Category Archives: All About Attitude

Step Right Up

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close to success they were when they gave up. – Thomas Edison

We thought coming into this year, “I can do this!” Some even thought “This will be no problem! This will be easy!” We started fresh and positive and motivated. Now here we are, 8 months into the year, two-thirds of the way through the third quarter, with only 4 months to go to finish 2013. And we know that it has been hard work to get to where we are and it will be even harder to get to the finish line.

Yes, the ramp keeps getting steeper. Yes, we have a long way to go. Yes, we all feel the pressure. Yes, it is stressful. But no, this is not the time to be shy, to shut up, or to shut down. It’s time to step right up!

step right upRemember going to carnivals and state fairs as kids or with kids? Remember the carnival workers shouting “Step Right Up! Win a Prize! Every Player is a Winner! You Have to See it to Believe It!” It all starts with that first step.

STEP stands for Stress, Trends, Expectations, and Performance.

S – When it comes to Stress, we are usually looking at where we are, but we really need to be looking at where we want to go. If we get bogged down with emotions like fear, uncertainty, anger, or panic, or if we decide to turn it off, go numb, and just slog through and see what happens – however we feel about it, if we let negative emotions rule the day we have already given up and we will lose. Stress, if allowed, will destroy creativity.

T – Looking at Trends, the truth is we don’t need a pep talk, we need to get motivated! Forget the carrot and the stick. We can’t depend on others to do for us what only we can do for ourselves. We need to remind ourselves that, “Yes, I can do this job!” If things ae trending the wrong way then we need to ask why, formulate a solution to turn it around, and then implement it.

E – Examining our Expectations, we need to get creative instead of continuing to do all the things we have already been doing. We know that if we do the same things over and over and expect different results then we are crazy. The time for “we’ve always done it this way” thinking is long past. Let’s rise to the challenge and adjust our expectations if needed.

P – Gauging our Performance, we need to be realistic about where we are and what we need to do to get where we need to be. Quantity never makes up for lack of quality. Working harder and smarter we can do quality work. Let’s focus on things we may have overlooked in the past. Be innovative – adapt, improvise, and overcome. Don’t get stuck planning, put the plan in action.

shhh-1This is not the time to shut down or shut up. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s manage the stress, put our emotions to work for us, and drive the number instead of letting the numbers drive us. It’s time to step right up and do what we are good at doing – building solid relationships offering winning solutions to our customers needs.

The best way to “think outside the box” is to ask others for their insight, perspective, and advise. So don’t ever underestimate the benefit of being on a team, especially when times are tough. If we isolate ourselves we will miss the best opportunities for personal and professional growth.

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Bad Attitudes: Quitting Cold Turkey

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.

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Thanks for Nothing

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues. – Cicero

We all know what Thanksgiving is all about, right? A holiday we set aside in order to remember our dependence upon others, especially upon the Providence of God, in order to give thanks for all the good in our lives. On this day we feast with friends and family and celebrate by counting our blessings. We cannot deny that no matter how hard the times are, we do have plenty to be thankful for.

Gratitude is a valuable virtue. From it springs humility, joy, faith, and love. And even when we face disappointment, depression, or despair, we can usually still find at least one thing, or more importantly, one person in our lives for which we can be truly thankful.

However, the real power in thanksgiving is often something we miss. You see, we are used to looking for the silver lining behind every storm cloud. We expect that if a door closes another door, or a window of opportunity will open somewhere nearby. We know deep down that having life, liberty, and love is enough for us to be thankful no matter what else we face in our day to day lives. So what do we miss?

We have come to believe that in order to be thankful we have to have something to be thankful for. Usually when asked about it we can give a quick list of things or people for which we are thankful. Even if we have to think on it a while, we are still able to name at least one thing we are thankful for. While this isn’t wrong, it misses the greater point.

Our inherent materialism leads us to focus on things, be they possessions or people. We think about thankfulness as it relates to some thing we have to be thankful for, but a very wise proverb about thanksgiving written several thousand years ago tells us, “In everything give thanks.” Get the difference? We give thanks for, but we miss giving thanks in.

