The Key to Success and Happiness Boils down to Attitude

Tony is a 21-year-old American, living in California, who makes the following comments:

Q 1: “I have a real stale attitude. Life is tough right now and it’s hard for me to stay positive. I’ve lost friends, my girlfriend, my enthusiasm, and sense of humor, all because of my attitude towards things. Can you help?”

A: Well, Tony, although you told us what’s wrong with you, I’d like to start out with what’s right with you; mainly, your attitude about attitude. You see, most people with an attitude problem don’t ask for help. That’s because they think their problems are due to the malice of others or the circumstances they’re in. In either case, they’re innocent victims (so they think). Rather than acknowledge they have an attitude problem, they blame the world for their troubles and play the role of a victim. This is in sharp contrast to you. Congratulations on accepting responsibility for your own behaviour! With this attitude, you are bound to succeed.

By the way, losing your girlfriend is not a bad thing. It is a natural part of growing up. You need to make mistakes to learn what to avoid doing. You’re just turning 21, and if you’re anything like the average North American male, you need another 3~4 years to mature emotionally and mentally. When dating, avoid looking for love because if you find it you may get married (and have children). The current North American divorce rate is currently 42~43%, which makes marriage a risky business. Why increase your chances of getting divorced by getting married before you are fully mature?

Before developing a serious relationship with a woman, keep in mind the profound emotional pain that divorce causes to the spouses and children, to say nothing of the financial havoc caused by divorce settlements and alimony. Divorce can also deal a heavy blow to the self-esteem of those who perceive it as a personal failure. Does it seem strange that I’m talking about divorce now? It’s not. The time to think about it is w-a-y before contemplating marriage. When dating at your age, don’t look for love, but look for companionship, friends, fun, and learning experiences. As an added bonus, when you are not looking for love, there is less pressure on you, and your relaxed, nonchalant attitude will make you more attractive to women.

Also remember that in four years, you will be another person. You will be more mature, wiser, more knowledgeable, and more confident and capable. Consequently, the calibre of women you attract will be higher than those you currently attract. So, don’t rush into anything and don’t get concerned about breakups.

Q 2: “I am about 5’5” and a lot shorter than I’d like to be. I really think this could be a strong reason why I lack in confidence.”

A: Tony, you soar 5” taller than Danny DeVito, who is a GIANT in the world of entertainment. Like him, you can use any of your perceived weaknesses as a source of strength. For example, a very short man may say to himself, “True, the world may not take notice of a short man, but I will make them take notice of me by becoming extraordinary in some field!” This is called compensation. We make up for ‘weaknesses’ in one area by becoming strong in another. If you were 6’4”, there would be less pressure on you to succeed; so, being ‘short’ is a blessing in disguise, forcing you to think of positive ways for you to stand out.

Q 3: “Also, I should mention that I tend to always be at a loss for words and I wish I sounded more confident when I speak to people. Becoming a better listener will help me with that, so I’ve read.”

A: Becoming a better listener will make you wiser, but not a better speaker. Joining a public speaking club will make you a better speaker. I suggest you join Toastmasters International. If you were to do so, you will gain complete confidence in speaking. To find a Toastmasters Club near you, visit this web site: Toastmasters International may be your salvation. You may find that it is just what you need to become extraordinary. You see, public speaking is the greatest fear that most people have.* So, if you become a good public speaker, you will be able to do what most people cannot, making you exceptional. But how can you learn how to become a good speaker? Not to worry, Toastmasters will provide you with the training, tools, and opportunities you will need to excel.

*The Top 10 Fears Are:

1. Fear of public speaking
2. Fear of death
3. Fear of spiders
4. Fear of darkness
5. Fear of heights
6. Fear of people or social situations
7. Fear of flying
8. Fear of open spaces
9. Fear of thunder and lightning
10. Fear of confined spaces

Q 4: “I work at a telemarketing job and am not so happy with it. I really just want to be positive and stop living so pessimistically.”

A: You have probably heard the expression, “If you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere.” Well, when it comes to jobs, if you can make it in telemarketing, you can make it in any job. It is unquestionably the toughest job there is emotionally. Sales people have to learn how to cope with rejection. Traveling Sales Reps have to take scores of rejections each week; door-to-door sales people, scores each day, and telemarketers, scores each and every hour. So, you may want to change jobs.

