the external, fast paced world we live in and our precious inner world. Meditation is a great way to do this, as is playing a musical instrument, getting immersed in a hobby or time out in nature.
  • To live by our values and protect what we hold sacred, even in the face of troubles.
  • To be creative, go with the flow and have fun always lightens one’s burdens.
  • If we see ourselves and others with a sense of humour it balances our seriousness.
  • Live with humility in the present moment and be grateful for our blessings, for life is a privilege.
  • Learn to balance patience with action and always be bold and courageous to know that we can achieve whatever we set our minds on.

Rather than understanding the ancient philosophy and practice of alchemy and the nature of matter, we can be masters of the chemical impulses in our own brains. When we change our attitude we change ourselves, and it can happen for better or worse in an instant.

I thought I’d share Der Alchemist by Carl Spitzweg  complete with atmospheric chamber music that totally fits the painting and the ethos!

It’s how we handle our base emotions and thoughts that determine how much ‘gold’ we will convert. We can decide how we’re going to lead our lives, what legacy we’re going to leave the world, and if that isn’t true alchemy – I don’t know what is.

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