Pivoting Your Attitude For Success

The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every morning.

A short time ago, Barb Gurney got her shoes shined on the F concourse of the Minneapolis airport. And she was blown away by the experience, so much so that she wrote her husband Steve about it, and Steve wrote me about it.

Barb said, “I got my shoes shined before I boarded, but I also got an education. The shoe-shine man told me, ‘It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it.’ And he added, ‘Do your best; let God do the rest.’ This guy was full of sunshine, so much so that employees were stopping by to get their ‘Good morning’ from him before they started their day.”

Barb was witnessing the power of a positive attitude … what it can do for a person as well as those who encounter it.

Now that might sound like a nice, touchy-feely comment. But lots of people still wonder if something as “soft” as attitude can really affect something as “hard” as success, business, relationships, and health. The answer is a resounding “YES.”

Carol Tweet from Bedford Industries affirmed that. She wrote me, saying “Your book, ‘PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success’ is awe-inspiring. It should be on the #1 best-seller list forever. I gave it to my 15 year-old daughter to read. She started a journal based on ‘PIVOT’, is taking notes, and highlighting all over the book — which I am so happy to see. She is telling her friends about it. It has given her a greater self-esteem and a greater success in all parts of her life. So today I wanted to say THANK YOU. You have made a difference in my life and the lives of my family and friends.”

The point is … your attitudes are one of the BIGGEST influencing factors in your life. As psychologist, professor, and author Dr. William James proclaimed a long time ago, “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.”

That being the case, I’d like to share with you five, research-proven benefits of having a positive attitude. As Jon Gordon concludes in his writings, “The research is clear. It really does pay to be positive.”

=> Benefit #1: With a positive attitude, your personal relationships will probably be better.

When you’re positive, you give your spouse more praise and respect and less blame and complaint. And that’s critical. As John Gottman documents in his 30 years of research, positive attitudes lead to positive interactions, and when your interactions approach five positives for every negative, you will have a successful marriage. As your ratio approaches one positive for every negative, however, your chances of divorce are fairly certain.

=> Benefit #2: With a positive attitude, you will probably live longer.

The Oxford, Ohio study indicated that way back in 1975. The researchers questioned 660 people over the age 50 about their attitudes on aging. They followed the group for several decades and came up with this astounding discovery. Those people who viewed aging as a positive experience lived 7.5 years longer than those with a negative view.

And there’s the famous “Nun Studies.” They’re known for living into their 80’s, 90’s, and 100’s. As one major magazine reported, nuns who regularly express positive emotions live … on the average … an extra 10 years or more.

I’ve seen it firsthand. Even though I’m not a Catholic, one of my best friends is Sister Margaret, who attended one of my programs 28 years ago. Ever since that time, she has written me notes of encouragement, and as she says, “put in a good word with the Man upstairs on my behalf … each and every day.” Now I go to visit her in a convent for retired nuns, and I see it everywhere around me … that positive attitudes lead to longevity.

=> Benefit #3: With a positive attitude, you will probably make more money.

There are all kinds of studies that indicate positive leaders and positive team members receive more pay raises, get more promotions, and experience greater success than those with a more negative attitude.

Dr. Martin Seligman reported one particularly fascinating study of 1500 people. Group A (or 83% of the people) chose their jobs because they believed they could make a lot of money. Group B (only 17%) chose their jobs because they had a positive attitude towards the job. And boy, did that make a difference.

Twenty years after the beginning of the study, Seligman noticed the two groups had produced 101 millionaires. But only 1 millionaire came from group A … who chose their particular jobs to make a lot of money. The other 100 millionaires came from group B … who chose their jobs because of a positive attitude toward the job.

Even more amazing, 70% of the millionaires never went to college. More than 70% of those who became CEO’s graduated from the bottom half of their class. So education had nothing to do with their success.

Seligman even noted that positive, optimistic sales people sell more than pessimistic sales people. Well, of course. Who wants to buy anything from a grouch?

As Seligman concluded, your attitudes, more than your aptitudes, determine your altitudes. As author Harry F. Banks concluded, “For success, attitude is equally as important as ability.” And as I tell people, “You can’t afford the luxury of a negative attitude. It costs too much.”

=> Benefit #4: With a positive attitude, you will probably have a more productive work environment.

Daniel Goleman has written book after book on that very subject. He calls it “emotional intelligence,” but it really boils down to bringing the right attitude to work and treating people accordingly.

Goleman says, when you’re emotionally intelligent, you learn to restrain negative feelings, such as anger and self self-doubt, and focus on positive feelings, such as confidence and congeniality. And he’s not some pie-in-the-sky guru. He cares about hard-core, bottom line results. That’s why he says your natural intelligence and formal education may get you in the door of a company, but it’s your attitude that will help you thrive once you’re there.

In the meantime, if you’re wondering if your attitude is positive enough … if your attitude is creating a more productive work environment … I suggest you take this quiz, adapted from Anthony Mersino’s book on “Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers: The People Skills You Need To Achieve Outstanding Results.” Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions?

**Do you use sarcasm in your communications with team members or other project stakeholders?

**Do you frequently say “yes” to action items in meetings or agree to take on work … and then regret it later?

**Do you feel the need to crack a joke or change the subject during tough conversations?

**Do you find it easier to set the record straight or vent your frustration in an e-mail rather than in person?

**Are your relationships with team members superficial and limited to the task at hand?

**Do you get upset or take it personally when your boss or a team mate is angry?

**Do you ever find yourself dwelling on a conflict with team members or fantasizing about ways to get even?

**Do you wish you were more charismatic or had more presence at work?

Of course, for every “no” answer you give, the more positive your attitude tends to be and the more productive your work environment tends to be as well.

=> Benefit #5: With a positive attitude, you will probably be healthier.

It would take an entire book to summarize all the studies that back up this point. We know that positive people are more resilient when they’re facing stress, challenge, or adversity. In fact, positive attitudes actually cancel out the negative effects of stress. You can’t be thankful and stressed out at the same time.

Dr. James Strain, at Mt. Sinai Hospital in NYC, got right to the crux of the matter. He compared pessimistic and optimistic men who had heart attacks. In the first group, 21 of 25 pessimists died within 8 years of a heart attack. Only 6 of 25 optimistic men died in that time.

A positive attitude leads to better physical health … in many cases … and the same goes for mental health. Educator, writer, and poet Samuel Ullman commented on that in the late 1800’s. He wrote, “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

John Gordon finished his research on all the benefits of a positive attitude by saying, “Being positive is not just a nice way to live. It’s the way to live.” So very true!!! Next week I’ll tell you HOW to get and keep a positive attitude.

Action:  Take a survey. Ask 10 of your friends and family members if they would rate you as “more positive” or “more negative.” Ask the same question of another 10 people at work. If you get more than 4 people saying you’re “more negative,” it’s time for a change.