Don’t tell me what you can’t do; tell me what you can do.” – Phillip M. Way
A bumper sticker recently spotted in the middle of a traffic jam said, “I don’t need your attitude; I‘ve got one of my own.” This is a fairly typical representation of many people stuck in traffic. The trouble is that this sentiment also represents for a lot of people their outlook every day. It’s easy to have a bad attitude. Some people even prefer it.
Bad attitudes may be cool or hip in certain situations, but usually they only serve to irritate other people and complicate things. A person with a consistently bad attitude puts unnecessary stress on co-workers, friends, and family alike. Bad attitudes are contagious. A gruff reply is the verbal equivalent of recklessly cutting someone off in traffic. It puts everyone on edge and usually generates a not so nice response from the victims.
All you have to do to have a bad attitude is to do nothing – it isn’t difficult to go sour. If we respond to a negative situation by sitting and stewing things are not going to get better. At times we embrace the bad attitude whole heartedly and actual derive some measure of enjoyment from making others miserable.
We have to understand that bad attitudes are not a victimless crime. Even if we are not around anyone else while under the influence we still will see a bad attitude take its toll on us. Depression, guilt, anxiety, and fear will manifest themselves in our thinking and emotions. Deep down we know that there is not much good about a lousy perspective.
If we try and combat a bad attitude we have to be careful not to get distracted. By that I mean that so often there are so many things affecting our attitude that if we try and single one of them out we might gain some ground, but will still be gang tackled by other things driving us down. It might be a circumstance, our emotions, the attitudes of other people, things that are out of our control, and things that we may be misperceiving in the first place. There are so many things that can affect a bad attitude that we need to look deeper for a simple but wide reaching solution.
As difficult as it may be, we have to take responsibility for our attitude. The way we react or respond to situations is ultimately a decision of our will. It is a choice. Our attitude is not an emotional reaction to outside stimuli. It is an internal decision. We cannot maintain a bad attitude unless we decide to keep it going. Whatever happens on the outside, we have a choice to make and are able to decide how we will respond on the inside.
The truth stinks, doesn’t it? If attitude is rooted in a decision we make about how to view life and whatever it throws at us then we never have an excuse for a bad attitude. No matter what happens to us, something worse has happened to someone else. It rarely ever is the actual end of the world no matter how near the end we think we are. People have been predicting the end of the world since time began. When the world actually ends, then we can talk about the appropriate response. Until then, whatever we do today we will have to live with tomorrow.
The trick then is learning how to make a rational, logical decision even when our emotions and circumstances are out of whack. It takes mental discipline. As much as we might dislike even hearing the term “mental discipline” there are times that we have to be reminded that we are, after all, grown-ups. That doesn’t mean we have to always act our age, but it means we should have learned by now how to exercise a little self control.
The best way to stop a bad attitude is to quit cold turkey. As soon as we are aware that our outlook is a sour one, we must change our minds. Decide to think differently about the situation. When we do change the way we think it will surprise us how quickly our emotions fall in line with our mind. The mind is a powerful thing, and emotions will follow our thinking.
This does not mean that we should be simplistic about complicated circumstances. It does mean that we can train ourselves to think and respond to difficulty with some amount of rationality instead of irrationally reacting and flying off the handle every time something doesn’t go the way we thought it would or should.
There are enough people out there with bad attitudes. The good news is that we don’t have to be one of them. While a bad attitude is contagious, a good attitude is even more powerful in affecting the people around us. What starts with a single decision in a day in the life of the average Joe can indeed change the world. Imagine the difference it would make if every person you met today had a good attitude. And if that thought sickens you, you might need an intervention of sorts to get help quitting your bad attitude. Be careful. There are plenty of optimists out there who will willingly intervene and help you quit cold turkey. And that really is something to be thankful for.