The Focus 3 Blog

The Power of Attitude

For better or worse, your attitude affects your performance. 

Your attitude has a profound impact on the way you lead people.  It affects the way you sell and the way you serve customers.  Your attitude has a direct impact on how you communicate and collaborate with others, how you contribute to the culture of your work environment, and how you perform your daily tasks and responsibilities.  Ultimately, your attitude shapes your success and your happiness.  Other things being equal, the person with the best attitude will win.  Other things not being equal, the person with the best attitude usually wins.  Unfortunately, many people cling to beliefs and attitudes that restrict rather than empower their performance.

The reality is that you determine your attitude.  Your attitude is one of the few things in life over which you have total control.  Harvard psychologist Williams James: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.”   If you want to perform at your best, and if you want to maximize your happiness and fulfillment, then you must take control of the life-shaping power of your attitude.  Please understand: developing and sustaining a positive attitude is not merely a quick-fix motivational technique. It is a disciplined skill that must be practiced and learned. 

What is Attitude?

Attitude is the way you look at life. It is the way you choose to see and respond to events, situations, people, and yourself. Your attitude is not something that happens to you. You choose your attitude. Your attitude is created by your thoughts, and you choose your thoughts.  You are the architect of your frame of mind. You decide how you will perceive and process the events of life and work.  You make the decision if your mindset is positive or negative.  If you want to feel better you have to think better.  In order to be positive in the way you feel, it is necessary to be disciplined in the way you think.

Performance begins within you. Your mind has enormous power. Indeed, your mind is your most important performance resource. How you see and respond to the events of life and work is shaped by your mindset and patterns of thinking. Therefore, an essential key to success is to train your mind and use it wisely.

E + R = O

Event + Response = Outcome

A distinguishing characteristic of consistently successful people is their ability to maintain a positive and proactive attitude.  Successful people think differently than average people.  Successful people produce better outcomes because their R Factor is guided by a positive and proactive mindset.  Their mind is not cluttered or distracted by pessimism, negativity, or cynicism; as a result, they are able to focus all of their mental energy on exploring solutions, taking effective action, and learning how to get better. 

Negative Attitude

A negative attitude is the result of negative thinking.  It is a lack of mental discipline. It focuses on the problem and stops looking for solutions or opportunities. A negative attitude can only survive on a steady diet of negative thinking and negative self-talk. A negative attitude is habit-forming, and it has an impact on you and the people around you. A negative attitude affects you physically. A person with a negative attitude will almost always lose to a person with a positive attitude.  Sadly, many people with a negative attitude are stuck in a doom loop because they have a negative attitude about improving their attitude. This is not a good place to be!

Positive Attitude

A positive attitude is the result of a disciplined and deliberate way of seeing, thinking, and responding to life. It is a mental discipline. It is intentional.  It is mental toughness. A positive attitude is not naïve, and it does not sugarcoat problems.  Rather, it sees and acknowledges problems and then focuses on finding solutions and opportunities. It looks for the opportunity within the problem. A positive attitude is habit-forming, and it has an impact on you and people around you. A positive attitude affects you physically. A person with a positive attitude will almost always outperform a person with a negative attitude.

Disciplined Thinking

In order to have a positive and proactive attitude, you must be disciplined and deliberate about the way you see and think about events, situations, people, and yourself.  The way you think drives the way you feel; therefore, consciously managing the way you perceive and process events is essential to a positive attitude.

A key element of mental discipline is paying attention to and managing your self-talk.  Self-talk is what you say to yourself about situations you're facing.  It is how you choose to interpret and explain the events you are experiencing.

Managing your self-talk is critical because words carry thoughts, and thoughts create feelings. 

Here’s how it works: Your attitude begins with what you choose to focus on and the words you use to express your focus.  A person with an default-driven, negative mindset will focus on a situation and say something like, “That’s a stupid idea. It will never work.” 

A person with a discipline-driven, positive mindset will look at the same situation and say something like, “That’s an idea. I’m not sure if it will work, but let’s explore it further and find out.”  Note carefully the difference in language between these two mindsets. 

The default way of thinking uses phrases like “never” and “always.”  The disciplined way of thinking uses language like “possible” and “maybe” and “explore.”  Because attitude is so immediately responsive to language, the negative words will trigger negative feelings, and the positive words will trigger positive feelings. 

Manage Your Focus

The way you think drives the way you feel.  When faced with a difficult or frustrating situation, you can choose to focus on the problem, engage in negative self-talk, and focus your emotional energy on worrying and complaining; or you can acknowledge what is challenging, discipline yourself to see the big picture, engage in productive self-talk, and focus your emotional energy on finding a solution or on enduring the challenge.

Make a note (this is important) that a positive attitude does not ignore problems. It does not gloss over hard issues or disregard what is challenging. 

In fact, a positive attitude actually sees the situation more accurately and thoroughly because it does not lock-in on the negative aspects of the situation. A negative attitude tends to be narrow, limiting, and rigid.

Once a negative attitude finds what it is looking for (which it almost always does), it stops looking and stops thinking.  A positive attitude, on the other hand, tends to give greater perspective and insight because it stays fully engaged in the search for a solution. 

If you think managing internal thoughts to produce a positive, proactive attitude is merely a hyped-up motivational technique, consider the research that confirms the effectiveness and power of this mental discipline.  The works of Martin Seligman (see his book Learned Optimism) and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (see his book Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience) are good beginning references.  Here is a snapshot of what Csikszentmihalyi has discovered in his studies:

“How we feel about ourselves, the joy we get from living,
ultimately depends directly on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experience. 
A person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening ‘outside,’
just by changing the contents of consciousness. The most successful people,
the happiest people, are those who learn to take charge of what happens in the mind.”

Simple disciplines for improving attitude...

    1. Start simple: Be self-aware of your attitude. Don’t just let it happen. Pay attention to it.
    2. Refocus, reframe, and respond when your attitude becomes impulsive or negative.
    3. Be aware of the things that tend to trigger a disruptive attitude in you. Anticipate. Plan ahead.
    4. Manage your internal stories and scripts.  Master the art of productive self-talk. Is your language helping or hurting? You talk to yourself more than to any other person in your life. Get good at it.
    5. When there is a problem, acknowledge it. Then immediately focus on finding solutions and opportunities for action. Immediately.
    6. Ruthlessly eliminate BCD from your life: Blaming, Complaining, Defensiveness.
    7. Turn off the TV. Invest in yourself. Don’t waste your time watching other people’s lives.
    8. Start every day with a time of reflection and preparation. Be disciplined and intentional about the way you start your day. Put yourself in a discipline-driven frame of mind.
    9. Be patient. Be tough. It takes time to build a winning attitude.
    10. Keep things in perspective. Never lose sight of the big picture.

Where in your life could you use an attitude adjustment?

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The purpose of A Call to Excellence is to provide biblical, practical insight for responding to God’s call on your life. Our theme is best communicated in Ephesians 4.1: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” My goal is to equip, encourage, and challenge you with biblical truth.