During the past several weeks, I have experienced a heightened awareness of the powerful impact of attitude in my life as well as that of others. I have felt uplifted and grateful for the positive and encouraging attitudes of those dealing with life-changing challenges and disheartened by the negative and pessimistic attitudes of others.
Attitude is a state of mind, a way of thinking that is reflected in our behavior. We make critical choices about how to think about people, challenges and situations. When we have intense thoughts and feelings about something or someone — whether negative or positive — our attitude often “speaks” louder than our words.
This is why, when you feel hurt by or angry with someone, that person will most likely perceive your attitude whether you address the issue or not. You may think that you’re hiding your feelings, but non-verbal behaviors usually communicate our emotions more powerfully than spoken words. You may conceal your true feelings for a while, but not over time.
Conversely, a positive attitude and its non-verbal cues can communicate volumes about high regard, caring, affection, happiness, encouragement and resilience. No surprise that positive attitudes can be contagious and attract us to each other while negative attitudes can distance and shut us down from each other.
Psychologist Carol Dweck comments in her latest study about attitude and performance, “your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ. Failure is information — we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a problem-solver, so I’ll try something else.’”
Consider adopting a positive attitude:
- Make a choice to think positively about someone or something. Realize that your attitude may be contagious.
- Adopt an optimistic attitude about a person or situation, take action, then notice the impact you make.
- Give someone the benefit of the doubt. It may result in a surprisingly positive outcome.
- Demonstrate an attitude of curiosity and openness rather than challenging and resistant. What’s the payoff for judging something before facts are known?
- Decide to approach uncertainty with openness and optimism instead of defensiveness or fear. Discover and learn before criticizing or judging.
- Make a choice to engage and participate rather than to withdraw or abstain. Your experience will be more constructive.
Remember that many things happen in life over which we have no control. What matters most is how we handle ourselves and the meaning we attribute to the situation — how we feel and what we think about it.
Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, describes experiences in the concentration camp that show that man does have a choice of action and independence of mind. They offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: “The last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”