Second Blooming (August 2012)
August 1, 2012
Attitude Determines Your Emotional Altitude: Choose WiselyI almost made it across the three-mile bridge to Pensacola when I heard that unwelcome flap-flap and felt the steering skew hard left. A flat tire, to be sure. I managed to creep off the bridge and get to the lane for right turns, knowing I would be late for my appointment. “It’s going to be one of those days,” I thought, anticipating more bad luck.
Many of us believe that our attitude is determined by our experiences, over which we have little or no control. In truth, it’s the opposite: our experiences are filtered by our attitude which we can control. One mistake we make is assuming that some people are cheerful because “nothing bad ever happens to them.” Life is always challenging, sometimes overwhelming, and we all struggle to deal with our problems. A positive attitude best equips us to deal with them productively. That doesn’t mean being a “Pollyanna,” but it does put you in a better frame of mind to solve problems rather than feel victimized. It also helps you bounce back quicker. Studies have found, for example, that cardiac patients with a positive attitude recover from surgery significantly better than those with a negative attitude. The mind-body connection is clear.
Besides the impact on your physical health, there are other costs to a negative attitude. Your energy level decreases; people avoid you because you drag them down, too; you’re less likely to take appropriate risks and more likely to overlook opportunities. Stress increases, as does disharmony in your relationships. So don’t let one incident infect your day or life. A customer service representative in one of my seminars wasn’t convinced: “You mean, if I have a nasty customer first thing in the morning, it’s not her fault that she ruined my day?” That’s right!
What, then, are the benefits of a positive attitude? They include feeling more:
* optimistic about attaining your goals;
* able to see and take advantage of new opportunities;
* creative and innovative;
* willing and able to build positive relationships, because people will be attracted to you.
In other words, you’ll be able to “create your own luck.”
Remind yourself that although your experiences are often out of your control, your attitude towards them is within your control, and the benefits of a positive one are significant. There’s no magic, however, as developing a positive attitude requires a conscious effort on your part, a deliberate decision about how you will perceive and interpret situations. Easy? No, but well worth the effort.
Next time something bad happens to you, assess your attitude. If it’s negative (and mine usually starts here), ask yourself, “How can I see this situation in a more positive, productive way?” Your responses determine the quality of your life and—wonderfully—you can enhance yours with good choices. As Henry Ford once said, “Think you can, think you can’t…either way you’ll be right.”
How did I handle the flat tire incident? After an initial, “Oh, no!” and concern about getting off the bridge without damaging the car, I chose to think: I’m safe. The car is OK. The tire can be fixed. I can reschedule the appointment. AAA will be here shortly. And an added bonus? Five people stopped their cars to offer help while I waited!
Kathleen has been an elementary school teacher, U.S. Navy officer, writer and speaker on military deployments and family life, counselor, college instructor, and coordinator of a hospital-based Employee Assistance Program. She has conducted hundreds of lively seminars for businesses, civic organizations, and non-profit groups on building personal skills and enhancing relationships. She has a bachelor’s degree in Education, a master’s in Management, and a master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Kathleen and her co-author, Betsy Smith, Ph.D., wrote the award-winning book Second Blooming for Women: Growing a Life That Matters after Fifty. Both women are accomplished speakers. For more information, you can visit http://www.secondbloomingforwomen.com.