Thursday, October 20, 2011


Big thanks to J.P. Clark of the UCF Men's Basketball program for passing on these thoughts from Chris Widener:

We can choose our attitudes about anything, including learning and education. That's right. We get to choose what our attitudes are. Here is the definition of attitude: "The feeling or opinion about something or someone, or a way of behaving that follows from this." We choose our opinion about people and situations. We choose the way we will behave in relation to other people and circumstances. We choose what we believe about learning. We choose it. Learning doesn't have to be bad. It doesn't have to be anything but what we want it to be. We have the option. We can have tremendously optimistic attitudes about learning - attitudes that will help us grow in ways we have never achieved before! The choice of a right attitude will significantly determine new circumstances.

Choosing to have the right attitude will change the world around you. This isn't any sort of magic; it is just how the world works. Now, don't get me wrong. It won't cure everything and turn your world into a virtual Shangri-La, but it will significantly improve the world you live in. For example, let's say that everyday you go into work and you gripe about life and work from the moment you get there until the moment you leave. Will others want to be around you? Will others ask your opinion? Will others like you? Will others ask you to join them for lunch? Probably not! But what if you come to work every day and you are the positive optimist of the crowd? Will everybody love you? No, but significantly more people will than if you are the office pessimist! Your choice of attitude will determine what kind of circumstances you get!

The same is true with learning. What we feel about learning, and what we believe about it will determine the outcomes of our learning. And the outcomes of our learning will determine the outcome of our lives. Ultimately, our attitude is a choice. Nobody else can force you to have a bad attitude. Nobody else can force you to have a good attitude. It is simply a choice we each make.

Where are you with your attitude about learning? Is it positive? Take some time to give it some serious thought. Then, no matter where you find yourself, decide to take your attitude to the next level! If you have a really bad attitude, decide to take it up a couple of levels!

So, if our attitudes determine to a great degree what kind of life we have, shouldn't we focus on the best attitudes to have and then make them ours? Absolutely! If we want to soar with the eagles in this life, and if there are attitudes that will make us soar, shouldn't we pursue them with all our hearts? By all means! So here we go!

Attitudes of Successful Learners

1. "I can."
This is the most basic of all attitudes. We simply must choose to believe that we can learn. In our house we are not allowed to say, "I can't." We can say, "I'll try," or "I tried and failed," but not "I can't." Telling yourself that you can't will in effect make it so. But telling yourself that you can, will in effect enable you to learn much more. Even if you actually only achieve 50% of what you tell yourself, you will achieve at least that much more than if you told yourself you couldn't. So many people were told at a young age that they couldn't learn. Many others were allowed to engage in that kind of negative self talk (tell themselves, "I can't learn", "I don't understand", I'll never get this", etc.) and their parents and teachers didn't intervene. This enabled them to develop the "I can't" attitudes that become self-fulfilling prophecies. I actually have a standard way of going about getting myself off of the starting block. I simply say if somebody else has achieved great learning heights, then I can too. I have to be smarter than at least one of those who has already done it. I have to be able to work harder than at least one other. There has to be at least one other person who has come from more difficult circumstances than me. And if they can do it then certainly, "I can!"

2. "This is a long-term approach."
Learning isn't something that happens overnight. Yes, you can learn individual facts, but the real growth comes when you see your learning build on itself and compound for years, when your knowledge meets up with your experience. When we take the attitude that it all has to happen immediately, we hurt ourselves in the long run because the fact is that it takes time to learn (even though we can accelerate it). If we expect it to happen immediately and it doesn't, then we can get frustrated and stop learning altogether. Instead, we need to take a long-term view just as we do in financial matters, weight management, leadership, etc. Long-term thinking, including our learning is always the best way to go for success.

3. "Learning is valuable."
Some people have a "learning schmearning - who needs learning" attitude. They think that learning is overrated. I hate to tell you this, but not only was that wrong 5000, 500 and 50 years ago, it is especially wrong today. We live in the information age. We must gain knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge if we are going to be successful. We must tell ourselves and cultivate the attitude that learning is valuable and that it will affect our lives.

4. "I will make a difference in the lives of those around me."
People who soar are generally people who have the attitude of helping other people. Yes, they may do it for monetary gain, but they are others-focused. They want to change the way people live and experience life for the better. They are difference makers all around. This is the same in what we learn. We learn first for ourselves, but then with the goal of taking what we have learned, and what we make of ourselves, and we then help others to do the same.

I live in a town that is very affluent. Most of the people I know, work with and have as friends are very successful in this world. They have learned a lot about life and how it works. They have learned how to make money and be successful in business. One thing I can say, as almost a universal truth, is that as people, they are not self-consumed but genuinely care about others and will do what they can to help others. This is what I know to be true about the attitudes of the genuinely successful. These are the attitudes of people who are not just successful at getting information into their minds, but in becoming good people because of that information. Learn all that you can, and be sure to keep the attitudes that will make you a successful learner and a successful person!