Changing our attitudes… this has a familiar ring to it. As a primary schoolteacher I planned my lessons and had one as objective, to change my pupils’ attitudes, for in our teachers’ college we were trained to pay attention to the cognitive, psycho-motor, and attitudinal domains of our pupils’ lives, as we tendered our young scions. For all these years I have been rotating in this project groove, attempting to educate by mostly changing young people’s attitudes – and that together with mine! Personal change is a minefield and I will not indulge in this here. It is the change that we desire in others that lead us to stumble and to stab our feet searching for new ways and effective methods.
Scholars have interpreted the world and we are not short of literature on this; the issue now is to change it. We are on the right path when we realise we must begin changing our world and our nation with a high level of attitudinal change. But how must we do this? And how far have we failed in this momentous task? Lately, the importance of attitudinal change in Uganda has come to centre stage and we must endeavour to understand its whole dynamics and import. Without question, attitudes are developed. The great psychologist-philosopher William James said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that people can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
One truth about attitudinal change is that although we can develop and change our attitudes at any point in time, fundamental attitudinal development is easier and better done at an early stage in life. This is why I believe and advise that our national commitments to attitudinal change should well throw its rays to the tender years of primary education. Our national budget should explicitly indicate this conviction. Basically, we must teach our children to have a proactive and positive attitude in life. We cannot underscore that a positive attitude is our most priceless possession, one of our most valuable assets. To a great extent, it determines the overall quality of our lives. Your attitude determines so much how you will live your life and how far you will go in life. One writer refers to attitude, “like the engine that runs the car. The more finely tuned that engine is, the better the car will run”.
Many parents spend their time working hard to invest in real estate and in big enterprises for the future of their children and commit very little time to pay attention to their children’s attitudes. In giving their children all kinds of material things and paying little attention to their attitudes, many children have only developed attitudes of steady entitlement to things to the extent of claiming their pieces of land before their parents are deceased. Our children have grown to seek for solutions from others and from outside of themselves and thus, this dependency syndrome – “Gavumenti etuyambe.” It is important for us to know the potent in attitudes and to give them their due importance in our children’s upbringing. Attitudes can help people, they can hurt people, they can energise people, they can inspire and cudgel weak minds and bodies, and they can influence the course of history.
The challenge we have as educators and parents in Uganda is how we must teach the right attitudes to our protégées. We must understand from the onset that attitude is a choice. Each day that we arise we have a choice on how we will view and interact with the world around us. This is what we must engrain in our children. They must choose to look at life in a positive and proactive way, and like all habits, they must choose this every day, and all day, and keep the practice going until it becomes part of them. We must provide empowering spaces, conducive and ethical environments, and opportunities for them to practice and to check on their attitudes as they grow up: therefore, good exposures, reckonable mentors, reasonable challenges, and short instructions can supply here. This lockdown may be an opportunity to focus on this fundamental formative experience with our children and with each other.
The catch is here. If in some way we remove the need for a person to hold onto a poor attitude no matter how deeply ingrained, the bad behaviour attached to it will steadily melt away. As psychologists have taught, you may not be able to change your height or your body type, but you can change your attitude. Each of us has the power to develop and maintain a positive attitude that works for us, that improves the quality of our lives, and enables us to accomplish our life objectives.
In Uganda today, we urgently need to inculcate in us a range of pivotal attitudes that may help us to build a just and developed nation. We clamour for attitudes like putting others first and finding space for the other, a type of selfless living and care plus respect for others that may help us stamp out the seven headed hydra of corruption; a good attitude towards hardwork – for work does not kill but edifies one with moot dividends, an attitude that believes in beginning small and grow with time – a building block for our young entrepreneurs and job-seekers; a great attitude towards knowledge that encourages people to read and to sit to discuss issues that propel them forward than tallying in betting centre traps around town, an attitude of volunteerism that lifts others and builds the nation; We also need a right attitude towards the precious gift of time. We all need to remember that real wealth is measured not by what you have, not by where you are, but by the spirit and attitude that lives within you. Success is an attitude.
We do understand that you cannot just sit and wait for a good and positive attitude to come over you. We must name each day the attitudes we want to develop and plan how to do this assignment. We are free to ask for help from those that seem to succeed better in living with such attractive positive attitudes. We have key figures like Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa of Calcutta and such like, but our small communities are also awash with ordinary people that can teach us to live with a positive attitude. One of these could be you!
SR SOLOME NAJJUKA