If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. – Mary Engelbreit
Attitude Begins with a Thought
It has been estimated that the average person has roughly 60,000 individual thoughts every 24 hours. 95 percent of these thoughts are the same they had the previous day, and 80 percent of these repeated thoughts are of a negative/pessimistic nature. Furthermore, many of these pessimistic thoughts are unconscious and habitual, meaning that people have next to no awareness of the impact that these thoughts have over their lives.
What is even more worrisome is that 95 percent of the thoughts that people have form the foundations of the emotions they experience throughout the day. This is significant because our emotions form the foundations of our attitude, and our attitude is what shapes our happiness and success in all areas of life.
What Are Thoughts?
Thoughts are biochemical impulses of energy, intelligence, and information that hold magnetic properties. These magnetic properties originate within each cell and are influenced by your peer groups, worldviews, cultural history, media, religion, mythology and as a result of social expectations. All of these elements of life influence and shape the thoughts you have about yourself, about others and about your life and circumstances. Over time, these thoughts evolve from opinions into beliefs and convictions.
Beliefs and convictions are nothing more than a recipe for thoughts that have been “locked” into place. When you have a belief about something, there is no doubting or wishing or hoping. Things are the way they are and there is no alternate view. You have “locked” a certain set of thoughts in place to form this belief, and this belief is part of the puzzle that shapes your attitude throughout the day.
Let’s break this down another way: Your thoughts are a result of “life”. You have the thoughts you have, because of how you’ve been influenced by “life”. Life includes what is now, what was in the past, and what you expect to happen in the future. As such, your thoughts and the attitudes you have are a result of your peer groups, worldviews, your cultural history, media influences, religious traditions and beliefs, and other social factors. In other words, you have the thoughts you have because you’ve experienced life in a certain and specific way. Therefore, you are how you are today because of the influences you have allowed into your life — into your mind.
Over a lifetime you have chosen to focus on certain things while ignoring other things. There are so many different beliefs, opinions, and perspectives in this world. However, you have only chosen to focus on a few of them. Some of them have been somewhat forced upon you by your peers, parents, teachers, mentors, culture and religious background. However, other things you have chosen to focus on because of your personal preferences and tastes. You have therefore created your current thought-patterns and perspectives through the choices you have made over a lifetime.
Thoughts don’t immediately turn into beliefs and/or attitudes. It’s a process that takes time. You will, for instance, have an initial thought about something. This thought stimulates various cells in your brain. The more you use this “thought” through repetition, the more you use those particular cells, and the stronger the connection between those cells becomes. Likewise, the more emotional intensity that goes into a thought, the more the neural highway in the brain strengthens. As such, the easier it is to have that particular “thought” the next time around. Eventually, the thought becomes a habit and is projected out into the external world as an attitude; which is nothing more than a collection of thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and values.
A thought is never an isolated event. Your brain always tries to make sense of the world by linking present circumstances to past memories. This connection between the past and present forms associations in the brain that help you make better sense of the world. You might, of course, learn something new and different, however, your brain will still attempt to find some relevance, and will, therefore, find a way to connect the new with the old.
How your brain connects the new experiences to the old memories will determine how you make sense of the world. And how you make sense of the world shapes how you think about your world; which builds the foundations of what you believe about your world — manifesting in the attitude you project out into the world.
Thoughts are as complex as they are simple. They are simple because of their nature. It’s just easy to have a thought, however, it’s not easy to understand how that thought came to be, or what the consequences of having that thought will be in the future. As such, your thoughts are very complex structures because they are influenced by many different factors.
Consider for a moment one of your thoughts, and ask yourself:
Why did I have this specific thought?
Why now? Why like this? Why not something different?
How did this thought originate?
Where did this thought come from?
What influenced this thought into my life?
How many different factors influenced it?
How far back into my childhood could the origins of this thought be tied to?
How has this thought been influenced by other aspects of my psyche?
Your psyche is made up of many parts that come to form the MasterMind Matrix. As such your thoughts are not only influenced by outside factors but also influenced by the pain and pleasure response, by your beliefs, values, self-concept, meta-programs, psychological rules, mental focus, choices, decisions, actions, physiology, language, etc. Likewise, all of these “parts” of your behavior and psyche influence your thoughts. In other words, your thoughts are not only influenced by these parts of your psyche, but these “parts” also influence and shape your thoughts. And TOGETHER everything mentioned here shapes your attitude — for better or worse.
The Fundamentals of an Attitude
Your attitude is in many ways nothing more than a collection of your values, beliefs and the opinions you have about a specific subject. These parts of your psyche are shaped by your thoughts, and your thoughts are shaped by the world you live in, by your past memories, and as a result of the things you have chosen to focus on over a lifetime.
