I was flying across the country, on my way to deliver a full-day seminar, and I noticed that the man sitting next to me looked rather down. So, I greeted him with a cheerful, “How are you?”
“Okay,” he answered. Then he added, “How are you?”
“Great!” I said.
The man responded by saying, “You sound too cheerful for me. In fact, you make me tired just listening to you.”
I thought that was the end of the conversation and it was, for a few minutes. Then he asked what me what I did for a living. I explained that I was a professional speaker, but some people might call me a motivational speaker.
Right out of nowhere, the man said, “Then tell me something. Why does everything go wrong for me?”
I didn’t know. I had never seen the man before. But I said, “Perhaps if you’ll talk for a few minutes, we can figure it out.”
For the next thirty minutes he went on and on about all his difficulties. And he repeated the same negative thoughts over and over.
Then all of a sudden the man exclaimed, “Hold it. Hold it. I know why everything goes wrong for me. It just came to me. Everything goes wrong for me because I’m wrong. I think wrong, speak wrong, and act wrong. I’m just too negative all the time.”
“That’s probably true,” I told him.
So we spent the next few minutes talking about how he could get rid of his negative attitude. He seemed extremely willing to give my advice a try. And I’m glad to report that sometime later he sent me an email saying his new, more positive attitude was paying off big time.
You see, few things in life are more valuable than your attitude. Your emotional health, your relational stability, your professional achievements, in fact, just about everything is rooted in your attitude.
Here are five tips to build and maintain a more positive attitude in yourself.
1. Never Underestimate the Power of a Positive Attitude.
Motivational researcher Dale Carnegie said, “Happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have; it depends on what you think.”
And James Allen, a motivational author had this to say about a positive attitude, “Man’s rise or fall, success or failure, happiness or unhappiness depends on his attitude.”
It’s no surprise that the latest psychological research confirms the truth of their observations.
Unfortunately, too many people live with a negative attitude too much of the time. Benjamin Franklin said, “Most people die at age 18, but we don’t bury them until they’re 65.”
I like to play a game with some of my audience members. I will ask someone, “How long have you been alive?” The audience member will say something like “43 years.”
I’ll say, “No. That’s how long your heart has been beating. How long have you been ALIVE? How long have you been on fire?”
Then the audience “gets” it. They get to understand that it’s their attitude that’s pushing them forward or holding them back.
2. Be Wary of Negative Input.
The news coverage, for example, is 90% negative. Only 10% of the stories have a humorous or human interest slant. And if there isn’t enough bad news on a particular day, the networks will replay old video clips on the anniversaries of certain disasters. That’s why it may be more accurate to say CNN stands for “Constant Negative News.”
What’s the result? We end up with a culture that would rather tear people down than build them up. And according to psychologist Dr. Terry Paulson, we end up with people who have an internal dialogue that is 80% negative. In fact, if we said some of the same negative things to our employees that we say to ourselves, they could file a grievance and win.
3. Take Responsibility for Your Attitude.
After all, YOU are responsible. No one gave you a negative attitude and no one can give you a positive attitude. Somehow or other, YOU chose to “rise and whine” rather than to “rise and shine.”
Of course, I know it’s fashionable or “cool” to joke about one’s attitude. Comedian W. C. Fields said, “Start every day with a smile and get it over with.” One negative person even carried a card in his wallet that read, “In case of accident, I’m not surprised.”
Those are funny comments, but do notice one thing. In both cases, the people making the wisecracks chose their own negative attitude over a more positive attitude.
4. Identify Your Most Common Negative Thoughts.
Just listen to yourself for a day or two. Don’t try to change anything. Just observe the negative thoughts that come to mind. You may find that you tell yourself things like, “I’m too old to do that anymore … I’m such a jerk … I’ll never get ahead … I just can’t lose any weight … or …I ‘m no good at selling.” You’ll probably end up with a list of five to ten phrases that you repeat over and over again.
Here’s a key action point – Practice stopping those negative thoughts.
Every time one of those negative thoughts comes to mind, think “Stop! Stop, you negative thought. Now. Stop it.” You may have to do this ten or twenty times before the thought goes away.
If thinking “Stop” doesn’t work at first, try saying “Stop” out loud. That’s right, shout it out. Say it firmly, authoritatively. Notice how well the technique works for you.
If you’re still struggling with a particular negative thought after a period of time, use the hand signals for “Stop.” Just like a traffic cop puts up his hand to signal “Stop,” put up your hand to “Stop” a negative thought. You can even say it and do it at the same time.
Try these three “stopping” exercises. You’ll probably find that one of them works better for you than another. That’s fine. Keep on using it. You will soon master the skill and eliminate the negative thought.
5. Stop Speaking in Negatives.
It’s a vicious cycle. If you think negatively, you’ll speak negatively. And if you speak the negative, you’ll also think the negative.
Instead of saying, “It’s going to rain. It’s going to be a bad day,” say “It’s going to be a wonderful day.” Instead of saying, “There’s no way I can pay these bills,” say “I’ll find a way to get through this.”
By speaking with positive conviction, you are, in a sense, conditioning your mind to be more positive. You are taking control of your thoughts rather than have them control you. You are affirming that great line in William Ernest Henley’s poem, Invictus. He wrote, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
Tomorrow morning brings another day. I challenge you to “rise and shine.” Once and for all throw out the “rise and whine.” You’ll be glad you did, and so will everyone else in your world.
Final Thought – You can absolutely build and maintain a positive attitude. These 5 steps are a great start. For some practical tips on taking your attitude even higher, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my best-selling book, Pivot: How One Turn in Attitude Can Lead to Success.
Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip – 5 Tips for a More Positive Attitude