“Nothing has changed but my attitude; everything has changed.”—Anthony DeMello
Years ago, I spent several weeks in Asia, where I immersed myself in Eastern cultural practices. When I returned to my post as a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, I had a meeting with the dean in her office. I glanced at a book on her sofa and saw part of the title, “Tea-Ching.”
Still basking in the afterglow of my trip, I exclaimed, “Oh, I see you have an interest in Asia, too.” She looked at me as if I were crazy and held up the book so I could see the whole title, Teaching in the Elementary School. My frame of reference brought an entire set of assumptions about the dean and her interests that were actually about my experiences, not hers.
It’s In Your Hands: Your Attitude Determines How Happy And Successful You Become.
Source: Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash
If you’re like most people, you unknowingly enter a new situation with a certain mindset based on your past experiences as I did. Sometimes these distortions can be problematic because you’re operating on dinosaur beliefs, not present-moment awareness.
It’s amazing how your mind can trap you when it uses you, and yet you’re not aware of it. The key is to be mindful that your outdated mindset can be inaccurate, even self-defeating. When you set your sights in a certain direction, the mind sees what it expects to see. If you look for misery, you find it. If you look for success, you find it. This seems like a simple idea, but don’t let the simplicity obscure the firepower and far-reaching possibilities it injects in the quality of your life. These 10 tips can help you sidestep your mind’s distorted perspective and adjust your attitude so you can live happily, successfully, and fully.
10 Tips to Change Your Attitude for Happiness and Success
1. Re-frame. Every time you get caught in the difficulty of the moment, take a breath and give yourself a few minutes to step back from the situation. This gives your reptile brain (old or emotional brain) time to settle down from flooding you so your rational brain (new brain) can re-frame the situation and look for the opportunity in the difficulty. Baseball great Babe Ruth said, “Every time I strike out, it brings me closer to my next home run.” Every loss has a gain; every downside has an upside; every difficulty contains an opportunity. When you take time to look for it, you become calmer, stronger, and more successful.
2. Cultivate a “Growth Mindset.” Consider that each disappointment—no matter how discouraging—is a lesson to learn, not a failure to endure, that it can teach you something to help you grow. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has noted: “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.” Situations often won’t work out to suit you because life isn’t designed for your convenience. Imagine that disappointment is your “tor-mentor” or teacher, and ask how you can learn and grow from it. Look the “tor-mentor” straight in the eye and ask, “What do you have to teach me that will make me wiser, more resilient, and lead me to happiness and success?”
3. Halt “stinkin’ thinkin’.” Jumping to conclusions without evidence gives you a distorted view of your predicament, leaves little room for clarity, and leads to bad decision-making. The writer Virginia Woolf said, “The mind, which is most capable of receiving impressions, is very often the least capable of drawing conclusions. Talking back to your thoughts is one of the best tools in modern mental health for self-assurance. When you catch your thoughts predicting negative outcomes, talk to them and remind them that forecasting the future rarely yields the truth. Tell them, ‘I’ve got this,’ or ‘I’ll deal with whatever happens.'” You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary misery by questioning automatic thoughts and waiting to see if the hard evidence supports them.
4. Keep a Wide-Angle Lens. A negative mindset constricts possibilities and keeps you self-centered. When your focus is narrow (like the zoom lens of a camera), you build up blind spots of negativity without realizing it. Motivational speaker Les Brown said, “The only limits to the possibilities in your life tomorrow are the buts you use today.” Replace your “zoom lens” with a “wide-angle lens” and think about the big picture. A broad perspective allows you to see more possibilities that your zoom lens clouds out and to have gratitude for the many joys in life.
5. Embrace Maybe. If you’re like most people, you count on certainty and predictability to manage your life. But the only thing you can truly count on is uncertainty. The writer Allison Carmen said, “’Maybe’ is just one change or perspective, but it’s one that changes everything.” Life will not always cooperate with you and fit into your plans. Get comfortable with the uncertainty of your future, for in the uncertainty, unexpected solutions often emerge and many gifts come to you. Learning to live with “maybe” helps you become more comfortable with uncertainty and loosens you up to the fact that for every possibility there are numerous ways situations can work out.
6. Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There! Doing nothing gives your mind and body a chance to go through withdrawal from overdoing it and makes space for renewed energy and creativity. Psychotherapist David Kundtz said, “Creativity thrives on doing nothing. In the moments that might seem empty, what has been there all along in some embryonic form is given space and comes to life.” When you commit to a more balanced life, you begin to notice you can just be without always having to do. These are the times when clarity of mind occurs and solutions to life’s problems hatch. Make a to-be list alongside your to-do list so you can spend more empty moments to soothe your decision-fatigued mind and adjust your frame of reference.
7. Recall Your “Tallcomings.” The writer Ella Wheeler Wilcox said, “A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but it is miles ahead in results.” When your inner critic lashes you for your shortcomings, give yourself the gift of a balanced view of your capabilities. Throw modesty out the window, and name as many of your accomplishments as you can—what you’re good at, the skills and talents you possess, and what you’ve achieved that gets eclipsed when your faultfinder screams at you. Replace oppressive self-talk with more empowering and compassionate words like, “I can” or “I want to” or “I plan to” instead of oppressive words such as “I have to” or “I must” or I should.”
8. Amp Up Self-Care. Self-care makes your use of time more sustainable. Healthy eating, rest, and regular exercise give you the stamina to withstand any curveball your fast-paced life throws at you. The musician Eubie Blake said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” When was the last time you soaked in a hot bath, meditated, or got a massage? Make a 15-minute appointment with yourself and schedule personal time. You will have more to give to and receive from your loved ones, friends, and career.
9. Spit Shine Your Electronic Habits. Can you unplug long enough to enjoy life’s other pleasures? Or are you a click away from being leashed 24/7? The following quote has been attributed to scientist Albert Einstein, although many say he never said it: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” As electronic devices invade your private space, you face the challenge of protecting your personal time, holding a reasonable pace, and staying connected to friends and loved ones in a human way. Think of your devices as a romantic partner. It’s great having them around most of the time, but it’s nice to give your mind a break once in a while, too.
10. Practice Empathy. The writer Tennessee Williams said, “Hell is yourself and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person.” Empathy connects you to what others are feeling and frees you from narrow, negative thoughts and snap judgments. It neutralizes your hard feelings and imbues you with a softer, kinder approach to disputes and difficult people. Empathy gives you control over situations that you cannot control, keeping you calm, cool, and collected. It keeps your integrity intact and helps you respond in a way that promotes fairness and goodwill.
A Final Word
Whatever you look for is waiting for you. When you look for a bad outcome, it can turn out that way simply because you think and behave in ways that fit with your perspective. It’s not what life brings that determines your happiness and success; it’s your attitude about what life brings that makes the difference.