Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference – Winston Churchill. In psychology, an attitude is an expression of favour or disfavour toward a person, place, thing, or event.
It seems perfectly natural to experience disfavour toward a person, place, thing or event sometimes and sometimes it surely must be exactly the correct attitude to take.
I suspect though, that often we jump on the negative without good reason and almost unconsciously expect bad things before the good. Ruby Wax talks about this in her 2013 book, Sane New World. There are very good evolutionary reasons for the human brain to actually react faster to negative vibes than to positive ones – it’s all about being primed for danger and reacting appropriately for survival.
The trouble is that it is the same ancient stress response designed for fight or flight in the presence of a sabre-toothed tiger, working when we feel a bit anxious about a presentation to a few people or getting wound up in a traffic jam. Same brain chemicals as our prehistoric ancestors, flooding our bodies at the sign of something dangerous, like someone queue jumping in the supermarket.
Clearly there are good reasons to react quickly and decisively in a negative situation, when danger and potential harm is present, but it does not always serve us to be on a constant danger vigil, as our ancestors had to.
Even if you tend to be pessimistic, you can learn to think positively and bring about better outcomes in life. Here are some pointers:
Listen to your Self-Talk – Probably the first thing to do is to realise that some (or much) of your thinking is not serving you. Become conscious of not just your spoken language but the language of your thoughts and especially what you tell yourself about yourself. Make it a habit to notice the form of internal dialogue rather than have it being mostly unconscious.
Adjust your Self-Talk – The next stage is to consciously adjust that internal dialogue. Once you get into the habit of noticing your own self-talk, you start to realise how much of it is negative and also, how much of it is simply untrue, it is just a bad habit of self-criticism which works on itself in a downward spiral.
Creating some positive words and phrases (aka affirmations) about yourself, actually writing them down to read over again, will serve to adjust that attitude and start to attract the things that people with a good attitude get. And this is not a slow process. A few self-directed positive phrases in the morning can make a huge difference straight away that day.
Know that change is possible, know that change is inevitable – As Tony Robbins says, you don’t have to worry about change, change is inevitable whatever you do. What motivates people is progress. It is the kind of change you create that is important.
So you have to know that the change that is going on all the time can and is adjusted and directed by everything we do, all the time. Even slight adjustments in attitude and behaviour bring about changed circumstances and outcomes. We all have the power to make differences, positive and negative.
Identify what change is needed – Most people have aspects of their lives that they would like to change. Actually sitting down and noting these and creating a plan to change things is a step further though.
As Freud would say, it brings your darkness into the light. Bring those niggling issues to the surface, analyse and get to know them. Then you can work on a self-talk plan (see above) to begin making attitude adjustments for each change you want to see.
Check who you are hanging out with – I’m not sure who it was but somebody said we become the average of our 5 closest acquaintances (why it’s 5 I’m not sure. I guess it could be 4 or 7 or 10 aswell). The point is though, that we can actively adjust who we are spending time with and therefore change our influences, attitudes and outcomes.
Choose good role models – Modeling is a term in the field of personal development that basically means “if you want to do/be something, find somebody who is doing/being it or done it already and model what they do”. The chances of getting a better attitude toward something is immeasurably increased by following or getting to know role models who have already achieved or are achieving the desired goal. Aswell as the wisdom that can be passed, their success in a given area will mould your attitude and motivate.