Reality Check: Attitude in Action

What’s the most important attribute for success? Ask an employer, teacher, or coach, and it’s pretty likely that somewhere in the answer you’ll find reference to the need for “a good attitude.”

In fact, entire libraries could be filled with books, magazine articles, and motivational videos that discuss and promote the importance of a good attitude.

Hailey had some social challenges when she was a teenager in high school. That, combined with a love of partying and a lack of clarity about where she would ever use “school stuff” resulted in her becoming an adult with very limited employment options.

However, Hailey is insistent that she’s changed. She says that she now has a good attitude and is willing to do anything. Sounds promising, eh?

So, what does Hailey mean when she says she has a good attitude? For example, Hailey says that she now repeats a mantra: “I can learn; I will work; I am unstoppable.”

Repeating a mantra can have value; you can use it to calm yourself and to focus on the task at hand. However, it’s essential that Hailey recognize that repeating her mantra doesn’t substitute for doing the work!

Continuously telling yourself that you have a good attitude is akin to continuously looking in the mirror and telling yourself that you are becoming more and more beautiful. You may feel better, but is it really having an effect on your beauty?

Actions speak more clearly than words. Hailey could realistically assess the effectiveness of her new attitude by asking herself, “If I had a lousy attitude, how would my actions be different from what I am doing now?

Thinking positive thoughts can be helpful. However, if most of Hailey’s effort is spent on positive thinking rather than on actions, how effective is that?

I was reminded recently of the actions associated with a “good attitude” while reviewing a math book. In his suggestions for study, the author, Allyn Washington, advised, “Put in the time required to develop the material fully…”

Hailey could more effectively demonstrate her improved attitude by actively working on what she is trying to accomplish, rather than sitting passively, repeating a mantra, and hoping that something will happen.

What actions are associated with a good attitude? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Put in the time that’s necessary to do the job successfully.
  • Carry on persistently even though you face setbacks. Few people understand or succeed immediately. Take a methodical approach and keep on plugging for the long run. Look up “The Tortoise and the Hare” if you’ve never learned Aesop’s fables.
  • Recognize that blaming someone else, complaining about someone else, or criticizing someone else likely isn’t going to help you progress.
  • If you are having difficulty after making a legitimate effort, ask for help.  There are often people who are prepared and willing to help you, if you ask.

It’s remarkably easy to make a judgment about someone else whom you perceive as having a rotten attitude. But how do you assess the quality of your own attitude? Does anyone ever look at themselves and say, “Gee, I have a terrible attitude!”?

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