It’s your attitude that’s the problem – The power of attitude and how to change it to achieve success

Shit! I’m late! These were the first words Dan uttered as be stumbled out of bed having overslept for a very important meeting. On his way to the bathroom he stubbed his toe and uttered a few more profanities. He dressed quickly ignoring that his shirt had far too many wrinkles to be considered appropriate to meet with Brian Archer, the CEO of one of the biggest technology companies in Canada. Dan is bidding on a multi-million dollar contract and the meeting took three months to organize because the competition for the contract is fierce.

Dan is racing to his meeting and phones his assistant Carole to tell her he’s on his way. His cell phone battery is critically low but Dan doesn’t notice. Carole has been stalling the meeting all morning and she’s not sure how much longer she can keep Brian and his team in the boardroom but she agrees to try.

As Dan turns onto the highway traffic is at a standstill. He sits for five, ten and then twenty minutes drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. He hasn’t moved an inch in twenty minutes. His frustration, anger and impatience rises with each passing minute as does his heart rate and blood pressure. With clenched teeth he shouts to himself “can this day getting any @!$# worse?” He fumbles with the radio to try and find out what’s happening. Apparently there was a major accident that happened thirty minutes before he left the house and the road will be closed for at least another hour. He’s trapped on the highway with no way to get off.  Had he been on time he would have missed the accident completely. He’s screwed. He will never make it.

Dan calls the office hoping that Carole can smooth things over with Brian and reschedule the meeting. He’s desperate to save the contract.  Just as he begins to dial his cell phone goes dead. He can’t make the call and has no way to let anyone know he won’t be able to make it. He envisions everyone sitting in the boardroom, steaming with anger and pissed off at the tremendous waste of time this was in their already overbooked schedule. Dan sees his multi-million dollar contract disappearing before his eyes and prepares himself for what will surely be an even worse day when he finally gets to the office.

How many of you would like to be in Dans’ shoes right now? What kind of attitude will Dan have when he arrives at the office? Do you think he will be happy and positive? How do you think he might treat Carole and others that work for him?  Do you think the rest of his day will go any better? Probably not.

Have you woken up and as soon as your feet hit the floor you knew it was going to be a bad day. Your attitude stunk all day which kept re-affirming the fact that you were going to have a bad day. And didn’t it seem like everything in your day was designed to keep you in that bad mood? Well, welcome to your attitude. Good, bad or indifferent we all have one and we all have the power to control it. Author John C. Maxwell wrote an inspiring book called The Difference Maker – making your attitude your greatest asset. In it he shares his insights on the power of attitude and how you can use to control your perceptions of situations. Your attitude and the attitude you have towards yourself, life, business and others shapes your circumstance and your future.

Your attitude colors every aspect of your life. It’s like the mind’s paintbrush, says Maxwell. There is not a single part of your current life that is not affected by your attitude. And your future will definitely be influenced by the attitude you carry with you from today forward.

When things in your life are going well it’s easy to have a positive attitude but when problems arise or you are going through change, your attitude is tested. It becomes more challenging to think positively and sometimes you get swept into the pit of despair, negative self-talk, self-doubt and a negative attitude. You may get stuck in this pit and find it harder and harder to climb out. What you may not realize is that you already have a ladder that you can use to climb out. The ladder is your attitude and at any time you can use to ascend. If you change your attitude and change your perception of the situation you will start climbing.

In Dan’s case he screwed up. He didn’t set his alarm, charge his phone and make sure he planned to be at the meeting on time. It was an important meeting to him and the future of his company but the damage is done. It’s what he does to fix the situation and his attitude in the face of adversity that will be his reward. He may have lost the contract but then again maybe he hasn’t. What could Dan do to change the situation? He must first make up his mind to change his attitude. Change his mind-set from, “shit I lost the contract” to “okay I have to do whatever it takes to show the CEO that this situation was not indicative of how I do business but just one of those days”. He has to get hungry to win over the CEO and his first step is his attitude.

This isn’t the time for Dan to wallow in negative self-talk or inward negative feelings of what a screw-up he his. Dan needs to accept the situation but it will be hard for him to do that if all he sees is the negative and starts to berate himself for the mistake. By labeling himself as a screw-up he will undoubtedly thwart any attempt at repairing the situation. Labels are very damaging and we should be extremely careful how we label ourselves.

