“Our attitudes control our lives.”
Tom Blandi, author
That’s quite a statement … that “our attitudes CONTROL our lives.” But I think Blandi is right. As he goes on to say, “Attitudes are a secret power working 24 hours a day for good or bad.” That being the case, “It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force.”
I agree. For any degree of happiness or success … on or off the job … you’ve got to “harness and control” your attitudes. And I’ve found several ways to do exactly that. Here are a few.
=> 1. Start your day in peace.
Start your day a little bit earlier and a bit less rushed. After all, you tend to condition your outlook for the day by the way you start your day. If you get out of bed late, chow down some fast food, and rush to work, hoping you won’t be late, you’ll probably feel “off balance” and “under the gun” all day long. And that’s a far cry from being cheerful, optimistic, and enthusiastic.
Instead, get up a little bit earlier in the morning. Take time to get cleaned up, enjoy some nutritious food, and have twenty minutes of quiet time to read something inspirational. As you prepare your body, mind, and spirit for the upcoming day, you are also conditioning your attitude for the day.
Heck, you might even read my book “PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success” in your quiet time. That’s what Eleanor Bloxham, CEO of The Value Alliance and Corporate Government Alliance, did. Afterwards, she wrote, saying “PIVOT is a book that literally changes lives … your own life and those of others. Taking the letters from your PIVOT title, I have to say this book expands your potential for a Purposeful, Innovative, Valuable, Optimistic, and Terrific life!”
=> 2. Look for the positives.
Start looking for all the good and beautiful around you … each and everyday. There’s lots and lots of it.
And don’t worry about taking this too far … about getting too naive, innocent, or Pollyannish as a result. The news media does its best to report all the negative everyday and make sure that never happens to you.
The good news is … you can actually teach your brain to focus on the positive instead of the negative. All you have to do is DECIDE to look for it. Your decision triggers your reticular activating system (RAS), a group of brain cells that sort through all the incoming data and bring anything important to your attention. When you decide to look for the positive, your RAS makes sure that’s what you see.
So today, I urge you to make that decision … to consciously look for ALL the positive around you. Notice everything good that happens to you … anything you see, feel, taste, touch, hear, or smell. Notice all the beauty you see in nature or any good deed being done by anyone around you.
It’s one of the reasons my wife and I take a few days every year to visit Door County, Wisconsin. It renews our positive attitude as we see beauty everywhere. There’s beauty in Lake Michigan, in the rocky cliffs that surround it, in the parks that go through it, and every shop from the hardware store, to the food market, to the antique store, to the gift shop has a gorgeous garden right in front.
Marci Shimoff reported in her study of “The Happy 100” how Adelle changed her attitude by looking for the positive. As Adelle goes about her day, she gives away awards in her mind: “the best-behaved dog” award, “the most colorful landscape design at a fast-food restaurant” award, “the most courteous driver” award, and so forth. By doing so, she has re-programmed her mind so it’s tipped towards joy and away from gloom.
You can and should do the same thing.
=> 3. Do a good deed every day.
It’s an old-fashioned, simple formula. But it still works. If you do good, you feel good. And the more often you feel good, the more you build and reinforce your own positive attitude.
So go out there and do at least one good deed a day … whether it’s for the world, your community, coworker, customer, or family member. Do something kind and thoughtful without any expectation of a payback. Just do it because it’s the right thing to do.
As author and sales trainer Jim Meisenheimer puts it, “When you start doing good deeds your self-motivation takes on a whole new dimension. In sales little things mean everything. In life little things mean even more. Do lots of little things every day.”
=> 4. Challenge the negative.
If you’re like most people, you’re going to hear your share of griping, groaning, whining and complaining at work and at home. But if you’re also like most people, you just listen to it. You don’t do anything about it; so it’s likely to keep on happening.
Not Tracey Medves. As she says, “When people tell me how bad the day was because they forgot this or that, or when they tell me about ‘horrible’ things that may have happened to them, I often tell them, ‘If that is the worst thing that happened today, it must have been a pretty good day!’ Amazing how that makes people stop and think.”
Kolleen Dohermann from the Association of California School Administrators learned the same lesson after I spoke to her association. She wrote to tell me all about it. She said, “My life really changed after your presentation, and several people came up and thanked me for being me. Huh? What I realized is that I had changed. Before your program, I was easily worn down by the negativity around me. Now, for every negative thing someone says, I point out the reverse.”
What good does that do, you wonder? As Kolleen went on to say, “First of all, when I challenge the negative, it says I am not accepting their statement. In the past, I would just say ‘uh-huh’ as a way to get them to be quiet, but they would keep on anyway. I realized that I was enabling them, and people always dumped their problems on me (probably because I was willing to listen). Now they know I am going to give them positive alternatives until they stop complaining. HA!”
“Sometimes the positive side is ridiculous but that’s okay. It shows these negative folks there is another side to the coin. How about that? What a simple yet EFFECTIVE process.”
Like Kolleen, learn to challenge the negative. And finally,
=> 5. Penalize the negative.
There’s an old slogan that says “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” That may be true. We do just about anything to shut those people up. Unfortunately, when we pay attention to their negativity, we tend to reward it.
Personally, I like the way Reggie Clifton, from Offutt Air Force Base, learned a better way. Instead of reinforcing negativity, Clifton penalized it. As Clifton wrote me, “Before coming to work for the Air Force, I had a small office with employees. I was continually trying to keep little fires from flaring up … such things as employees talking about others, inadequate job performance, unprofessional dress, or a constant stream of whining. Finally I had had enough of the negative attitudes.”
But Clifton didn’t leave it at that. The story continued, “I felt tired of baby sitting or policing them, so I put up a ‘Complaint Jar.’ Whenever an employee would complain about an office policy, another employee, or anything else, they had to follow up with a constructive solution. If not, they had to put a quarter in the jar. I let the employees police themselves, and it cut way down on the petty complaints. Then we used the money for pizza and drinks at the next staff meeting.”
Good thinking. And a very creative solution to an old problem. Try it in your office if you want to diminish the negative attitudes.
And you can do the same thing for yourself if you’re trying to turn your attitude around. You can penalize your own negative attitudes when you catch yourself falling into the negativity trap. Just keep a rubber band on one of your wrists, and whenever you think a negative thought or utter a negative comment, snap the rubber band. Sure, it will hurt a little, but it’s a simple way to cut down on your old, negative, self-destructive attitudes.
I urge you to try these five tips. They will give you an attitude adjustment. And indeed your whole life will take on a new and better flavor.
You will be able to agree with author Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) when she wrote, “Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change of attitude.”