Let’s face reality. There are times in our life and in the lives of those we love that it is very difficult to find something for which to be thankful. The skies are so dark, the landscape so unfamiliar, the looming truth so inescapable that we don’t even try to give thanks for anything. It is not that we are not grateful; we just don’t know how to give thanks without something to give thanks for.

Whether times are good or bad we can learn how to be grateful even if we don’t believe we have anything to give thanks for. This runs contrary to our natural instincts. Giving thanks even if we have nothing to give thanks for almost sounds like a fairy tale, optimism run amok. It sounds like propaganda, doesn’t it? Like a deceitful attempt to cope in the face of the uncertain.

Let’s be sure to note that I am not talking about the power of positive thinking. This is not mind over matter. It is not a substitute for reality. It is not a Jedi mind trick. It is the power of truth. It is the absolute, unchanging, certain truth that we are able emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to give thanks in every circumstance. But there is a catch. We have to decide to be grateful.

This Thanksgiving, don’t spend too much time dwelling on things, as important as they are. Let’s not limit our giving thanks to stuff. Let’s learn to be thankful just because we are grateful. Not for our circumstances, not for possessions, not for others, not for things, but in everything as a general attitude and outlook on life.

In every situation, in every hardship, in every difficulty, in every trial, in good times, and in bad times we may not be thankful for what we have to endure, but by being thankful in these times we find that we are able to endure. We can press on. We can learn to be grateful in the face of every fear because our attitude of gratitude is not dependent upon our outward circumstances, it is dependent on an internal decision we make to say, “Thank you” no matter what. It starts on the inside, with who we are. Are we thankful?

Talking about thankfulness in these terms shows us that gratitude is not an emotional response to something that happens. It is an attitude that comes from the heart. A grateful heart does not have to be prompted to conjure up a list of things for which we are grateful as we all sit around the table on the last Thursday in November. A grateful heart beats in the chest of anyone who has decided that come what may, we will give thanks in everything, even if we have to give thanks for nothing.

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Apply Yourself

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.” – Wayne Dyer

Recent studies have proven that there really is an innate difference between morning people and night owls. There is some instinctive component for our internal clock and some people function best first thing in the morning while others do better later in the day or even at night.

Whichever of the two we are, we all know the differences. There are those at home and at work that are up first thing in the morning, no matter how late they were up the night before. And they are usually upbeat and optimistic, eager to get the day started. Others seem to always be running late, tired, and behind. Stressed and pessimistic would sum up their attitude most days.

Some researchers say that we need to learn to maximize our natural settings so that morning people have things to do in the morning and night people have things to keep them occupied in the late afternoon or evening. Others say that night people need to learn to be morning people so that everyone can work together to accomplish the tasks of the day. Most of the researchers taking this view are probably morning people.

It should also be noted that most of the time, since opposites do attract, morning people marry night people. In such relationships the morning person usually tries to get the night person up and going bright and early, especially on their days off together. And the night person wishes that their significant other could stay up late and enjoy the solitude and quietness of the night. It is rare indeed that people actually change, but compromise is possible.

While things like our internal clock are simply a part of who we are we need to be reminded from time to time that our attitude is not genetic. Our outlook and general disposition may be something we are born with, but our day to day attitude and the way we relate to other people is truly a decision we make. It is a matter of the will.

We have the ability, if we choose to use it, to change the way we think and feel. Our minds are a powerful tool. What we think will affect how we feel, what we say, and what we do and how well we do it. The trick is that we have to apply ourselves.

As the quote above tells us, at times we find ourselves miserable. We are not happy with circumstances at home or at work. Things seem out of whack and we wonder what the people around us are thinking, if they are thinking at all. When we are miserable we usually try to find fault with others and can even give a detailed list of what it is that has us out of sorts – and if those things (or people) just changed then things would be better.

However, living with this kind of outlook allows other people to decide how we feel. Why should people around us, who may be miserable themselves, be allowed to tell us how to feel and think and act? And yet they do when we allow them to. We react to their negativity and we become negative. On one hand we can be miserable, but on the other hand we can decide to motivate change in our own attitude. We can take responsibility and make up our minds that no matter how the people around us feel, act, or think, we will determine for ourselves what kind of day we will have.

Is this even possible? Can we deal with stress and irritation and difficult people and still have a good day? Yes, it is possible. Because how we respond to others is very much within our control. If we allow ourselves to be mired down in the negativity we will feel and act negative. But if we choose to respond positively then we can maintain a healthy attitude even when others around us are falling apart.

We need to see that we can transform our attitudes and our day to day lives by being ready to respond instead of react. If we react instinctively we may end up acting like a night person who is ready to strangle that morning person who thinks we should be as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as they are early in the morning. If however, we take the time to respond, we can think through what we are about to say or do, and we can maximize the positive potential to stand above the turmoil and make clear headed, good decisions.

The most difficult part of this though is that often we believe that it takes other people to motivate us. Too often that external motivation comes in the form of negative ideas, fear, or threats. The reality is that the most powerful motivation we can find is the motivation that comes from within, from our own minds as we decide what we want and how we can get it. At times we have to come to realize that we cannot let others think for us. We need to think for ourselves. And as we apply ourselves we will be able to motivate ourselves to achieve more than we ever dreamed.

True satisfaction is found when we decide to have a right attitude and motivate ourselves to reach our goals. It is the kind of satisfaction that once experienced becomes a motivation of its own for then we see how much more we can do if we only put our minds to it.

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March Madness

If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears. – Cesare Pavese

In 1854 Henry David Thoreau made the statement, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” The phrase has evolved and we know it today in a variation like, “He’s marching to the beat of a different drum.”

This refers back to the days when a drum and bugle corps was utilized by the military to set the pace for marching or to give direction in battle. If a soldier was out of step, or out of ranks, he was said to be hearing a different drum. He was receiving mixed signals, or a signal altogether different from what everyone else was hearing.

The danger of course is that one man out of step in a unit can throw others off, interfering with the progress of the unit as a whole. He may also find himself in danger as he will become separated from the group. Several people abandoning unity and going their own way causes confusion.

We understand the lesson that there is strength in numbers and that a unified force with a singular purpose will usually accomplish its goals more efficiently and effectively than random individuals acting on their own. In business terms we see that a company made up of many individuals working to achieve common goals will be more effective in the marketplace than a company full of people all going their own way.

This knowledge has been expressed in the past as companies use vision statements and motivational catch phrases to make sure that everyone is on the same page. If a company is going to reach its goals, then the employees need to know what those goals are and the strategies to achieve them. Fuzzy goals or an uncertain target almost always guarantee a miss. Offering specifics makes the objective clear. Even then there are those who get out of line, step out of the ranks, and go their own way.

The temptation to go our own way is based in the deep desire we all have to express our individualism. This, after all, is the American Way, right? Independence and pride are part of what has made this nation as great as it is. However, there is a difference between independence and selfishness. One can have an independent spirit while still contributing to the community as a whole. Being independent does not mean we are alone.

A self serving attitude that is mistaken for an independent streak will ultimately lead to isolation and even self destruction. The truth is that as independent as we may be, we need each other. In a nation, a company, or a family we are dependent upon one another to some extent. No man is an island.

No one can be so independent as to be beyond the need for others. Who would really want to be all alone? That is why the isolation chamber is such an effective threat as a form of punishment. Cutting people off from all other social contact will break the will and bend the mind of any person. Yet so often we mistake being alone for being independent and we drive ourselves crazy. Even rebellious loners usually are part of a gang. They are not really alone.

In business we may be told to “think outside the box” and learn to “march to the beat of a different drum.” But then we are also told that there is not an “I” in “team.” Look closely though, and rearrange the letters, and you will find “me” there! Together we are a team. And if we all think outside the box and march to the beat of different drums then we cannot achieve common goals. We will all be going our own way. Imagine the chaos.

