How often do we hear about the need for bringing the right attitude or finding a better one? Have you ever been told that you weren’t bringing your best or considered that same thought about someone else?
I believe attitude is critical for making progress in our lives. A good one can send us far and a bad one can thwart us. And even when we know intellectually that we should bring the best attitude, it is easier said than done. Before we think about how to be in the best attitude for our situations, let’s consider the definition.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language defines attitude: “A state of mind or a feeling; disposition.”
The Collins English Dictionary tells us it means: “The way a person views something or tends to behave towards it, often in an evaluative way”
Carl Jung's definition of attitude is a "readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way."
For all of these definitions, our attitudes represent our perspective. It is personal to each of us. Attitude also involves what we might do or how we might act. So attitude is a combination of our mindset and our behavior in any situation.
One way I know I may not be in the best attitude for a situation is that I am feeling pessimistic or annoyed at the situation or the other party. How do I fix this? Before I jump to a solution, I want to understand some of what might be going on for me.
The first thing I do is to consider three questions:
1) What am I thinking or feeling that I am not saying?
For example, let’s say I have not heard back from a colleague about an important question I have asked regarding a new client and delivery of a pilot program. I am feeling annoyed that I have not heard and anxious because I do not have a definitive answer for the client at this point. I am worried that each day that goes by without a response from my colleague which would permit me to respond to our client, I am creating a negative perception of the company in the client’s eyes.
2) What need or concern is driving those thoughts and feelings?
In the same example above, perhaps my irritation comes from the expectation or typical experience of this person as being responsive and I am concerned that our relationship has changed. I might also have a need to protect my reputation and the company’s reputation and do not want to add any reason for the client to doubt our focus on customer service or our ability to follow through on commitments.
3) How have I contributed to what is happening (or not happening) and what can I be accountable for in this situation?
In the work scenario, I have focused on the fact that my colleague has been unresponsive and the feelings caused by that outcome. If I look at the part I played though, I might recognize that I may have made an assumption and attributed negative motives on the colleague rather than considering they may not have received my communications. In addition, perhaps I was not clear about the pressure I was feeling regarding the client’s request nor the timeline I desired for an answer from my colleague. If I take a look at how I added to the result of no response and how I contributed to my own sense of annoyance, I can alleviate some of the frustration I feel towards my colleague.
Another way that I know I am not bringing my best attitude is that my actions have not produced the result I am seeking. This second one may seem counter-intuitive. Doesn’t my mindset affect my behaviors and not the other way around? You would think so, but in many cases, when I look carefully at my actions and see that I have a pattern of behaving similarly in instances like these, I can begin to recognize that what I am doing is impacting the results as much or more than my mindset. To change my attitude, I can change my repetitive actions that don’t create the outcome I want.
With the same example above, if I start to include in my emails to my colleagues my underlying need for being as responsive as possible with the client request and the deadline I hope to meet, I can shift my own perspective about the situation, focusing on client enhancement, and I may change how my colleagues respond too. As I recently said to a colleague, “Our ability to succeed is not only based on what we do, it’s about what we do with who we are.”
Once I try something new that meets more of my needs and minimizes my concerns, I will shift my mindset to align with this new behavior. As Maya Angelou said, “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.”
Where have you found yourself bringing an attitude that isn’t getting results? How have you shifted your mindset and your behaviors for better outcomes?