Whatever you give your attention to becomes a priority in your life. Therefore, whatever you decide to focus on has meaning for you, and as a result, these things will shape how you think, what you believe, what you value, and essentially the attitude you will project out into the world.
There are two Universal Laws at play here. The first of these laws is the Law of Concentration, and the second of these laws is the Law of Becoming.
- Law of Concentration: The Law of Concentration states that what you think, emotionalize and visualize continuously grows in your life.
- Law of Becoming: The Law of Becoming states that you transform yourself in accordance with your dominant thought patterns. In other words, you attract into your life your weaknesses, strengths, limitations, and abilities in accordance with the thoughts you have chosen to dwell upon most often throughout the day.
These two Universal Laws are basically saying that your entire life and the attitude you project out into the world is dependent upon what you choose to focus on most of the time. Therefore, if your attitude is poor and you desire to make a change, then you must choose to focus on other things that will help you transform your thoughts; thereby improving your state-of-mind (attitude).
Your attitude is also tied to the references that you have collected over a lifetime.
Every experience you have — whether good or bad, painful or pleasurable — creates a set of memories. These memories form references that you use to make sense of the world you live in. These references are just experiences that have come about as a result of pain and pleasure in your life. You might, for instance, have experienced a negative situation in the past which brought you painful memories. Or you might have experienced a positive situation in the past which brought you pleasurable memories. These situations/experiences are nothing more but memories today. However, these memories/references have a significant impact on the attitude you project out into the world.
Your brain will naturally connect many painful memories/references together to form an opinion about something. These opinions strengthen over time as more related references are found. And over the long-term, these references come to form your beliefs about this specific situation or area of your life. And consequently, these beliefs form the foundations of the attitude you project out into the world.
Now, it’s important to note that these memories/references are only opinions. They are only your perspectives and interpretations of the situation. They might have no actual basis in reality. As such, your attitude might be based on false references and distorted memories that you have accepted as the truth. Your negative attitude is therefore based on a “lie” that you have convinced yourself to believe. And this is influencing how you feel, think and behave in specific situations for better or worse. What’s even worse, is that it influences your expectations of yourself, of others and of the world around you. This, therefore, creates a “snowball” effect where a negative attitude grows and picks up momentum over time until it destroys your life.
One day after years of living with a negative mental attitude, you might experience some very intense pain that results from the attitude you consistently project out into the world. It’s this painful experience that will often provide you with the “wake-up” call you need to make some changes for the better. But in all honesty, you don’t need to wait until this moment arrives. You can start making positive changes today — right now!
Developing a Positive Mental Attitude
A Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) is the ability to interpret and reframe your life experiences in a favorable way that is helpful and advantageous in relation to the desired outcomes you would like to achieve. It is the ability to cultivate optimism during difficult times. In other words, it’s a “solution-focused” attitude that seeks out answers over complaints.
Cultivating a PMA takes time and practice. It’s not something you’ll immediately get into the habit of doing. You’ll need to make some changes, start doing things differently and make some better choices. It’s a process that takes some effort, however, it will be effort worth spent as it will help open the door to very different perspectives and a world full of new opportunities.
Let’s now take a look at some simple things you can do to help shift how you think about your life and circumstances that will help encourage a PMA.
Empower Your Language
The words you use to express yourself are emotional triggers that significantly influence your state-of-mind and the attitude you bring forth into every situation. These words either create positive expectations, or they create limiting and negative expectations. It all depends on the words you decide to use.
In order to overcome a negative mental attitude you must transform your language, and transforming your language begins by changing the words you habitually use when in a negative state-of-mind. You can do this in one of two ways:
- You can lower the intensity of the negative words you use.
- You can change negative words into positive words.
For instance, you might choose to lower the intensity of the words you use by changing “I am feeling angry…” to “I am feeling concerned…”. Or you might instead choose to put a positive spin on things by changing “I am feeling angry…” to “I am kind of curious…”.
The second choice is the better option, however, this can also be the most difficult option because it forces you to think in a very different way that might significantly go against your habitual tendencies. This can, therefore, create some internal resistance and conflict. If this resistance is very evident in your situation, then you might instead choose the first option, where you lower the intensity of the negative word you are using. This helps you feel somewhat better about the situation but doesn’t necessarily conflict with your habitual thinking patterns.
You might initially begin using the first option, where you consciously lower the intensity of the words you are expressing. Then once you begin feeling more comfortable with these words, you can switch to the second option where you replace your limiting words with more empowering words that can be more helpful in your situation. As such, over time you will begin to shift your attitude from a negative to a more positive state-of-mind. However, all this requires conscious effort, and it may be difficult at first, however, with some persistent effort you can successfully make these changes.
When it comes to the language you choose to use, it’s important that you set positive expectations for yourself. For example, is there any point being angry in this situation? By being angry you are drawing into your attention all the things that make you feel angry, and as a result, you feel even angrier, which ends up creating expectations that there will be more things to feel angry about in the future. Maybe instead of feeling angry, you can feel a little concerned or somewhat curious. Both states-of-mind will dramatically shift how you think about the situation, and this will subsequently create a different set of expectations moving forward. Moreover, your attitude will improve and you will be in a far more advantageous position to make the very best of this situation.
There are a lot of possibilities here. All that’s required is that you play around with the words you use. Don’t settle on one kind of word. Instead, focus on adding richness and color to your language that will help you shift how you think and interpret the events and circumstances of your life.
Shift Your Physiology
The words you use and the thoughts you indulge in influence your physiology. Likewise, your physiology influences the words you choose to use and the thoughts you choose to indulge in. Therefore by making small shifts in your physiology can help you to think different thoughts. And when you think different thoughts, you will choose to use different words to express your opinions and feelings. And as your words change, so does your attitude.
This again will not be easy. You probably have certain ways that you tend to habitually use your body when you’re in a bad mood. These habits will not be easy to break and will initially require some conscious effort. In fact, you might need to “will” your body to move a certain way, to breathe a certain way, or to stand a certain way in order to break your habitual patterns. However, with persistent effort you will make progress, and this is what will help you to shift to a more positive state-of-mind.
Let’s go back to the example of feeling angry and turn it into curiosity. Ask yourself:
What would my body look like if I was feeling curious rather than angry?
How would I move?
How would I stand?
How would I sit?
How would I breathe?
How would I position my head?
How would I move my hands?
These questions might seem a little silly at first, however, they are well worth asking because when you’re angry you will use your physiology in a very different way compared to when you’re feeling curious.
Using your physiology from a state of curiosity will encourage you to think different thoughts, which will likewise transform the words you use to describe your feelings and emotions. And this will go a long way towards helping you cultivate a more positive and empowering mental attitude.
Make Self-to-Self Comparisons
It’s human nature to make comparisons. Some people make comparisons to others, while others make comparisons to their “best selves”. Both are helpful at certain times. For instance, self-to-other comparisons help you gauge where other people are at, and this helps fuel your competitive spirit. However, it can also make you feel inadequate and incapable if you fail to live up to other people’s standards and results. On the other hand, there are self-to-self comparisons. Making these comparisons is helpful because you are competing against your best self.
All this is relevant to attitude because often a poor mental attitude is linked to self-to-self comparisons. We consciously or unconsciously compare ourselves to others in an attempt to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. However, if we are unable to live up to the standards that other people set, then it’s easy to feel somewhat worthless and inadequate. And it’s from this place that a negative mental attitude often comes to the surface and manifests in excuses and complaints.
To avoid this scenario, choose instead to only make self-to-self comparisons. Compare yourself to your best self, and leave the self-to-other comparisons to others.
Cultivate Present Moment Awareness
The reason why you have a poor mental attitude is because you have all these unfulfilled expectations that are weighing heavily on your shoulders.
When in a negative state of mind you’re either indulging in the past by holding onto grudges, regrets, and anger. Or you are focusing on the future filled with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Focusing on the past or future brings you no respite or relief. So what’s the point of focusing in this way? Instead, encourage yourself to focus on being more mindful of the present moment.
Within the present moment, there are no regrets, there is no anger, and there is no fear or anxiety. All that exists in the present moment is choice and opportunity. In the present moment, you can only focus on what’s before you, right here, right now. And what’s before you presents you with an opportunity to choose a better path moving forward. However, in order to find that opportunity in the present moment, you must “get out of your head” and let go of all your expectations, hurts, fears, anxieties, etc. You will only change by letting these things go, and the best way to do that is to become mindful of the present moment.
Ask Effective Questions
Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you are always asking questions. Some questions are helpful, while others may not be so helpful, and will, therefore, tend to prolong a poor mental attitude.
The great thing about questions is that they help direct your focus and attention to specific things. When for instance you are focusing on the negatives and on what’s not working, then you will tend to feel miserable, and that will come across in the attitude you project out into the world. However, when you’re focusing on what’s working, on what you have, and on what you can control, then your attitude likewise changes. You are no longer feeling regret, disappointment, or complaining about things. You are instead focused on the things that can help you move forward in a more positive way.