The key to prevent this marching madness is learning to be independent without being isolated. Independence for a common cause calls others to join us and help us in reaching our goals. In fact, the greatest moments of independence the world has ever seen are moments when we all stood up as one. Independent individuals standing together as an independent community, unified in purpose and resolve, are unstoppable. That, after all, truly is the American Way.

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First Things First

First things first, but not necessarily in that order. – Dr. Who

The first day of the first month of a New Year is typically the time we make resolutions. It is a new beginning and a chance to make a fresh start. The aim is making and keeping resolutions, setting attainable goals, and rearranging our priorities so that this year will be more meaningful, our time better spent, and our lives richer and lived more fully than last year.

Are we eternal optimists, thinking the New Year will be better? Or are we actually eternal pessimists because we think that the year that just ended was worse than it should have been? (Of course pessimists insist that they are only realists after all). While we eye the future and the endless possibilities that exist it seems we also look back at the past with a sense of dissatisfaction.

If we boil it down, we find that New Year’s resolutions are really nothing more than an attempt to convince ourselves that things could have been better. We believe we could have done better or that our circumstances could have worked out differently. Our family, job(s), relationships, finances – everything just might be better this year than it was last year.

However, I think we are missing something on January 1 each year when we decide that there are things we hope to accomplish and goals we will try, at least for a while, to meet. You see, we resolve to change things, but all too often things don’t change. In fact, how often do we make the same resolutions this year as we did last year? We still need to be healthier, love more, and laugh more.

Why is this? Because we resolve to change things hoping to make improvements, but deep down nothing actually changes. We want better circumstances, but we do not change. Often we resolve to change outward behavior but we do not really deal with our inward desires. For example, we want to eat a more healthy diet, but we also want to eat that chocolate cake! How do I know what I really want? What I do tells me what I really want.

Is it about the will power or the motivation to stick to my resolutions? No, because we suffer from a battle of the wills. Just like a parent and a teenager, there are two desires expressing themselves loudly at the same time.
There is a battle going on that we cannot see but certainly can feel. The immaterial part of us, our soul, is fighting the material part of us, our physical body. Another way to look at it is to say that our mind is fighting our emotions. Our body wants cake. It feels like it needs cake. But our mind wants us to eat healthy. Who wins? Well, do we eat the cake or not?

The battle is never easy, but we can make progress. Big battles are won by winning small skirmishes one at a time. When it comes to the battle of the wills within us, look at what we do, trace it back to what we want, and there is the root – there is our priority. The truth is that what do to get what we want tells us where our priorities are. If we keep failing when it comes to our resolutions, then let us examine why we do what we do.

The key for setting and keeping resolutions is found in dealing with our desires. What do we want? Is what we want best? Can we change what we want? The strongest desire, the will that wins, is evidenced in what we do. So if we continually fail to keep our resolutions then perhaps we need to re-evaluate our true priorities.

New Years is a good time to look at our lives and ask ourselves what we really want. The good news is that if what we want is not best we can change what we want. We can make up our minds to set and keep new priorities, even if at first we do not feel like it, because ultimately our emotions will follow our minds if we can tough it out for a little while.

This concept has been expressed in a number of ways, but the best I can find is the old saying, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The things we value most tell us about the true condition of our hearts. If our heart really is for making a change, then eventually we will make that change.

This is not the power of positive thinking. It is not mind over matter. It is the reality that we can influence our desires when we change the way we think. It is all about attitude. Is it taking one step at a time, and understanding that even when we take a step back, we are still moving forward. How can that be? Too often we look at the step we take backwards instead of all the steps we have already taken forward in our journey. It is not about that last step, it is about the overall direction we are moving.

Success takes repetition, patience, consistent effort, and even some outside encouragement (i.e. accountability), but if we keep deciding to change the way we think, eventually we will succeed. Then we will look back and wonder why we ever thought the way we did before.

