The importance of attitude

How are you today? ⇐ a friendly neighbor

Not bad. Not bad at all! ⇐ me

The above exchange is a very common one for me. While the words may not be exactly the same, many other people will greet each other similarly, probably several times throughout the day. It’s a pleasant enough bit of wordplay, one that we all will face in many different forms countless times as we interact socially with our fellow human beings. Yet such seemingly benign exchanges have a subtle danger to us all, chipping away at our well being a tiny bit each time they happen. The danger is not in the intent, or even the interaction itself, but something more insidious …

The choice of words.

Think about it. “Not bad” is NOT the same as “Good” (or “well” for those who prefer to be grammatically correct). The first means just what it says … I am not doing badly. But it does not actually mean I think of myself as doing well. A subtle difference, yes, but still a difference. And from a subconscious standpoint, possibly the difference between me being at my best vs. simply being ok.

Our attitude is really the determining factor on how we approach just about everything in life. If we see things as less positive, then they ultimately WILL be. This is especially true when we do it to ourselves without even noticing it, such as in the above exchange. By answering as I did above, I was essentially shorting myself … limiting myself from truly being well.

So how do we avoid this subtle trap? It really comes down to learning to be the observer. In conversation, truly listen to our own words. Are we being truly positive? Or just not very negative? But we also need to monitor our thoughts as we approach possibly difficult tasks. If we think of something as a chore … then it becomes a chore. But if we think of it as a challenge, and opportunity to grow, then that is what it becomes.

This does not mean that we will never have negative moments in our lives. It just means that we control how those negative moments effect us. A positive attitude does NOT make difficult times go away, but it DOES make our passage through them much more bearable. The challenge is recognizing what our attitude actually is.

Some tricks that work for me:

  • Paying attention to my choice of words – whether verbal or just in my own thoughts, am I phrasing something in a positive manner? If not, how can I rephrase it so it is more positive?
  • Avoiding expectations – expectations lead to disappointment. If I have no valid reason to think something will turn out a certain way, I don’t expect it to. That way I will not have a negative reaction. This does not mean avoid hope. Hoping means desiring a certain outcome. Expectation means assuming it WILL happen.
  • Evaluating negativity – when I do have a negative reaction, I look deeply inside to see what the actual cause is. By dealing with the source, I can prevent it from spreading.
  • Being honest with myself – this includes recognizing my own limits, and understanding that sometimes I AM having a negative experience. In such cases, the key is to remember that ALL such experiences are ultimately temporary (even if it does not seem so while it is happening). The positive thought in these instances is that it WILL improve.

Embracing the most positive aspect of any situation ensures that we will ultimately come out on top. Conversely, if we focus on the negative aspects,we may never overcome the challenges that we face.