Yet, telemarketing also presents excellent opportunities. Because of the huge turnover, those who remain and succeed will find themselves being promoted. Because of the enormous challenge, successful telemarketers will live in a constant state of exhilaration. It all boils down to attitude. With the right one, the job becomes a game or sporting event. The telemarketer may imagine he or she is in a contest for the title of World’s Greatest Salesperson. It can be fun and educational to learn how to overcome sales objections and become a master of persuasion.

Q 5: “I have automatic thoughts sometimes that just happen to be negative. I looked up something called cognitive thinking which I believe is something that may help me with my negative thinking and attitude.”

A: Once again, Tony, you are proving that you are made of the right stuff. For while you are asking someone for advice, you are also doing your own research, realizing that ultimately your success and happiness lies in your hands. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be very helpful in turning around a negative attitude. There are many excellent books available that you can use to work on yourself. One example is: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook For Dummies by Rhena Branch and Rob Willson.

Q 6: “I live with my parents, and I don’t really have many friends and believe I have social anxiety. I hate that about myself. I was very outgoing as a child and made friends quite easily. I spend most of my social time with my girlfriend or my best friend who is pretty positive. He made a lot of money last year. We are the same age and went to school together. He went from having a bankroll of $2,000 to $160,000 almost overnight. He won a poker tournament online and is a pretty positive guy overall. But sometimes I guess I’m kind of jealous of his lifestyle and really want the free time and the nice things…”

A: Social anxiety is quite common and easy enough to overcome with the proper guidance. For help in this area, see this page.

Comparing ourselves to others is pointless because we are all different and grow at different rates. Those who progress slowly today may in the future surpass all the people they presently envy. So, rather than focusing on your friend’s success, focus on your own self-improvement.

Be careful what you wish for. You said you wish for free time and nice things. What’s wrong with that? Let’s start with free time. Beggars have lots of free time, but that’s about all they have. Highly successful people may appear to have little free time, but they sure have plenty of happy time. They’re happy about their many accomplishments, financial security, and the exciting challenges they face daily. So, what is it that you want: free time or happy time? Once again, be careful of what you wish for.

What’s wrong with wishing for nice things? There is the danger that you will mistakenly believe nice things will bring happiness. This type of attitude leads to an endless chase after possessions that leads not to happiness, but to momentary pleasure that quickly fades and is followed by feelings of frustration and emptiness. Happiness doesn’t come from things outside us, it comes from within. As I read in the India Times, “If an egg is broken by an outside force… a life ends. If an egg breaks from within… life begins. Great things always begin from within.”

Q 7: “I just want things to change for myself, I want to be happy and start thinking more positive. I want to find my true self and change my ways of thinking. I want to be independent and have a better sense of humor. There’s so much more I want and know I can do; it just seems like I can’t grasp hold of it.

A: Instead of saying, “I just want things to change for myself,” try saying, “I just want to change things for myself.” Do you see the difference? The first sentence is just a wish; it’s like saying, “Okay world, I’m sitting here and would like things to change, so go ahead and change for me.” That’s not the way the real world works. You see, wishes don’t work. Self-help books or articles don’t work. Only people do. In a word, nothing will work unless you do. The second sentence recognizes this fact and that we are responsible for our own success.

The book I mentioned in the answer to Question No. 5 will help you, Tony, to become a positive thinker and be happy.

I don’t know if you realize how profound you were when you wrote, I want to find my true self…” After all, how many people do you know that have said that? Again, this indicates that Tony is on to something, and with a little effort will make significant, positive changes in his life. To express our true self, or live authentically, is one of the hallmarks of extraordinary men and women. To learn more about tyhis important subject, read, Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken: Transform Your Life with the Power of Authenticity by Mike Robbins.

Now that I have answered most of Tony’s questions, I’d like to fill in the blanks by discussing two more issues: 1) The Importance of a positive attitude, 2) How to turn a negative attitude into a positive one.

The Importance of a Positive Attitude

Make no mistake about it; a good attitude is critical for success and happiness.

1. According to a global Internet poll, the most important factors for happiness are:

  • A positive mental attitude, 56%
  • Love, 25%
  • Accomplishments, 8%
  • Creative activity, 7%
  • Money, 4%

2. A Harvard University study found that when people are hired, 85% of the time it is because of their attitude and only 15% of the time because of their knowledge and skill set.