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Giving Thanks Like We Mean It

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them,
is the true measure of our thanksgiving. – WT Purkiser

A mentor of mine, a psychologist with over 30 years of experience, once stated that the Holidays are usually the most stressful days we face each year. He saw first hand that stress, depression, and anxiety would spike around this time of year. What is supposed to be a time of reflection, celebration, and refreshment instead becomes a hurried and harried time of frantic shopping, planning, and coping with all that comes with the commercialization of these special days.

He would always say about these times that these holidays could truly be a time of blessing, a true holy day. But if we are not careful we find instead that we have a holler day, or worse yet, a hollow day. Stress brings out contention and conflict, and depression drives us away from others so that we feel alone even in a crowd of friends and family.

Reflecting on the first Thanksgiving in 1621 we remember that the Pilgrims prepared more graves than houses that first winter in the New World, and yet they met together at Plymouth for a special day of worship and thanksgiving for the good gifts and grace of God that brought them to a place where they could be free. Later in our history Abraham Lincoln declared the first national day of giving thanks in 1863. It was a time of great strife in the country and yet the President wanted our nation to take the time to remember that there were many reasons to give thanks to God for His providential care.

So often we find that it is very easy to lose the true meaning of a holiday. One example in recent news had to do with school children making ornaments for the Capital Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. An ornament was rejected because it had a depiction of the Baby Jesus on it. It was considered a religious symbol and was therefore unfit for placing on a Christmas Tree! Think about it – Christmas is the holiday during which we celebrate the birth of Christ and an ornament with the birth of Christ on it was rejected for display. The ruling was later reversed, but before we throw stones we need to see that this demonstrates just how quickly we can forget what the holidays are all about. What can we do to make sure that we remember the whys and wherefores for the days ahead?

In order to help us prepare for the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, I want us to take a step back from the hectic days ahead so that we can think about giving thanks. I want to use an example from elementary school when we were learning our vowels. Remember? What are the vowels? They are A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y. What can this teach us about Thanksgiving?

AAttitude is everything. Only we can make up our minds that we are going to have an attitude of gratitude no matter what. We can be bitter, angry, stressed, and worried, or we can decide to give thanks for our blessings regardless of the trials and tribulations we may be facing. So let’s make up our minds right now – we will give thanks.

EEnjoy friends and family. No matter how they stress us, we still know deep down that we should be thankful for our family and friends. When they start to get on our nerves we need to remember that life is short and that love overlooks a multitude of sins.

I Ingratitude will always spoil the day. Ingratitude takes a lot of work. Grudges are difficult to maintain. We learn that taking the time to forgive opens our hearts to gratitude. Beside, if we really look at it, we have more to be thankful for than to complain about.

OOthers First. When we put others first and tend to their needs we find that our own needs usually take care of themselves. However, a selfish focus will almost certainly guarantee unhappiness and ungratefulness. Let’s work to make this holiday all that it can be for others first.

U Unmet Expectations are behind most unhappiness and ungratefulness. We have an expectation that does not get met and we believe that things are unfair. As our mothers told us often, “Life is not fair.” And aren’t we glad? If life was fair that means we would all get exactly what we deserve! So if we think things are not fair or working in our favor let’s remember that if we can adjust our expectations and learn to handle disappointment with grace and dignity then things never really are as bad as they seem.

And sometimes Y – what about the Y? Why should we be grateful? What do we have to give thanks for? Sometimes we need to stop amidst the hustle and bustle and make a list in our minds of the things we have to be thankful for. Often we have only the negative and bad in the forefront of our thoughts, but we need to look past the bad to all the good that is there. A few bad things lead us to believe that all hope is lost, but a quick moment used to count our blessings reveals the truth – we do have plenty to be grateful for.

So what are we waiting for? We do not need to wait for one Thursday a year to give thanks. We can start today. An attitude of gratitude will make all the difference in our outlook, our relationships, and our lives. These short lessons are reminders that can help us adjust our attitude so that this is truly a time of Thanksgiving. After all, we need to remember that old admonition for a happy life, “In everything give thanks…..”

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