Managing the Choice of Attitude (Part 2 of 4)
As you know, the foundation of achievement is learning to make effective choices. Since each of us makes thousands of choices daily, it is vitally important that we make the right choices.
In all the choices you make, there are three major areas, or choice categories, that will determine the degree of your future achievement: the choice of attitude, the choice of action, and the choice of accountability.
We will devote separate chapters to each of these critical categories because your effective management of these three life choices is vital to your future achievement. In this chapter, we will discuss one of these top three choices — the choice of attitude.
Attitude is a choice!
Your management of a consistent and productive, positive attitude will determine the degree of your future achievement.
It sounds so simple, but managing a consistent, effective attitude will be one of the greatest challenges of your life. In my career, I have experienced only a few people who, in my opinion, have done an effective job at this.
Why is attitude management so difficult?
That’s simple … FEAR!
The emotion of fear is a protective reflex and is a basic, instinctive, human response. As an example, if you see or feel a perceived danger, your natural response is fear. Because fear is instinctive, many people naturally develop the habit of responding to most of the circumstances of life from the emotion of fear. Unfortunately, this leads to negative, unproductive attitudes.
Yes, negative attitudes are natural, human responses!
Every news channel knows that negative news tends to appeal to our natural, human instincts. That is why approximately 80% of the news reported is either negative or communicated with a negative slant.
The unfortunate truth here is this: We are more comfortable with negative news than with positive news.
So, managing a positive, effective attitude is difficult because it is neither natural nor instinctive. You must DEVELOP the capacity to manage a positive attitude.
This leads me to my point: We all need a systems approach to attitude management. Without it, we will be subject to our natural, instinctive, negative thinking.
To develop a system of attitude management, you first need to understand the mechanics of how negative attitudes are developed.
Negative attitudes are instinctive
The average person develops and maintains negative thinking habits, and it all comes about instinctively!
Remember, your natural, human instincts are concerned only with your safety and comfort, and in order to keep you safe, your established habit of thinking must be maintained, and that is why the negative-thinking habit of pessimism is so common. Instinctively, your brain interprets pessimism as a protective mechanism of security, and your habit of pessimism is reinforced constantly.
Think of it this way: If you are skeptical of everyone and everything, your human instincts interpret that habit as a safe comfort zone from all risks.
However, the habitual perspective of pessimism will eventually become a comfortable thinking habit, and that leads to unproductive habits of thought.
In other words, you develop negative attitudes. Upon these ineffective thinking habits you begin to build “comfort zones” for yourself that impede your own growth.
A comfort zone is an emotional mindset that is created from your thinking habits over a period of time. These comfort zones misrepresent the position of security. Your emotions interpret fear as a threat, and you then naturally retreat to your comfort zone where nothing is going to change. That status quo position is instinctively interpreted as safety.
Of course, the emotional security represented by a comfort zone is an illusion. It offers no security at all, but it feels emotionally comfortable because it has been built on thinking habits that are motivated by fear.
For example, the following statements represent just a few of the more common expressions of well-established comfort zones:
“I don’t trust anyone.”
“I’m secure as long as I have my job.” “I don’t like risks.”
“If I try something new, I might fail.”
“I worry about what other people may think of me.”
“They have a lot of money; they sure are lucky.”
Everyone has comfort zones — and you do, too. Your comfort zones serve no purpose other than prohibiting your own growth.
Here’s the truth: You cannot grow and be comfortable at the same time.
Growth feels uncomfortable because it pushes you out of your comfort zones. To grow, you must develop your potential, and that potential always lies just beyond your comfort zones.
Attitude management is imperative for every person at every level of achievement. Regardless of your level of achievement or degree of success, there is never a position in life where you can forget to manage your thinking habits.
Managing a positive attitude
I have heard positive attitude described as a “soft skill” and therefore not considered to be a significant factor in achievement. I strongly disagree. Most dysfunction in business and personal achievement can be traced back to a root cause: ineffective thinking habits!
It does not have to be that way. You can learn to manage your habits of thought and directly affect your level of performance and achievement.
Effective change always begins with awareness. People will choose to change when they are aware that the change will serve their best interest!
So, the first step in growth is becoming aware, for with an enhanced level of awareness, you can make choices that promote positive attitudes.
What is attitude?
An attitude can best be defined as a habit of thought. You naturally develop certain patterns of thinking about the people and world around you. These thinking habits can be conditioned and patterned by parents, friends, culture, environment, experiences, and circumstances.
If you do not assume personal responsibility for developing your own effective, positive attitudes, the world around you will shape your attitudes with average thinking, which is usually negative and unproductive. As a result, you become a victim of your own ineffective thinking patterns.
A good working definition of positive attitude is this: A predetermined habit of thought dominated by faith, hope, and positive expectancy.
The long-term result of a consistent, positive attitude is fulfillment and achievement. Without question, the long-term benefits of maintaining a positive attitude are far more desirable than the long-term effects of a negative attitude.
Every thought you entertain during the day is either positive or negative. There is no in-between or neutral thought. Every moment of your thinking pattern during the day either serves your growth or serves your stagnation.
Many people describe their attitude as neutral, neither positive nor negative. However, since everything in nature is either growing or decaying, there can be no neutral positions. You and your thoughts are alive and dynamic.
The thinking patterns that determine your attitudes either work to bring about your growth or work to bring about your decline. It truly is that simple!
Thoughts are creative
A positive attitude fosters creativity. Creativity cannot exist in negative thought. For example, it is impossible to discover a creative solution by thinking about all the impossibilities. Your mind cannot entertain creativity and negative thought at the same time.
