There’s a saying ‘attitude is everything.’ You may have heard of it. But do you understand the concept? And does your attitude really matter?
At both Head.Set.Go! and here at LAIDI (we’re really the same people), we think it does. In fact we think it’s so important that your attitude’s a core element of all our training. Why? Because with the wrong attitudes you’re steering your life in an unhelpful and dangerous downwards direction.
We’ve written about why you need a positive attitude in a previous post, but because our attitudes are fundamental to our personal wellbeing, we thought we’d cover them again this month as well.
What’s an attitude? Well it’s the conclusion you reach by adding all your knowledge and awareness of the facts about something with your experiences round any topic. So, you have hundreds of attitudes – towards life, friends, work, money and so on. We’re mostly not aware of our attitudes – they tend to just creep up on us. But they matter because they shape your expectations of what might happen, and then help you interpret what does eventuate. They can set you in a upward – or any other – path in life.
Another word for attitudes might be mindsets. I don’t like it as much because of the ‘set’ part of that word. It sounds as though there’s nothing to be done about whatever mindsets or attitudes you might hold. And I believe that’s absolutely wrong.
Where attitudes especially matter
Attitudes most deeply affect us when they’re about the big parts of life. Your attitude to learning, or success, or relationships, will shape what you’re prepared to step into and try, as well as what’s likely to happen. That’s because even though we’re not conscious of it, our underlying thoughts and expectations prime us to behave in certain ways.
Let’s say you’re going to a gathering and you’re not specially happy about it. Other times you’ve been to such events you either found them boring or it was hard to find good people to hang out with. This attitude will affect the way you walk into the room. It’ll show in your reluctance to jump into conversations and send body language signals to people that you may not be much fun. All of that will likely mean you prove yourself right, don’t have a great time and reinforce the attitude you arrived with.
When it comes to parties your attitude may not matter. Perhaps you’re fine to keep thinking that those occasions are hard work. But do you really want your negative attitudes to keep influencing what happens to you in your job (which 70% of us are dissatisfied with)? Or in your significant relationships?
Can you see why we might say attitude is everything?
The really scary thing about attitudes is that most of the time most of us don’t even think about them. Which means we can be sabotaging our own desires for a good life. And then wondering why we’re so miserable!
How can we check our attitudes?
Since most of our attitudes sit below our subconscious the majority of the time, the only way to both check and change our attitudes is to bring them up to the surface and have a look at them. The way I check mine is to grab a piece of paper, note the topic under consideration in the centre of it and then write furiously, trying to capture all the thoughts that pop into my brain in response. Once the words slow down I then look at everything in ink and see what I can discover.
If this sounds too heavy, another option’s to talk your topic through in a general way with another person and pay attention to what words come out of your mouth. Other people are often more aware of our attitudes than we are, so you could ask them what they’re hearing if you’re brave! That could also give you some interesting insights!
While it may not be true that an attitude is everything in every situation, they certainly have a decent impact on you and your life. If (whenever!) you’re stuck or feeling miserable, an honest check of your attitudes might be just what you need to head yourself in a better direction.
If attitude is everything and I don’t like one of mine, what can I do?
A poor attitude to something can lead to me unwittingly sabotaging my own best efforts, which is, frankly, depressing. However, nothing in your or my brain’s permanently written in concrete!
For example, thoughts you go over and over in your head will be quite strong – unless you find a different thought to replace it. Repeating the new thought instead of the old one will gradually weaken the old one and start to change your attitude. You see, every time you bring an old thought up from your memory bank it becomes what we call plastic. Which means it can be altered slightly. Knowing that now gives us some leverage.
Don’t like your current attitude to something because you can tell it’s limiting you? Work out what’d be a better attitude and write it down. Commit to thinking it (saying, reading it) for a couple of minutes each day for a month and you’ll have built yourself a new and better thought around that topic. Whenever the old one pops into your head (which it will for a while), give yourself permission to tell it ‘I’m learning a better attitude now’ and let it fade away. Don’t get mad, simply let it go.
Alongside your thoughts, doing something different creates an additional memory in your brain. So see if you can find ways to build in more helpful experiences as well. For example, if you feel shy and know that leads to an unhelpful attitude in social situations, call on a good friend to help you have a great time with just a few others. That’ll help support your chosen new belief that those events aren’t so bad. The more thoughts and experiences you have which support your better attitude, the more successful your change will be. The balance of good and not so helpful memories will shift.
Clear as mud?
I recognise this isn’t a simplistic concept, so don’t stress if some of what I’ve said seems a bit unclear. Here’s the summary: Attitudes are everything, at least to the point of shaping much of your success in life. We’re often not aware of what they are, but can figure them out if we want. And we can also change them, by taking the initiative to work out better ones and wiring them into our heads to replace the less useful attitudes we now recognise as wrong. Backing up those new thoughts by doing things to prove our new theory right will help the process work best.
I’m still working on better attitudes to a whole heap of things myself, so today’s post isn’t about some people who’ve got it together and some who don’t needing help. It’s about all of us together finding ways to implement positive change so our worlds are better places to live. Here’s to yours – and my – positive mental health!
Have a great week.