Questions will help you direct your “focus” in exactly this way. However, you will, of course, need to ask yourself the right kinds of questions to help focus your mind on the things that will help encourage a positive mental attitude. Here are some examples of questions you could potentially ask yourself:
What’s great about this?
What opportunities exist here?
How can I grow from this experience?
How can I make myself feel great about this?
How can this be seen in a more positive light?
How must I modify my approach?
By taking the time to genuinely answer these questions you are directing your focus to things that matter most. These “things” will help you see the situation in a better light, and will put you in a more positive and optimal frame-of-mind. And as your focus changes, your attitude shifts and you subsequently put yourself in a more advantageous position to make the best of every situation and opportunity.
Associate with Inspiring People
There is a reason why you might have a poor attitude. And that often comes down to the company you keep.
The attitude you consistently project into the world probably very closely resembles the attitude of your peers. Therefore, if their attitude is poor, then your attitude will also be poor. If they always complain, make excuses, blame and focus on problems, then you probably also do this. This, of course, will not be true in all cases. However, for the most part, your five closest peers/friends will often mirror your attitude as much as you mirror their attitude. For this very reason, it’s absolutely critical that you select the people you choose to hang out with very carefully.
Have a think about some of your closest friends and confidants and ask yourself:
How do these people influence me?
Do I complain about the same things they complain about?
Do I blame others in the same way they blame others?
Do I make similar excuses?
What have these people got me thinking?
What have these people got me saying?
What have these people got me emotionalizing?
How are these people influencing my state-of-mind?
How are they influencing the attitude I project out into the world?
If you take the time to honestly ask yourself these questions, I think you will find that your peers have a greater influence on your attitude then you might have initially imagined — for better or worse. If it’s on the “worse” side, then you might want to reconsider who you spend most of your time with. Choose people who will inspire and challenge you to view your life and circumstances in a more positive and optimal way. That is in itself one of the quickest ways to transform a poor mental attitude.
The Four Stages of Change
When making any changes in your life, you will typically move through four distinct steps:
- Acceptance: “I just can’t change…”
- Recognition: “I really should change…”
- Decision: “I no longer wish to be like this…”
- Affirmation: “This is now who I am…”
You initially accept the fact that you can’t change. At this stage, you are resistant to change and struggle with the notion that things must change irrespective of how bad things might be. Yes, your attitude might not be great, however, there just isn’t enough pain to instigate a change.
The second step is recognizing that there is actually a need for change and that you must start doing things that will help you make positive changes in your life. This is where the pain sets in, and you realize that the consequences of not changing are too costly and hurtful in the long-run.
The third step is the decision you make that a change must be made. You no longer wish to indulge in a poor mental attitude, and instead, you want to be different — you want to make a positive change for the better. And it’s actually in these moments of “decision” that the seeds of change are planted.
The final step of this process is the affirmation that you are no longer your “old” self, but rather a “different” self who has changed for the better. And because you see yourself as this new person, you start making different choices and decisions that are aligned with the thoughts, values, beliefs, and attitudes of this new person.
As you go through this attitude transformation process, you will typically move through each of these steps. This process may take time, however with a little persistent effort, even the most stubborn of habits can be transformed.
When it comes to success in any field of endeavor, it all comes down to the attitude you project out into the world. If your attitude is poor, you will make poor choices, and may very well create unnecessary conflict and problems for yourself. However, when your attitude is coming from an empowering state-of-mind, then this will lead to better decisions that can help you solve problems and take advantage of the opportunities that life presents you with. As such, your attitude forms the bedrock of everything you desire to do, be, have and achieve in life. With a positive mental attitude, the world is your oyster. Without it, the world will just throw mud in your face.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I’m confident you will gain tremendous value from using the accompanying IQ Matrix for coaching or self-coaching purposes. This mind map provides you with a quick visual overview of the article you just read. The branches, interlinking ideas, and images model how the brain thinks and processes information. It’s kind of like implanting a thought into your brain – an upgrade of sorts that optimizes how you think about these concepts and ideas. 🙂
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 5 Methods to Cut Down Negative Thinking @ Change Your Thoughts
- 6 Ways to Change Your Attitude Right Now @ Lifehack
- 8 Tips to Help Create a Positive Mental Attitude @ Tiny Buddha
- 7 Attitudes that are Preventing Your Happiness @ Mind Body Green
- 10 Surefire Ways a Positive Attitude Increases Success @ Entrepreneur
- Change Your Attitude with Timeless Life Lessons from a Dog @ Dumb Little Man
- How do I change my attitude? @ A Daring Adventure
- The Four Success Attitudes of Walt Disney @ Pick the Brain
- The Proof’s in the Positive Thinking @ Psych Central
- Top 10 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude @ Dumb Little Man