To find a creative solution, you must think in terms of the possibilities rather than the impossibilities. The fastest way to promote achievement is to believe it to be possible. That requires the management of a consistent, positive attitude.
Clearly, you want the long-term benefits of managing a positive attitude. We all do! Therefore, understand that intentionally choosing to maintain an effective, positive attitude will be your most significant lesson in life. Your daily management of the choice of attitude, on a moment-by-moment basis, is a key element in your future achievement.
The enemy of positive thought
Everyone is challenged by the emotion of fear. Fear is a natural, human emotion that instinctively causes us to respond with a defensive reflex to any perceived threat.
If left unmanaged, your attitudes will be controlled by the emotion of fear.
For example, if you set a goal that requires you to do new things, these new activities will seem uncomfortable at first. That is normal, but you may instinctively respond with fearful feelings because the new activities are uncomfortable. You psychologically interpret those fearful feelings as “risks” or “dangers,” while in fact these new activities may not be dangerous at all … but you will naturally respond with negative feelings.
We all have a basic fear of risks and the unknown. This response is natural, yet absolutely counterproductive to achievement. All achievement requires you to grow beyond your current status or position.
You cannot possibly expect to grow and not confront new activities, skills, and responsibilities. If you allow your natural responses of fear to direct your thinking, you personally sabotage your opportunities for achievement by choosing to quit or not to act.
Most of the people who fail to achieve did not fail at all. They simply allowed fear to control their thinking and quit. The fear of risk and the unknown were stronger than their desire to achieve.
5 steps to mental toughness
There are five steps that will help you develop the mental toughness needed to face the challenge of your natural instinct of fear … and to win!
STEP #1 — Maintain positive expectancy
You must keep the vision of your desired, future achievement in the forefront of your mental focus. Keep your eye on the prize! Also, recognize that fear serves no purpose in your personal growth unless you are actually physically threatened.
Achievement is 80% mental! You will first accomplish your dreams in your mind before you ever realize them materially.
Being “rich” or “accomplished” is first a state of mind.
Build a vision of your future that is stronger than your fears, and fill your thinking patterns with positive expectancy.
Positive expectancy acts as a magnet. You attract to yourself that which you set out for yourself. Your positive expectancy actually attracts the circumstances that you will need to realize your achievement.
STEP #2 — Manage your daily choices according to your goals, not your feelings
Managing consistent, positive expectancy is difficult because you never feel the same, physically or emotionally, every single day of the week. If you only work on your goals when you feel good, your actions will be too inconsistent to produce results.
My long-time friend and mentor, Paul J. Meyer, would say, “Follow through with your daily plans regardless of circumstances or what other people say, think, or do.”
In other words, your dreams for the future must be strong enough to keep you following through with those plans on a daily basis, no matter how you feel.
STEP #3 — Aggressively manage your positive relationships
Your associations with others will either promote your growth or deter it. The thinking habits of those with whom you associate affect your thinking. You must, therefore, foster relationships with people who inspire and influence your growth.
You will attract to yourself that which you set out for yourself. If you are positive and goal-directed, you will attract those of similar thinking habits.
Aggressively avoid those who impose their negative beliefs or attitudes on you. Negative attitudes create negative energy that affects all those in association. You cannot engage in negative relationships without being negatively affected, so you must manage your personal relationships aggressively!
STEP #4 — Live in the moment!
Life comes to each of us one day at a time. You cannot live in the future any more than you can change the past. The past is gone and tomorrow does not exist.
Many people never succeed in their life plans because they are always saying, “I’ll start tomorrow.” Tomorrow turns into next week, next month, and next year. Some call it procrastination, but in reality, it is nothing more than a comfort zone.
You procrastinate on your personal growth because it is simply more comfortable to wait. The decision to wait is most often a decision to not grow and to stay in your comfort zone.
The only part of living that really matters is right now… this moment.
Living in the past or worrying about tomorrow is wasteful and of no importance.
Learn to live right now! Change your thinking about waiting and develop the attitude of urgency in applying effective actions daily.
STEP #5 — Believe
Faith is a spiritual term. It makes no sense intellectually and can be understood only from a spiritual perspective. Regardless of your religious or non-religious position, belief is vital in your growth and achievement, and you cannot understand belief without an understanding of faith.
A good definition of faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see. You now understand why I said that it makes no sense intellectually, but faith and belief in your potential to achieve is vital.
Psychologists suggest that we all have three dominant parts of our being: physical, mental, and spiritual. You cannot grow and achieve without the basic belief that you can do it, and that belief involves faith. Faith requires a spiritual perspective.
Some cannot believe in anything that they cannot see or touch, but growth is always unseen until it is achieved.
There will be times in your achievement journey when quitting or giving up will seem like the only alternatives. At these times, it will take the strength of your faith to prevail. You must believe that you can achieve, for it is the spark that sustains you.
Managing your positive attitude
Armed with a new level of awareness of how and why negative attitudes are instinctive, you now understand why a positive attitude development program is vital to your growth, success, and achievement.
You must develop a positive, productive attitude. It will never happen naturally, but just because it is not natural does NOT mean you cannot do it!
If you would like to read more about this topic, click here to order The Language of Achievement.
David Byrd is an author, coach, consultant, and a developer of personal growth behaviors in pursuit of Achievement. Founder and CEO of David Byrd Consulting, LLC, he is a master of effective leadership and works closely with leaders and their organizations worldwide utilizing a system of personal management and achievement called the Next Level Achievement System™. He is a best-selling author with four published books, a sought after speaker, and leadership development consultant.
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