A Question of Attitude

The colonel sat back. “Most of us are accustomed to think of ourselves as intelligent people. We move through life in our accustomed orbits, expect things always to remain basically as they are now, have repeated opportunities to rehearse our behavior patterns for the few standard situations we meet, and nevertheless we fall into one mess after another—because we don’t really think. If things turn out badly for us, our reaction is to complain that the situation wasn’t set up right in the first place.
The colonel looked at Bergen intently, and Bergen sensed that this comment had a personal application. “Yes, sir,” he said.
The colonel leaned back and said thoughtfully, “There are two basic attitudes, or ways of looking at things. The human race uses these two attitudes to move forward, much as a man uses his legs to walk. And it’s just as catastrophic for a member of the human race to misplace these two attitudes as it is for him to cross his left leg in front of his right leg, and then try to take a step with his right leg.
“The first attitude is that of recognizing the defect. In one form, this is pure gripe, the attitude of ‘headquarters is too stupid to get their head out of their boot.’ But it’s also the attitude of the man who looks around, and asks himself if things couldn’t be improved. From this attitude arises a lot of noise, but, properly used, it’s also one of the main driving forces for progress. If men had always been satisfied, who would ever have tried anything new?
“So, you see, it’s useful to see imperfections. But it’s useless to keep our minds focused on imperfections. Having seen the imperfections, next we shift our attention to look for some means of improvement. We see the obstacle, then look for the way through or around. And that is what you didn’t do. Right?”
“Yes, sir,” said Bergen miserably.”
A Question of Attitude (1967)
Christopher Anvil