Personal Dispositions: Windowpanes to the World?

Fulton Sheen, theologian, said “Our personal dispositions are as windowpanes through which we see the world as either rosy or dull. The way we color the glasses we wear is the way the world seems to us.”

Personal dispositions

To a great degree our personal dispositions are, in my opinion, more genetic in nature than a product of our environment. Children who, like me, grow up in loving, nurturing households can be shy and insecure. Conversely, we see children who come from appalling living conditions, born of teenage, drug-addicted parents, who thrive and lead successful, productive lives. We also see children who have grown up in households with hard-working, generous parents lead selfish, predatory lives in which they take advantage of others to fulfill their desires.

Some people are born with great confidence, others with virtually none. Some are shy, others gregarious by nature. Some are talented, others make up for a lack of talent with hard work. Some are hardworking, others lackadaisical in performance of their jobs. Some are generous by nature, others less so because they sense scarcity.

All of these examples lead me to believe that our personal dispositions are genetic in nature. The good news is that we don’t have to live with our personal dispositions when they don’t serve us well…when they prevent us from enjoying all the wonderful things life has to offer.


We humans have been blessed with the ability to choose. That includes the ability to choose to be different than our personal disposition.

As I mentioned earlier, I was a shy, insecure kid. I didn’t like being that way. I liked people, I simply didn’t know how to go about engaging them. I was afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing.

Fortunately, my personal disposition of liking people, and the absence of a sense of how to express that effectively, led me to pursue an understanding of human nature. I did a lot of self-help reading, took psychology classes in college and paid a lot of attention to how those who were more gregarious behaved. The result of these efforts is that I now start conversations in elevators.

I overcame one personal disposition [shy, insecure] in favor of another [gregarious]. As a result of this choice, which admittedly was more subconscious than conscious decision on my part, I changed the way I colored the glasses I wear.

For you

You have the same capacity to change those personal dispositions [genetic tendencies] that don’t serve you well. There are three things that are essential to your success in an endeavor like this:

  1. Desire – you must really want to change because it requires consistent effort to effect the change.
  2. Education – you’ll need to learn how others overcame their personal dispositions in favor of one they desired, then employ what you learn.
  3. Daily practice – each day upon rising you need to remind yourself that you are going to choose to behave differently based on what you’ve learned. Be sure to plant in your subconscious mind the determination to behave in the way you desire. Your subconscious mind will alert you when you’re about to go off the rails.

Be patient, these personal dispositions have been with you since birth so they are deeply  entrenched in your psyche. At the end of each day, recall your successes during the day. DO NOT bemoan your failures. Instead, ask yourself “How will I handle that situation better in the future?” Mistakes are learning opportunities…to bemoan them is to trifle away valuable opportunities.

Each day, as you see progress either in the form of desired behavior or lessons learned, your confidence will grow, your desire will strengthen and you’ll be encouraged by the possibility of a richer, fuller life…one of your choosing. These emotions will sustain you in your journey and become sources of joy for you during that journey. Enjoy it!

For our kids

When you hear kids saying things like “That’s just the way I am.,” ask them “Do you like being that way? If not, then why do you choose to be that way? What can you do to change the way you are so that you can be happier with yourself?”

We human beings are not particularly good at exploring our personal dispositions. Our natural tendency is to accept the way we are as unchangeable. The reality is that we have a choice. Helping kids see that they have a choice early in life will help them make changes when it’s easier to change…early in life. It also increases the number of years of joyful living they’ll experience. It’s a priceless gift that you can give to the kids in your life.

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your experiences in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. bill prenatt

    Dale, Insightful as always. Several years ago, the President of our Division accused me of wearing ‘rose colored’ glasses. He was making the point that I was being overly optimistic. I never did make the choice to change to his way of thinking. If anything, it made me more resolute to think about things in a positive manner! Later in my career, when I learned that we ‘become what we think about’ I celebrated my earlier decision even though it was not helpful with that one individual.
    I live a much happier life!

    • dfurtwengler

      Congratulations Bill! I trust that your message will help others who may be challenged as being overly-optimistic…seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. I know that many whom you’ve met have benefitted from your choice as well. You are not the only winner in that decision. Now all we have to do is help others find their “rose-colored glasses.” 🙂

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