Dr. Dwayne Dyer advises, “Examine the label you apply to yourself. Every label is a boundary or limit you will not let yourself cross.” If you are having trouble getting where you want to go, the problem may be inside you. If you don’t change your inward feelings about yourself, you will be unable to change your outward actions toward others.

I think you should read that paragraph a few times to really absorb its’ meaning for you and how this applies to you in your life. Are you putting labels on yourself? Do you tell yourself you’re not good in business while trying to run your business? Do you hate selling because it makes you uncomfortable and you don’t think you are any good at it? Do you avoid crowds because you’re too shy to talk to people? Not good in business, hate selling, too shy. These are the labels you may be wearing and if this is your attitude then this is your reality. Until you change your attitude your reality will never be different.

What can you do to change? Simply thinking positive isn’t going to do it. Maxwell outlines six steps to changing your attitude.

1)      Take responsibility for your attitude

2)      Evaluate your present attitude

3)      Develop the desire to change

4)      Change your attitude by changing your thoughts

5)      Develop good habits

6)      Manage your attitude daily

Let’s leave Dan and his bad day for a moment and let me introduce you to Caitlyn. Caitlyn has a very familiar problem. She is thirty pounds overweight and knows she needs to exercise and eat better in order to lose the weight but can’t seem to find the motivation to change. Her attitude towards exercise and eating healthy has always been indifferent. She doesn’t care that she never does any exercise and likes to eat out all the time. Her self-esteem is non-existent. Her desire to make changes in her life is less than zero. Her family sees her destructive eating pattern and the weight she continues to gain and they are concerned. They voice their concern almost daily and Caitlyn ignores their comments. She knows she is fat. She doesn’t think there’s anything she can do about it. She thinks it’s too hard to change and feels like she already has bad habits and it’s too late. She thinks about her weight daily but still eats whatever she wants.

Before Caitlyn can ever make any changes in her life she needs to apply the six steps Maxwell outlines. Otherwise it is a losing battle even before the war begins. But there are obstacle to overcome here aren’t there? Maxwell outlines what he calls the big five attitude obstacles. As you read them think about Caitlyn and how they apply to her.

1)      Discouragement

2)      Change

3)      Problems

4)      Fear

5)      Failure

Each of these obstacles applies to Caitlyn. If she decided to start exercising and eating better will she be discouraged if she doesn’t lose weight right away? Could this cause her to stop trying and adopt a “see I told you this was a waste of time attitude?”

Is change easy or hard? Most people would say change is hard. We become entrenched in the sameness of our life. We live a life of status quo. We get comfortable and we adopt an attitude that change is hard. Sure it is at first but then with time and practice it becomes our new reality and it’s not so hard. Caitlyn will experience a whole new life when she begins to change her unhealthy ways and there will be problems along the way making change seem hard.

With any change comes challenge. That’s a given. It’s how we face the challenge that makes the difference. Do we take them head on and come up with solutions or do we quit? It’s inevitable that with change comes fear. We don’t know what we are doing so we may feel incompetent, uncomfortable and unsettled. We fear failure, looking stupid and sometimes we even fear success. It’s normal to feel some fear when making changes, taking a chance or trying something new. As the old expression goes, feel the fear and do it anyway. It’s really our attitude towards the fear that makes or breaks us. Will Caitlyn feel fear sometimes as she tries to change? Of course she will. Will she have set-backs? Yes of course she will but that’s all part of moving forward.

Failure is part of the journey. The first time I tried to do a hand stand in yoga I fell over. The second time I tried a hand stand I almost sprained my finger. The third time I tried a hand stand I used a wall. If I gave up then I would never have thought of using the wall to practice and gotten better at it. You only get better at something when you fail and sometimes you need to fail a lot before you perfect it. I’m not suggesting you go out and fail at everything but I am suggesting that if you never try you are guaranteed not to succeed. Why not give yourself a chance to succeed and allow yourself to fail forward.

With Dan and Caitlyn it’s easy to see how their attitudes can shape their day or their life. You can choose to walk through life as a victim or victor. You can carry the weight of a bad attitude or lighten your load by choosing a positive attitude. The decision will always be yours because while you may not be able to control the circumstance of life, the people around or the situation you will always have the power to choose your attitude. Choose wisely and you will flourish. Choose unwisely and you will flounder. The choice is yours.