How to beef up your Attitude and EI today

For 30 years, the late-night talk show host, Johnny Carson, would put on a turban and play the role of “Carnac The Magnificent.” He would pull out an envelope on which an answer would be written. After a brief pause, Carnac opened the envelope to reveal the question. It was a great gig and great part of television history.

For example, the answer is: Polynesia. And the question? What do you call memory loss in parrots?

The answer is: Good til the last drop. And the question? What’s a lousy slogan for a parachute company.

The answer is: Flypaper. And the question? What’s the best thing to use if you want to gift-wrap a zipper?

Playing the role of Carnac for a moment, let me give you the answer of “Attitude.”

What is the question? Take a guess.

The question is: “What accounts for 75% of your success?”

Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Daniel Goleman, the leading researcher in the field of peak performance, found that a person’s Emotional Intelligence … or self-leadership skills … or attitude … accounted for 75% of a person’s success. Only 25% could be attributed to such things as technical expertise or high IQ’s.

His research has been ground breaking to say the least. It goes against the grain of several hundred years of educational theory and practice that gave very little thought to such “soft skills.”


► 1. Remember your attitude is a choice.


Some people will say, “I’ve got so many problems in my life and all these problems are getting me down.”

But they’re wrong. Their problems aren’t getting them down; it’s their thoughts about the problems that are getting them down.

You see, if you’re bored, discouraged, depressed, or overwhelmed, you must understand that nobody and nothing made you feel that way. As harsh as this might sound, you CHOSE to respond that way to your circumstances.

After all, somebody else in the same situation might feel excited about all the challenges in his work life because he knows that might open up an opportunity for advancement. Somebody else might feel committed to making her relationship better when she recognizes that her behavior is hurting rather than helping the relationship.

As personal development expert Dale Carnegie put it,

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”

Your attitude is up to you. It’s what you chose, which should be a very uplifting, empowering insight. As one of my students said, “I discovered I always have choices and sometimes it’s only a choice of attitudes.”

► 2. Do your best.

Yeah, yeah, I know it sounds trite. Sounds like something your mother told you when you were six years old. Turns out she was right. You are not Emotionally Intelligent and you cannot have a positive attitude if you do just enough to get by.

As I speak in organizations across the world, I’m continually amazed and amused by “The Great Standoff.” In other words, some people do just enough work so they won’t get fired and the company pays the employee just enough so they won’t quit. It’s not exactly a recipe for a positive, productive work environment.

Even though you may be tempted to think, “They don’t pay me enough to work any harder,” it may be time to re-think your attitude. After all, there is no way you can feel good about yourself if you do just enough to get by.

Deep down somewhere in your soul, you know that just-enough-to-get-by behavior makes you feel like a cheat, a sneak, or a loser. And you also know you feel the very best about yourself when you do your very best.

So what’s more important in the long haul? Cutting corners in your job, doling out inferior work, and losing some of your self-respect in the process? Or working a little harder, doing a little more, giving your best … so you can live at peace with yourself?

Obviously the latter. The first behavior is called Emotional Ignorance and the second Emotional Intelligence.

► 3. Act-as-if you already have a positive attitude.

In other words, the way you behave affects the way you feel. If you walk around looking sour, grim, and crabby, you will build an inside attitude that corresponds with that. But if you walk around looking secure, confident, and competent, you will build that kind of positive attitude inside.

As Dr. William James, one of the founding fathers of modern-day psychology said,

“We do not sing because we are happy; we are happy because we sing.”

In other words, feelings follow behaviors. Act like you’ve got a positive attitude and you will get a positive attitude.

Credit Manager Joan Baca, after attending my master class on Emotionally Intelligent Self-Leadership wrote me the following note. She wrote, “I need to report to you my ‘act-as-if’ success. I’m amazed myself! My work days have flown by and I am finding new enthusiasm for my work. Even though my duties haven’t changed … my attitude has!”

But you may be wondering what that might entail. Etiquette specialist Marjorie Brody offers a wonderful list. She says:

To Project Confidence When Standing…

  • – Stand up straight.
  • – Keep your feet still.
  • – Keep your shoulders relaxed.

To Project Confidence When Seated…

  • – Sit up straight.
  • – Lean slightly forward.
  • – Keep your feet still – no tapping.

To Project Confidence When Moving…

  • – Move purposefully.
  • – Have a deliberate stride.
  • – Look ahead, not at the floor.

To Project Confidence When Using Gestures:

  • – Use reinforcing gestures, no fidgeting or flailing.
  • – Gesture with open hands, no pointing.
  • – Vary gestures.

To Project Confidence When Using Facial Expressions:

  • – Smile.
  • – Have direct eye contact without staring.
  • – Be animated.

There you have it. Some of the thoughts you need to think and the behaviors you need to exhibit to build and keep a positive attitude. Now, as Nike says, just do it.