I look at a face: the lines and contours, the furrowed brow, the eyes, and then down to the hunched shoulders. Already I can see attitude: whether negativity, envy, indifference and hate. It’s like the body acts as a preview to a person’s attitude before a word even escapes their lips. Somehow, we sense it and feel it, and then make judgments of people based on their attitude.
If we are aware of our poor attitude, we might try to hide it in the shadows. Back straight, shoulders square, a kind smile on our face and we now have it concealed. But we’ve only masked the outward expression of our attitude by managing its symptoms. Inner transformation is much harder to achieve.
If we’re not aware of our poor attitude we might look into the mirror, closely observing the expression on our faces; but no, we can’t see the attitude others see. We discover our attitudes by going deeper, reflecting on the way we interact in different contexts: at home, work, sport, restaurants, places of worship and other social settings.
We can discover our attitude in these social contexts because we bring it with us into our engagement with the world: into the way we see it (Has it been good or bad to us?) and into our position within it (What kind of influence do we have within it?).
If our experiences have been negative, we’ll find it reflected in our attitude and behaviour.
Multiple negative experiences, stamped onto our attitudes will result in a lack of peace. And the people in each of our social contexts won’t fail to see it.
We can’t control many of the negative impacts of the world on us, but we can control our attitude and how we respond to what the world throws at us.
Viktor Frankl experienced terrible mistreatment in a Nazi concentration camp. After everything was taken from him he said to his tormentors “the one thing you cannot take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
When a poor attitude is embedded into our psyche, the new mentality, behaviour and actions to change it may be the most difficult battle we will fight. But it’s the most important battle to win.
If we don’t win this battle it will negatively affect every social space. For example, the job we desire will be difficult to get, our relationships suboptimum and splintered, our marriage strained and children distant and our emotional and physical health in decline.
If I’m honest, I’ve identified four things in my own attitude that come back like dark clouds every now and then. I picture them in the following way:
I have found that if any one of the four attitudes is triggered in my life the others follow and a downward spiral occurs. This may be the same for you.
If we can identify the triggers, we can prevent the negative feedback loop. However, if we change our mental state, behaviour and actions in response to the trigger, we can retain the “last of our freedoms” – and with it, our inner peace.
The peace we can experience personally and which we can then bring to every context begins with us and our attitude.
What really helped me to discover my bad attitude and how to transform it were the following steps:
- Reflect on how you interact in different social contexts
- Identify four negative attitudes that you see affecting others
- Discover the triggers of your negative attitudes
- Pinpoint the feelings that are associated with your negative attitudes
- Recognise your behaviours that result from your negative feelings
- Describe the kind of thinking and behaviour you would like to adopt in response to challenging situations
- Identify a person with whom you can be accountable
- Measure your progress regularly to see if change is occurring
- Associate with people who have attitudes you want to model
I hope these steps can help you to adopt an attitude that will help to transform and create peace in your world too.
The steps suggested in this blog are an adaptation of those found in John Maxwell’s book, ‘Developing the Leader Within You.’