Every day of your life, you are forming, changing or reinforcing your attitude. Your attitude determines your approach to life and defines your relationships with other people. It can also mean the difference between success and failure, since a positive perspective can turn your problems into blessings. There are three critical steps in changing your attitude: First, develop gratitude; next, lead others by serving; and finally, learn how to face your fears so you can accomplish what you want to in life.
According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, the term grateful refers to being “appreciative of benefits received; affording pleasure or contentment; [and] expressing or denoting thankfulness.” Gratefulness promotes humility, stimulates your faith and promotes contentment. According to John Maxwell, author of The Winning Attitude, “Our attitude is the primary force that will determine whether we succeed or fail.” In simple terms, your attitude will make or break you.
Without daily recognition of the things for which we are grateful, it is easy to become negative or adopt a self-centered perspective about life (the “It’s all about me!” syndrome). Take the time to remind yourself every day that your life is actually part of a much larger picture and that the way you choose to react to the challenges of life ultimately defines who you are and what you believe.
In my daily interactions with clients, I am constantly amazed at the difference an attitude can make. Given the same set of circumstances, there is a world of difference when one person responds to the situation with gratefulness and the other reacts with defensiveness or irritability. Even during times of conflict or distress, you have the power to give a bad situation a more positive outcome so long as you have the right attitude.
Lead by Serving
The greatest leaders are those who serve. The way they accomplish that is by lifting everyone around them to greater heights and making them feel that they are an integral part of a team. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe states it perfectly: “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”
In giving to others, you learn that they will, in turn, give back to you. During even the most stressful, heart-wrenching periods of your own life, chances are you will benefit by making an effort to help someone else in need. Pull up a chair, lend an ear, or feed a hungry friend. Serving others will remind you that life is a gift of daily, unexpected pleasures available to you—so long as your attitude is open to receiving those pleasures.
Face Your Fears
One of the greatest obstacles to developing and maintaining a hopeful attitude is a fear of the unknown. It is all too easy to become complacent, apathetic and lazy when we choose to live in our own comfort zone in order to avoid this fear.
Fourteen years ago I had the crazy notion of retiring from my teaching position to start my own business. I was single, 25 years old and terrified of giving up my guaranteed salary to start a business that offered no such guarantees. Some people thought I was crazy. But thanks to the encouragement and support of my family, I took the risk. As a result, I have enjoyed a career I love and have grown incredibly, both personally and professionally. There were many places along the journey that were fearful and stressful, but I am a better person for having made the trip.
John Maxwell states that “fear is a stepping stone to growth.” The fact is that we can use fear to our advantage. How can you conquer fear? One way is to reprogram your brain’s responses to fear by intentionally putting yourself into new, uncomfortable situations. For example, the first time I ever spoke to a large group was as a fourth grader in a school play. I had to memorize dozens of lines and act as emcee. I’m sure I must have been terrified, but I lived through it and actually did a great job. The funny thing is that years later, I still get scared when first speaking to large groups, but fear is quickly replaced by energy and passion.
Adjust Your Attitude
Rejuvenation requires that you take an honest look at your attitude. Do others yearn to be with you? Do they draw energy and sustenance from your presence? Are you consciously grateful every day, even in the face of pain and suffering? Have you experienced the satisfaction of serving the needs of others? Are you willing and ready to face your fears?
Keep in mind that your attitude is an inward feeling expressed by your outward behavior. We were placed on this earth not merely to survive but to live, to savor every moment of life as a gift.*
Bridges, J. 1983. The Practice of Godliness. Colorado Springs: Navpress.
Lappe, F.M. 2004. What are you afraid of? O: The Oprah Magazine, 5 (5), 241.
Maxwell, J.C. 1993. The Winning Attitude. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Murdock, M. 1998. Secrets of the Richest Man Who Ever Lived. Tulsa: Honor Books.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. 1981. Springfield: G. & C. Merriam Company.
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