Posted by: Christine Donovan | June 22, 2009

Living in Excellence: Getting a Handle on Your Attitude

Good morning.

Over the weekend, I continued to think about this topic of attitude. 

Since I do a lot of training and speaking about  success at work, I grapple with this topic a lot — how to convince people about the effects of their attitudes.   Or even more so, how I can get them to see that they have a destructive attitude and how it’s affecting their entire life.

The reason I left the cushy corporate job (Sometimes in this economy, I question my sanity for doing that!) was because I discovered that my raison d’être in this second half of life was to help others along the path toward fulfillment and success.

I’ve really seen and learned a lot…about  myself, those I supervised, those who supervised me, my peers and team members, and about my own mentors who led me along my own road of discovery.  In addition of course, there has been a lot of formal study as well.

I read somewhere that “maturity,” which is often an indefinable term, since it implies that it has something to do with age and experience… (and I know some immature 50-year-olds as well as mature 30-year-olds!) …but, maturity is our ability to recognize and learn from the PATTERNS of our experience, and to change our behaviors/mentality based on what we learn from those patterns.

Immature people of all ages, just aren’t able to SEE the patterns in their lives (maybe they lack insight or self awareness… or just aren’t capable of looking at themselves), so they certainly can’t learn from them.

For example… since we’re discussing attitude….I had an epiphany one day after a meeting with a boss I didn’t particularly like or respect.  She said something like, “you complain a lot.”  

I don’t remember what I said in response that day; and I don’t think I said anything since she was doing all the talking.  But in my head I heard the usual defense mechanisims set in:  “She’s crazy.”  “She’s threatened.”  “She doesn’t appreciate the knowledge I bring to the department.”

The truth was that I saw myself as a valuable “critic”  for my department and my company.  Afterall I had insights and revelations that other people didn’t have… so my critiques had positive outcomes and were very important.  Weren’t they?

Hmmm… over the next several months, every so often, I started to listen to myself.  Could my insights be perceived as complaining?   Should I stop sharing my wisdom and observations with others?  Was it possible that people weren’t interested?  Could they really perceive my insights as complaining?

Could my opinions be perceived as negative?

I continued to observe… and once in a while, take the time to listen to myself.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is when maturity started to sprout roots.

It was a pretty amazing transformation; not particularly easy to accept, but somehow my Higher Power was teaching me a valuable lesson.  And at least I had the stillness to hear it… and the humility to accept it (at that moment in time.)

So how do we get a handle on our attitude if not through a spiritual experience?

It’s so easy to outline, but exceedlingly difficult to DO.  Here goes…

Getting a Handle on Your Attitude

1.  ASK someone you trust… who will tell you the TRUTH.  And that probably shouldn’t be your spouse or your best friend because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.  It may have to be someone at work, maybe your boss if you trust him/her.  I suggest saying to your boss one day…”I just read an article about positive and negative attitudes, and it got me thinking.  Do you think I complain or have a negative attitude?  I’d really like to know…”

And then LISTEN.  Listen between the lines, because more often than not, people sugar-coat information.  If you hear such phrases as…”Well, sometimes…” or “Maybe, when you’re stressed…”  or “Not usually…” then you are getting sugar coated.  If you hear such tentative statements, dig deeper.

“Thanks for sharing that.  What have I said specifically that sounds like complaining?”  And LISTEN and accept their opinion.

The worst thing you can do is ask for information and then get defensive about it.  You’ve got to be open to HEAR whatever they are telling you.  That is maturity, my friend.

2.  LISTEN to yourself talk.  If you have to, run a camcorder or tape recorder (but let others know if they are being taped or it could get into legal issues) and LISTEN to yourself.

3.  Get some books/CDs about positive thinking, the “Law of Attraction,” or go to hear motivational speakers and allow this valuable information to soak in.

4.  Ask your Higher Power to help.  If you are a spiritual person, pray about it… with a true desire to learn and change… and you will get answers.  But you have to be ready to accept them.

5.  Replace negative talk with positive.  The fastest way to change a habit is to replace it with a better one.  Once you have been able to HEAR your own negative talk, promise yourself that you’ll begin to look less for what’s wrong in life… but what’s right.  People will gravitate toward you to hear your positive perspectives, since negativity can be found everywhere… negative people are on every street corner, parking lot, and water cooler.

Become the lighthouse in the storm; help others by showing and demonstrating the power of a positive attitude.

Talk to you later…


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