Why attitude is everything

by Liz Marchant

It can be a fine line for any full-time woman between having work, life, and self under control versus watching things slide into unmitigated chaos. When things do slide out of our grasp, it can be tempting to let our attitude slide too.

As you return to what was an orderly home, to find it converted into couch forts and covered in a fine layer of crushed salted chips, it’s easy to think, “What’s the point in trying to keep the house tidy?”

Or, as you rush out of the office to get to the soccer game/recital/debate in time, you might think, “I’m exhausted, I’d really rather go home and have takeaway on the couch and watch a film.

Attitudes and thought patterns

When we’re rushed, overwhelmed, stressed, or doing something we don’t necessarily want to, negative attitudes can influence our thought patterns.

Instead of marvelling at the creativity of our kid’s couch fort, we see the mess and time needed to clean it up. Rather than remembering how much joy our kids feel to see us in the audience, we’re annoyed by the extra time it takes on an already-busy day to be there.

Sometimes we don’t just think either. Sometimes we verbalise.

When our thoughts are tinged with negativity, verbalising them can inadvertently hurt the feelings of those around us or represent us in ways which we don’t really mean.

The influence of attitude

Our attitudes, the ways in which we think, feel, and behave, are powerful influencers on how we operate in work and life. Attitude shapes our creativity, happiness, and even health.

Because attitude influences how we project ourselves and how we interact with those around us, it can also influence what we’re able to achieve in work and life.

A little-acknowledged fact about attitude is its infectious nature. Those around us unconsciously pick up on the attitude we’re radiating and react accordingly. When our attitude is positive and optimistic, we generally feel more buoyant and confident.

Others are drawn to that confidence, cheerfulness, and motivated outlook.

Similarly, when our attitude is pessimistic, dejected, or angry we may become more withdrawn, less confident, and doubtful. Those around us tend to give us more space or to become more careful with their words and actions. Performance may slip as confidence erodes, which can start a downward spiral of an increasingly negative attitude and poor results.

Attitude is a choice

It’s important to understand that we have a choice about attitude. There will always be easy days and difficult days. Many events happen in each day; how you choose to respond is what really matters, whether positive, neutral, or negative.

As Maya Angelou once said,

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

The science of attitude

Studies at Stanford University found that student attitudes towards a subject, and their own potential, influenced their ability to learn that subject. The research showed that attitude adjustments can positively change the way the brain works.

As Lang Chen, the study’s lead author says, “A good attitude opens the door to high achievement, which means you then have a better attitude, getting you into a good circle of learning.

The takeaway?

You can choose to have a more positive attitude about work, life and self which, when fully embraced, can actually bring about positive changes.

Five tips for a positive attitude

Here are a few quick, easy steps to be more mindful of how your attitude is influencing work, life, and self:

  1. Focus on the good. Good things happen even on the most challenging days. Celebrate the good things in the day, no matter how small.
  2. Notice your inner voice. Most of us have an inner voice that conducts a monologue as we go about our day. Observe that inner voice and notice the tone. Many inner voices speak in a tone which we’d never use to speak to another person. When that tone becomes too critical, make an effort to acknowledge the negativity and re-direct to a tone that is more positive.
  3. Connect with positive people. Remember how attitude is infectious? When you need an attitude boost, seek out that person you know who always looks on the bright side of life.
  4. Use self-talk. Studies suggest positive self-talk can influence how you get through tough situations. Using the second-person pronoun “you” is more powerful in self-talk than the first-person pronoun “I”.
  5. Watch the complaints. Constant complaining drains away a positive attitude. If you’re noticing you’re whining more often than not, make an effort to develop solutions to the situation, remove yourself from the situation or work to change your outlook about the situation.

Gratitude boosts attitude

The juggle of work and life and self is constant. Running after kids, managing a career, and taking care of the home are seemingly endless tasks. Some days can be long!

But it is also a privilege. In the hustle of everyday life, it is easy to forget how lucky we are. How fortunate we are to be able to do all these things, rather than simply have things.

Imagine the quiet of a life without demanding young voices or the challenge of planning next year’s work strategy or getting daffodils planted in the front yard in time for spring. Look ahead to those years when the kids have left home and there are no couch forts in the living room or work trips to plan around weekend sport. When you have all the time in the world to coax the daffodils from the ground.

Be grateful for these crazy days. Because gratitude also boosts attitude. And with a more positive attitude, we can achieve just about anything.