It All Begins With Attitude IT ALL BEGINS WITH ATTITUDE from the seminar BREAKING THROUGH LIFE’S BOUNDARIES by Pat Spithill Seminar Leader * Author * Keynote Speaker (C) Copyright, 1989, Pat Spithill P.O. Box 505 * Hutchins, Texas 75141 214-225-8051 This material may not be reproduced or altered without written permission of the author and copyright holder. The Importance of Attitude The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “attitude” as “a mental position or feeling with regard to an object.” The mental positions or feelings are our thoughts, beliefs and opinions. The object is life. In other words, attitudes encompass all of the thoughts, beliefs and opinions which people have about their lives. Over 2500 years ago, Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is founded on our thoughts.
If a man speaks or acts with pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.” Buddha also said, “It is a man’s own mind – not his enemy or his foe that lures him into evil ways.” A person’s attitude, what Buddha was speaking of, is the very foundation on which his or her life’s experience has been, is, and will be built. Every part of reality is the result of a person’s attitudes. In simple terms, our attitudes reflect what we expect from life. This shouldn’t be confused with what we want, dream or hope for. No one wants to be unhappy, lead a boring life or look back over the years with remorse and regret.
Yet, so often rather than expecting the best life has to offer, people expect much the opposite. They expect problems and get problems; expect disappointments and are disappointed; expect to fail and then, rather than experience the desired success, they fail. If attitudes are the mental expectations about jobs, relationships, financial status and so on, then these very powerful thoughts must be the elements which set the course for our lives and destiny. It isn’t life’s circumstances which create the attitudes; it’s the attitudes which create life’s circumstances. When people change their expectations and attitudes, then their lives must surely change as well.
I know a gentleman who, in the late 1960’s, worked as a repossessor of logging trucks. If you will, create a mental image of a person who walks up to burly truck drivers and says, “I have to either have a payment or the keys, whichever you want.” I would picture someone about 6’3″ and 220 pounds of solid muscle. As it happens, Jim Cathcart is 5’9″, rather slender and not the muscular type. People who repossess cars, foreclose homes, or work for collection agencies tend to be negative thinkers. However, one day Jim heard a radio program with a message about the power of positive expectations. He changed his attitudes and began planning for and expecting an exciting success filled future. Today, Jim Cathcart is an internationally recognized leader in the field of sales and management seminars and consulting. Jim has written eight books, is the co-author of Relationship Strategies, an all time top selling audio cassette program from Nightingale-Conant, and is one of the highest paid professionals in his business. And all because he expected to succeed, he expected the best life could provide. This article about building the foundation for your life on the concrete blocks of a positive attitude will cover four things: the source of attitudes; the difference between directive attitudes and reactive attitudes, how the word HALT can help you maintain and strengthen positive attitudes, and specific skills and techniques for building expectations for a wonderful and exciting life.
Attitudes – Directive or Reactive Most people fail to ever consciously take control of their lives, living at the mercy of the prevailing winds of fate. Their attitudes are reactive in nature rather than directive. These people constantly respond to changing conditions rather than creating situations which suit their purposes. If you were to lose your job today, how would you react? What emotions would you feel? Would you be angry, incensed, hurt, disappointed? Would you go home, feel terrible and beat-up on yourself for hours on end? A little over a year ago, just before my wonderful wife Jan and I relocated to the Dallas area from Denver, the company for which she worked went through what can only be called disastrous changes. Over the course of four months, the firm laid- off 90% of its work force, approximately 85 people.
Due to decreasing revenues, it was obvious to everyone employed by this company that these lay- offs were going to take place and that nearly everyone would be affected. The only question was, in which lay-off series would a person finally lose his or her job. Very few people bothered to prepare for what was about to happen: yet, they knew it was coming. Most were shocked, upset and completely taken by surprise. Of the 85 people, only two prepared and lined up new jobs in advance, staying only long enough to collect their severance checks and move onto a brighter future. Four people hung on until the very end then, immediately went out and found new opportunities. The vast majority, however, seemed to REACT in a pessimistic fashion; deciding to live off unemployment for a few weeks or months while displaying an attitude of “being laid-off has made my life terrible.” The lay-offs were not terrible, they just were.
