Finding the Right Mental Attitude for Success

Attitude isn't quite everything when it comes to being successful, but attitude plays a part in virtually every phase of your life. A poor attitude gets more people fired than any other single factor, and a good attitude gets people jobs and helps them keep those jobs more than any other factor.

Your attitude affects many people, from your family to the stranger you smile at on the street corner. Your attitude is particularly important when you face seemingly hopeless situations. Losing a job, mate, or friend because of a lousy attitude is unfortunate — especially because a bad attitude can be fixed.

Choose optimism over pessimism

You can find at least two ways to look at virtually everything. A pessimist looks for difficulty in the opportunity, whereas an optimist looks for opportunity in the difficulty. A poet of long ago put the difference between optimism and pessimism this way: "Two men looked out from prison bars — one saw mud, the other saw stars."

Unfortunately, many people look only at the problem and not at the opportunity that lies within the problem. Many employees complain about the difficulty of their jobs, for example, not realizing that if the job were simple, the employer would hire someone with less ability at a lower wage. A small coin can hide even the sun if you hold the coin close enough to your eye. So when you get too close to your problems to think objectively about them, try to keep in mind how your vision can be obstructed, take a step back, and look at the situation from a new angle. Look up instead of down.

Pessimism muddies the water of opportunity. Anytime a new innovation comes along promising to make life easier, someone always complains that it will take the jobs of people. When Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, protesters said that it would put thousands of people out of work. Instead, the invention made the production of cloth much cheaper, and millions of people could afford more clothing, which created countless jobs. When the computer was invented, folks believed that people would lose their jobs. Some people have had to retrain themselves to stay marketable, but almost everyone agrees that computers have created — not deleted — jobs and have improved our capabilities immeasurably.

You can't do anything to change the fact that a problem exists, but you can do a great deal to find the opportunity within that problem. You're guaranteed a better tomorrow by doing your best today and developing a plan of action for the tomorrows that lie ahead. Just remember to maintain a positive mental attitude so that, as you plan for tomorrow, you're doing so with the sense of expectancy that produces substantially better results.

Choose optimism over cynicism

Cynics still believe that somebody pushed Humpty Dumpty, and they'd vote against starting a Pessimist's Club because they don't believe that such a club can work.

Almost half of American workers fall into the cynic category. They mistrust just about everything — government, big business, the products they purchase, their employer, supervisors, and colleagues. An additional portion of workers is classified as wary, with strong cynical leanings.

How many friends and how much peace of mind do cynics have? How well do they get along with their mates, children, and neighbors? Not many, not much, and not very well.

On the brighter side of life are the idealists — individuals who have the tendency to see the best solution in any situation. Sow those optimistic seeds, and you raise the optimist hidden inside you.

Much cynicism is caused by unrealistic expectations — expecting great things to happen to you with no effort on your part. Having high expectations for yourself is an important part of success, but you must also develop a solid goals program to make those expectations a reality. People too often view the world through rose-colored glasses, and when their unrealistic expectations fall short, they become cynical and put on woes-colored glasses.

A positive attitude doesn't guarantee success, but a cynical attitude guarantees failure.

Turn interruptions into opportunities

Have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam at the worst possible time? Did you stomp your foot, pound the steering wheel, shake your fist, lean on the horn? If so, did you find that the louder you blew your horn and the nastier you got when you shook your fist, the more quickly the traffic in front of you opened up and permitted you to go through?

If you follow that foot-stomping, horn-blowing routine often enough, you raise your blood pressure, increase your chances of having a heart attack or developing ulcers, and generally ruin your disposition and shorten your life span.

Look at that traffic jam, smile, and say, "Oh, boy! I'll bet it's going to take at least 30 minutes to get through this mess! In 30 minutes, if I listen to informational tapes, add to my vocabulary, discover new leadership principles, or increase my knowledge!" Or if you have someone in the car with you, a traffic jam is an opportunity for an uninterrupted visit. Use the time to make out a grocery list or plan a surprise for your mate's next birthday. Your options may not be plentiful, but using your time to accomplish meaningful results sure beats "stewing without doing."

You do have a choice — either you can gain or accomplish something while you wait, or you can get upset and bring on strokes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure. "People jams" in the office, home, neighborhood, school, playground, and ballpark can be handled in a similar manner. Although you may not be able to pop in a tape or read a book when other people's schedules don't conform to yours, you can still relax and people-watch or use the extra time to work on ideas. You'll be healthier and happier at the end of your day if you take that approach.

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