3. Researchers from two universities studied 1,500 people for seven years. They found that those who had a positive attitude showed less signs of aging, were less likely to become frail, and were more likely to be stronger and healthier than those that had a negative attitude.

Positive Attitude Means Longer Life

4. Attitude is about how people think, feel, and act. And the way we feel determines how we act and the responses we get.

Consider this, our attitude determines:

  • Whether we see opportunity or problems ahead
  • Whether we live a life of joyous adventure or fearsome struggles and suffering
  • Whether we live with enthusiasm and passion or dread and apathy
  • Whether we live with hope, courage, and confidence, and positive expectations or despair, fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt
  • Whether we have radiant health or are subject to all manner of illnesses
  • Whether people are happy when we arrive or happy when we leave
  • Whether we attract success, opportunity, powerful allies or a life of mediocrity or impoverishment, and failure
  • Whether we are happy or sad
  • Whether we live purposeful or meaningless lives
  • Whether we live with gratitude and appreciation or frustration and resentment
  • Whether we live in a state of stress or peace of mind
  • Whether we build powerful relationships or alienate ourselves from others
  • Whether we are inspired and energetic or depressed and powerless
  • Whether we win respect and admiration or gain disdain and scorn

In summary, our attitude is the foundation for success and happiness. It is a gift you give yourself. You don’t develop a positive attitude for others, but do it for yourself. But we already know this, don’t we?

How to Turn Around a Negative Attitude

1. CBT (See the recommended book in the answer to Question No. 5)

2. The Mind Manual System. This is a worthwhile 21-day course ($29.97) that consists of brief audio files, work sheets, and guided meditations. Learn about it here.

3. Act as if you already have a positive attitude. This is a very powerful method, for even if you’re just pretending, the people you interact with don’t know that, so they respond in a very positive way. And their favourable response makes you feel good, which then leads to your positive thoughts and behaviour. Have fun with this effective technique. Pretend you are a famous movie star or a notable theatrical performer and give your best performance. Each time you use this technique, you are using others to mold your personality. It’s a life-changing and magical technique first expounded by William James (1842-1910).

4. Most of the time we act on auto pilot. That is, we act without thinking, or unconsciously. To develop your power of choice, you need to get into the habit of making conscious choices and immediately following through. Why is it important to strengthen our power of choice? Because the power of choice is the power to change. And once we have the power to change, we can change our attitude or any other bad habit.

5. Motivate yourself to change and reinforce your positive behavior by monitoring your progress.  Keep a gratitude journal and a victory journal. Record your success and what you are thankful for.

6. Beware of what you say to yourself and others, and be careful of what you daydream about because every time you speak or daydream you are programming your subconscious for success or failure, for a positive or negative attitude. Make sure whatever you say or daydream about is positive.

7. Take vitamins for the mind; fortify your mind with inspirational and motivational books, videos, and CDs or audio files.

8. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t. Remember, “I can” is more important than I.Q.

9. Would you say that the Internet does more harm or good? I’m surprised by how many people believe it does more harm than good. Perhaps this is a good example of finding what we look for. By that I mean when we look for something to complain about, that’s what we’ll find. Returning to the Internet, instead of looking for the harm or good, suppose I look for the facts. What do the experts say?

According to the online Social Capital Review, “The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University recently interviewed 895 technology experts, stakeholders and critics as part of a series of surveys about the evolution and social impact of online technologies. Eighty-five percent of them thought that the Internet has been mostly a positive influence in their social worlds and that those benefits would only continue to increase.”

The point I’m trying to make here is if we look for the good, we’ll find it. So, look for it.

10. Regardless how horrible our fate may be, we have the power to change our attitude. If Victor E. Frankl could change his in a Nazi concentration camp, we can change ours. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he writes: “We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of his freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

11. Here’s another helpful book, Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude: How to Find, Build and Keep a YES! Attitude for a Lifetime of SUCCESS by Jeffrey Gitomer.

12. Use motivational quotations as guideposts to a positive attitude. Here are some examples:

“Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.” —Victoria Holt

“There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. That little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.” —W. Clement Stone

“One man gets nothing but discord out of a piano; another gets harmony. No one claims the piano is at fault. Life is about the same. The discord is there, and the harmony is there. Study to play it correctly, and it will give forth the beauty; play it falsely, and it will give forth the ugliness. Life is not at fault.” (Author Unknown)