The circumstances became terrible because these people believed the company controlled their professional lives. Rather than taking firm control of the situation, the overwhelming response was to do just that–respond and waste a considerable amount of energy complaining about the cards life had dealt them. For the select few, it was anything but terrible. One woman secured a direct marketing position with a large exporter in Hong Kong. Others went to work for various competitors or started their own companies. One person transferred to the head offices in Dallas. Jan was that person.
The situation was identical for every person involved. The difference was found in how each dealt with the life change. The people who took control of the situation had directive attitudes. The people who believed they were at the mercy of this company had reactive attitudes. As long as people let external forces create their thinking for them, they will have little or no control over their lives. When we decide to take charge of our beliefs, we take charge of our lives.
Whether a person calls it positive thinking, enthusiasm, or goal setting, it is nothing short of an “I will control my destiny and expect wonderful things from life” attitude. Thanks to Jan’s expectations, she was transferred to the company headquarters with a substantial promotion. In four short years, she rose from a common word processor to head the firm’s microcomputer systems network. Why? Because that is what she wanted and more important – expected. If you are ready to discover your own best attitudes, if you are ready to begin directing your life by taking command of your thinking, then here is the first action step to help you do just that.
Begin to look at your present attitudes and beliefs about life. Do you believe that you can accomplish anything you truly desire? Or, do you believe that you are subject to outside influences? Using Worksheet No. 1, write down your beliefs about other people, co-workers, supervisors, and the significant people in your personal life. Consider and write down your feelings about success and your ability to succeed, your attitudes toward money, your health and physical well-being. In order to build a new attitude, it’s essential to know what materials are currently in the foundation on which you will be building.
ATTITUDES WORKSHEET NO. 1 In order for these ideas to work for you, it is necessary to be completely honest with yourself. The purpose of this worksheet is to help you determine where you are right now. Do your responses represent reactive or directive attitudes? 1. What do you believe regarding your own potential for personal achievement? For example, how much can you accomplish if you set your mind to it? 2. What are your beliefs concerning the influence of external forces? Do you believe that big business, the government or other people can hinder your progress? If so, to what extent? 3.
Describe your general feelings about supervisors and co-workers. Do you believe they appreciate your efforts? Are they jealous of your abilities? Are you jealous of their abilities or positions? 4. Describe the feelings you have for the members of your family. How do you perceive your spouse? Do you see more faults now than before? How about your children? What do you see in them? Do you believe you gain more joy from your family or a sense of responsibility? 5. How do you feel about your job? Is it what you would choose if you could choose anything? When you are working, does it feel like toil or like play? 6.
Do you believe you have the ability to change your life? Explain your answer. 7. If you were faced with being laid-off, knowing well in advance that it was coming, what would you do? Would you direct or react to the circumstances in which you found yourself? The Source of Attitudes A few nights ago, I watched two movies on cable television, THE NATURAL and MY FAIR LADY. For some reason, I found myself emotionally drawn into both of these movies and began to wonder what affected me so strongly. It was because the central characters, Roy Hobbs and Eliza Doolittle, expected to overcome what appeared to be impossible odds.
For a short period of time and with only one chance left, a man in his mid-30’s became what he was determined to become – the greatest baseball player in history. Eliza Doolittle overcame the limitations of her upbringing to rise from flower girl to courtesan. Why is it that so few people in this world have an attitude which says, “I can and will succeed – I am going to reach my goals.” And, how is it that so few people ever expect anything from life other than a job, a family, and eventual retirement? The answer to both of these questions is that our attitudes are seldom our own. They are usually learned from our parents, teachers and peers who learned their attitudes from their parents, teachers and peers. We expect from life what we have learned to expect from life. There are also two ways in which attitudes can be developed rather than learned.
The more common of these is to form expectations based on intense life changing situations. Perhaps the best example I can think of comes from my friend Dottie Walters. Some years ago Dottie found herself in need of a job in order to make ends meet. She began reading the classifieds and noticed that the local newspaper had a position open for an advertising sales representative. As Dottie couldn’t afford a baby-sitter, she put her two daughters in their stroller and headed for the office of the newspaper. With daughters in tow and total determination in her heart, she walked into the editor’s office and literally demanded the job even though she had no experience.
