This article is an excerpt from Catherine Goggia’s book, “LIVE IT! Mastering Positive Attitude Habits – 15 Practical Tips for Managing Your Mindset,” available on Amazon:
One of the most common training topics requests I receive is attitude. This topic has been so prominently on my mind, during the 90’s when my cartoons and writings were being published on a regular basis, I realize now that many related to this fascinating and humorous subject.
Initially I wove attitude through the other topics I trained. For example, my communication and team building trainings included attitude content. Eventually though, I had so much attitude material, I pulled it from other topics and combined it into a three hour course. Teaching college classes meant to enhance job skills gave me the opportunity to expand the activities and build on the content because I could focus on attitude for several days. Clients and students said the material and activities changed their lives. Last year all of the work became my attitude book available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble:
When I decided to create an “attitude” training open to the public, I researched the work of others exploring the subject. I was especially interested in practical information similar to the content I had already designed into my classes. I want to share with you two key concepts by doctors Russell Fazio, Ph.D, Psychology, and Mark Snyder, Ph.D, Psychology
#1 Attitude Availability: You have to ‘tune in’ to your attitude in order to see how it drives your behavior.
#2 Attitude Relevance: You have to see your attitude as useful or applicable in order to modify your behavior.
Attitude Availability: I think of attitude availability like an AM/FM radio dial. The signals are all around us, but we can’t hear them unless we tune in. With attitude, I think it’s important to tune in to the signals your body is giving you.
This is the transistor radio my grandmother gave me when I was young. I loved it! I listened to it for hours inside my fort where I also spent lots of time reading Agatha Christie novels. I think of this wonderful little radio when I’m tuning in to my attitude.
I ask my clients where they feel stress. Stop reading for a moment to think about the question for yourself:
- When you are stressed, upset, unhappy, or similar emotions, where do you feel it in your body?
Some common responses from my clients include:
- Burning or pressure sensation in the forehead
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Upset stomach
- Feeling of being tired ‘all over’
The idea is to “tune in” to your body sooner, and interrupt the stressful situation by increasing your awareness of how you feel and why you feel that way.
Without awareness – tuning in – we might go hours or even days in an overly stressed mode without realizing it. Unfortunately, when that’s going on, our emotional reserve is diminished and we might over-react to situations without understanding why we behaved that way. Tuning in to your attitude helps you manage your mindset in several ways, including:
- Accepting responsibility for your attitude
- Thinking of your attitude challenges as opportunities for improvement
- Recognizing what you do and say is important: your interpretation of events and the behaviors that follow impact you and the people around you
Once you tune in to your feelings, you can determine why you feel that way and decide if there are decisions and actions that could ease your stress.
Alternatively, you might discover you are thinking too much about something you can’t do anything about. In that case it’s useful to focus on aspects of your life that you can influence or control. At the very least, you can use the tool of thinking about simple things that make you happy so you can interrupt the cycle of stressful thoughts.
Let’s look at the positive side of tuning in.
When you are content – at peace, happy, excited, and other positive emotions, how does your body respond? How do those feelings translate to a physical experience for you? The attitude goal is to establish habits that help you feel that way more often. In this way you take responsibility for creating a positive state of being instead of allowing external circumstances to control your attitude.
At which points during the day are you at your happiest?
What activities are associated with that time of day?
What ideas do you have for increasing time available for these activities while still maintaining your responsibilities?
Attitude Relevance: when you recognize you are having an attitude struggle, it’s important to ask yourself: “Does my attitude apply to the current situation?”
“Current” means happening right now with this person or people.
Let me explain why this question can be useful. Let’s suppose years ago you had a supervisor who had the horrible habit of asking, “Are you finished with that yet?”, over and over again, “Are you finished with that yet?”
Fast forward to present day, and let’s say you have a great supervisor who recognizes you are overloaded with work and plans to help you if you are struggling to finish your tasks. This supervisor innocently asks, “Are you finished with that yet?” and the next thing you know, you feel completely agitated. You might even say something curt.
Because the emotion you felt in that moment is not relevant to that situation. You are bringing emotions from the past to the present moment, built up frustration from years ago. Your reaction is not appropriate for the situation and creates confusion. Too many reactions of this type and you train people to limit their interactions with you.
The same type of thing can happen in current personal relationships if your partner does or says something that troubled you in past relationships.
Another example with a different type of construct: in your last job you got to feel like the ‘hero’ all the time because the team needed you to fill skill set or knowledge gaps they didn’t have. In the current job people don’t rely on you to be the hero, they just need you to do the job for which you were hired. You tell yourself they are taking you for granted and treating you poorly, when in fact, that’s not the case. Your feelings are about missing your old job more than realistically assessing the current situation. If you were to focus entirely on the current situation, you would realize you took a job that isn’t fulfilling and you would look for another job – not because you are the victim of poor treatment, but because you need to choose a different type of situation for yourself.
What if you ask yourself if your attitude is relevant to the current situation, and your answer is YES.
If it feels relevant check point:
- What is my perspective?
- Is it possible the reality is bigger than my perspective?
- Is it possible my perspective is no longer current?
- Are more or different people involved and how does my attitude impact these relationships?
Once you tune in to your attitude and confirm your feelings and behaviors are relevant to the current situation, you have a basic question to ask:
What, if anything, can I do about this situation?
How should I communicate how I’m feeling so my behaviors make sense to the other person?
- What can I do? Options:
- Distance yourself from the situation so it has less impact on you. Is it possible to engage with the situation less frequently? For example, instead of daily, is weekly a possibility? Instead of weekly, is monthly a possibility?
- Change your relationship to the situation so it has less impact on you. Is it possible to take action to redirect your energy? Examples might include: changing your office location, working somewhere else part time, putting up a taller fence so you don’t have to look at your neighbor, moving further away from people who upset you, driving a different route to work, etc.
- Remove yourself from the situation altogether. If the first two options don’t work, this is an option to consider.
- Communication suggestions:
- “I recognize I act weird every time this happens/comes up and I’d like to explain. In my past relationship…(or) at my past job…”
- “I need to apologize for how I reacted yesterday when you asked me…I’m realizing that question was a trigger for me because…”
Another applicable example (but not something you would necessarily communicate) is when a coworker totally annoys you simply because he/she reminds you of someone else. Maybe their tone of voice, gestures, or mannerisms drive you crazy because they are similar to someone you didn’t like. Your feelings are understandable, but not exactly relevant to this person.
You wouldn’t say, “Sorry I’m so short with you, it’s only because you remind me of someone I didn’t like. I keep trying to avoid interacting with you because you bring back annoying memories.” Ha! Don’t say that!
No good would come of that! Instead, you need to…can you guess? Get over it. Try to focus on other aspects of the person so you don’t attach past feelings to the current moment. Sorry to use ‘get over it’, but I don’t know what else to suggest in that situation!
The remainder of this chapter includes a closing statement, limiting beliefs, supporting beliefs, action planner, and illustrations. This book has already helped people in their jobs and in their personal lives, even if they already thought of themselves as positive people! This is the perfect time for an attitude booster shot – get the book and learn how to manage your attitude before it becomes someone else’s job to try and manager your attitude: