No one should ever lose a job, miss a promotion, or destroy a marriage because of a poor attitude. Why? Because a person’s attitude is not set; it is a choice.
1. Take responsibility for your attitude
Singer Roberta Flack recalls, “My mother had only gone as far as the tenth grade, and my father had a third-grade education, but they both were very literate. They spoke well, and their values were high. They drummed into our heads that the situation you live in doesn’t have to live in you.” Our attitudes don’t come from our circumstances or personal history. Attitude does not come from outside ourselves. It comes from within.
The first rule of winning is don’t beat yourself. If your attitude isn’t as good as it could be, and you fail to take personal responsibility for it, then you are beating yourself. However, if you look in the mirror and can with honesty say, “The attitude I possess is my responsibility and no one else’s,” then you’re on your way.
2. Evaluate your present attitude
To improve your attitude, you need to assess where you’re starting from. This may take some time. Your goal isn’t to condemn yourself. It’s to see yourself clearly so that you can make positive changes to the way you think. Identify problem feelings about yourself. When do you feel most negative about yourself? Write down your answers. Identify problem feelings related to others. Attitude issues often relate to other people. What causes you the greatest problems when dealing with others? Once again, write down your answers. Identify problem thinking. We are the sum of our thoughts. What negative thoughts consistently control your mind? Write down your answers.
3. Develop the desire to change
The desire to change is the key to growth in all areas of life. Ironically, most people desire improvement, yet at the same time they resist change. The problem is that you cannot get one without having the other. Change is possible, but only if you want it badly enough. As Fred Smith observed, “You are the way you are because that’s the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you would be in the process of changing right now.” Of course, change is never that easy. It takes lots of time, tremendous amounts of energy, perseverance, and—of course—desire. That’s not a decision you make once and forget about. You need to cultivate that desire every day.
4. Change your attitude by changing your thoughts
Norman Vincent Peale, author of Power of the Plus Factor, wrote that he once came across a tattoo studio in the twisted streets of Kowloon in Hong King. In the window were drawings of the hundreds of choices of tattoos available from the artist who worked there. One in particular really struck him. It said, “Born to lose.” Peale was appalled that anyone might actually ask to have that permanently written on his skin. He went inside and asked the Chinese artist, “Does anyone really have that terrible phrase ‘Born to lose’ tattooed on his body?” “Yes, sometimes,” the artist answered. “But, I just can’t believe anyone in his right mind would do that.” The artist tapped his forehead, and in broken English said, “Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind.”
Major premise: We can control our thoughts.
Minor premise: Our feelings come from our thoughts.
Therefore: We can control our feelings by changing the way we think.
That’s why I believe the saying, “You are not what you think you are, but what you think… you are.”
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
Most of the great work in this world was done by men and women who didn’t believe that what they were doing was impossible. Talent is certainly beneficial, but only the right attitude can release it to reach its potential.
5. Develop good habits
Much of what we do every day comes from habitual behaviors. Over the course of time, we have developed a way of approaching life. We treat people a particular way. If we desire to get different results out of life, then it’s not enough to change only our thinking. We also need to change our habits. Why? Because if we don’t we will revert back to our old thinking. In fact, some people recommend changing behavior first. Psychiatrist William Glasser says, “If you want to change attitudes, start with a change in behavior. In other words, begin to act the part, as well as you can, of the person you would rather be, the person you most want to become. Gradually, the old, fearful person will fade away.” Fortunately, habits are not instincts. They are actions or reactions that we have acquired over time. If you can pinpoint the original cause in your thinking that prompts a bad habit, you can change it.
6. Manage your attitude daily
One of the most significant discoveries of my life was realizing that we often place too much emphasis on making decisions and too little on managing the decisions we’ve already made. Today Matters. Maintaining the right attitude is easier than regaining the right attitude. A Chinese proverb I came across gives insight: “Assume a cheerfulness you do not feel, and shortly you feel the cheerfulness you assumed.” Elbert Hubbard says, “Be pleasant until 10 a.m. and the rest of the day will take care of itself.”
From "The Difference Makers" by John Maxwell