You Are What You Believe

Photo credit: Valeria Zoncoll

I’m a firm believer that many of the corny sayings we heard as children make sense more after brain injury than before. Similarly, many of the mantras we heard during our teenage and adult years make more sense now than before. I am not recommending that you go out and get a brain injury, but I believe that I have benefited greatly by having one. My top six mantras are listed and explained below.

  1. Attitude is everything.
  2. Communication is critical.
  3. Everything has a solution.
  4. Plan, do, check, act.
  5. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
  6. Make a difference.

Attitude is Everything

In a book titled Attitudes are Contagious: Are Yours Worth Catching?, authors Dennis E. Mannering and Wendy K. Mannering present the idea that attitudes are contagious. If you believe the statement is true, you are probably aware that by projecting a positive “can do” attitude you are influencing the world. Even if you do not design a bridge that spans an ocean, cure a deadly disease, solve global poverty, or negotiate global peace, you can influence the world – one smile at a time.

Communication is Critical

If you have a negative attitude, very few people will want to spend time with you and only a small portion of those people will want to spend much time talking with you. On the contrary, if you have a positive attitude, people will enjoy spending time with you, helping you, and communicating with you as often as possible. Communication is more than spoken words; it is also body language.

Thankfully, a friend helped me understand the importance of body language during one of my rare dinner outings during the first year of my recovery. Even though I was in my pajamas, lost most of my hair, carried a barf bucket, walked erratically, and really did not feel like going out, I agreed to join a few friends for dinner. When the waitress came to our table to take the order, I stared at the menu and in the most pleasant voice I could muster, ordered an appetizer. After the waitress left, the friend explained what my body language said to the waitress.

According to my friend, my body language communicated “you are not important. I am more interested in my menu than I am in you.” I challenged my friend and said that I didn’t feel well but I certainly did not communicate anything negative to the waitress. When the waitress returned, my friend asked the waitress about my body language when I ordered the food. To my surprise, I owed the waitress an apology. I explained that my intent was not to offend. The waitress smiled, left, and returned with a happy face cookie – “on the house,” I learned.

Everything has a Solution

There is no problem in the world that cannot be solved. We may not like the solution, but the solution does exist. The mantra that “everything has a solution” is universally true for every aspect of life. Under most circumstances, I caution people about using extreme words such as always, every, and never. However, I strongly believe that everything has a solution. Even when my days were filled with vomiting, sleeping, dizziness, and falling, with no end in sight, I knew there was a solution to my problems. Stay positive and hopeful.

Plan, Do, Check, Act

A plan does not necessarily mean a 50-page, grammatically perfect bound document. A plan can be a few words, but the plan should be written and pasted in several visible places. When you are happy, the plan will help you get from where you are to where you would like to be. Do something you have planned. Then check to make sure what you have done is getting you closer to your planned goal. When you are convinced the plan is acceptable, proactively accomplish the remaining steps in your plan. The plan-do-check-act process should be repeated regularly to make sure you are pursuing your goals in the most efficient and proactive way possible.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try, Again

There is no guarantee that we will succeed at everything we do on our first attempt. There is no guarantee that we will succeed at everything we attempt. There are famous examples throughout history of people who failed many times (Lincoln, Einstein, Tesla, Bell, Edison, etc.). Do not let a little thing like failure discourage you from accomplishing something great.

Make a Difference

Prior to brain injury, I thought that donating a little money to a few charitable organizations was enough to make a difference. Approximately two years after my brain tumor was diagnosed, I realized I could have done more. My primary thought during recovery was that recovery was important because I would have a chance to make a difference. I wanted to do what I could to make the world a better place, and I recognized my recovery was essential to the process.


Which beliefs have made the greatest impact on your recovery? How do your beliefs affect your relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and strangers?


Click here to read another Beyond Adversity post.

Thanks to the person, whose name I no longer remember, for sharing the book titled Attitudes are Contagious: Are Yours Worth Catching? Thanks to Amazon for making a book published more than 20 years ago available today.


  1. I discovered a new perspective. After coming so close to death, I began focusing on what was truly important to me. People, relationships, and the impact we make on others. Everyone desires love and respect. Do I make an effort to encourage my fellow struggling human being? I realized I want to do this before I leave this planet.

    1. Esther, changing your perspective is a fantastic strategy. Too many people think that every obstacle they face is the fault of someone or something else. Many people fail to consider the possibility that overcoming an obstacle may require a change in perspective. Thank you for sharing your belief.

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