The editor, not sharing Dottie’s vision, did his best to dissuade her. Finally, but without admitting defeat, he said, “Fine, you can go out there and beat the streets if you want to. It’s straight commission. When you don’t sell anything, maybe then you’ll give up on this crazy idea.” With her two daughters still in the stroller, Dottie took the sales kit and started knocking on doors. The rest is history. Part of that history is that she sold more advertising for this newspaper than had ever been sold to date.
From Dottie Walters’ need was born determination, and from the determination – an attitude. The attitude was, “I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.” Today, Dottie is a very successful business person, speaker, consultant and publisher. Unfortunately, it is just as easy to develop negative attitudes as it is to develop positive attitudes. Sometimes, when people get hurt through relationships, they cease to risk being vulnerable. They hold back in order to avoid being hurt again.
Their attitude is that the risk is too great. People who have failed at a business or career might settle into something less satisfying but more “steady.” People who have invested and lost money in the stock market may decide to play it safe with a savings account. Dottie took a risk because, in her own mind, she had nothing to lose. And she won. But sometimes, people lose and rather than lose again, quit the game. An expectation is developed of, “If I take risks, I am going to lose more than I can win.” Unfortunately, these people fail to recognize that it is impossible to win the game if they’re not in the game.
The third method for developing an attitude or life expectation is to make the conscious decision to change how you think and feel. Once the decision has been made, it is impossible to ever go back. As Wayne Dyer, the author of the best selling book The Erroneous Zones, puts it, “It’s like opening a door, walking through the door and having it slam shut behind you. There is no way back once you’ve walked through.” Although, it takes time and effort to muster the necessary belief to make great changes; those changes begin with a decision. Every person who has ever read Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill, The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale or any of numerous success building books has made a conscious decision to change his or her attitudes and expectations of life.
Once the decision is made, there can be no going back to the old ways. When ignored, the desire for personal success and happiness becomes a small infection in the heart which continues to tear away at any spirit of failure little-by-little until a person can no longer stand to be one of masses. He or she must become unique, an inspiration unto herself or himself; seeking out and experiencing fulfillment and satisfaction in every area of life, for without these things – life loses its meaning. Return to the worksheet and write down how you acquired the attitudes represented in your responses. If these thoughts and feelings were learned from other people, write down the names of the people.
If from experiences, outline the experience briefly. If from conscious choice, try to recall and summarize the events that prompted the change in attitude. What You Expect Is What You Get Recently I heard an acquaintance say, “Just when I didn’t think things could get any worse, one more thing went wrong. I really didn’t think anything else could happen.” My observation would be that a great many things could still “go wrong.” This person wasn’t expecting anything different. He was content hoping nothing would happen.
As he was not expecting changes for the better, his attitudes produced nothing but changes for the worse. Conversely, Jim Cathcart and Dottie Walters both decided to expect the best. Most of the attitudes which we have about life, relationships, careers and money have been with us for many years. In fact, thinking about changing attitudes and doing it are two very different things. The minute a person attempts to alter this mental and emotional foundation, he or she will experience what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” When people believe certain conditions are “the way life is,” to begin believing otherwise creates uncomfortable feelings. For most, the initial response is one of, “I can’t.
Life just doesn’t work this way. People are where they are for a reason.” In short, people begin to rationalize that changing attitudes and life is impossible or not meant to be. It is meant to be. You are meant to have everything which life has to offer. If you didn’t believe that, you wouldn’t be reading this. Once you believe you can improve self-esteem, you can.
Once you believe you can control your money, you can. Once you believe you can reach your goals, you can. But without an “I can” attitude first, none of this is possible. As an analogy, in order to build the foundation of a house, it is necessary to have a design, the right tools and materials. Who is the architect of your new attitudes? You are, and it’s time to design a life foundation to your unique specifications.
All of us experience life in many different ways not just financially or in terms of a career. We experience physical health, relationships and families, mental development, and spiritual beli …