14 Ways to Improve Your Attitude

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1. Develop Attitude Awareness
“Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.” ~Dale Carnegie
The first step towards developing a great attitude is to better understand your present attitude. To do this, take the following attitude inventory:
If you could sell your attitude, how much would you get for it?
If your attitude were stolen, would that be a good or bad thing?
When were you most motivated during your entire life? How long ago was that?
What is currently helping your attitude? What is hurting it?
What do you need to do less of? What do you need to do more of?
How consistent is your attitude from day-to-day and week-to-week?
What experience(s) do you need to forget and move past?
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Where will you be in five years with your present attitude?
Almost every part of your life either takes from or helps your attitude as few things are attitude-neutral. This means the people, music, media, activities, and work in your life will either contribute to or reduce your ability to maintain a great attitude. It is helpful to keep an attitude journal where you record your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. With each entry, you can assess the current state of your attitude and factors that are working to strengthen or weaken your attitude. Keeping an attitude journal is helpful because it will help you identify things that either charge your attitude or deplete it.


2. Eliminate Things that Drain Your Attitude
Life is never static. Sometimes we acquire certain habits, relationships, and perspectives that at one time helped us, but, for whatever reason, are no longer positive influences in our lives. It is useful to apply zero-based thinking, where you ask, knowing what I now know, would I start [fill in the blank with whatever you are assessing]? If the answer is no, then it is something that you should probably stop. For example, would I start smoking? No. Then stop smoking. Would I start dating my current boyfriend or girlfriend? No. Then I should stop dating them.
Each day there are a number of activities that we engage in that don’t really help us or our attitudes. It is helpful to pinpoint the things – both internally and externally – that are holding us and our attitudes back. For me, this includes too much internet time, working on too many competing goals, or doing unimportant tasks. Other attitude-depleting actions include the mental habits of distractibility, negative thinking, finding fault in yourself or others, or speaking negative words. We will find that if we will weed out these negative thoughts, words, and actions from our lives, we will feel great and our attitudes will soar.


3. Charge Your Attitude Daily
“Attitudes are like iPhones. Best thing ever, will solve practically all your problems and then some, but you have to keep them plugged in at all times.” ~T. N.T.
In addition to eliminating negativity from our lives, we should proactively seek to feed our attitude each day. Like smart phones, we have to keep our attitudes charging constantly. The best way to do this is by feeding our minds consistently with inspirational stories, audio programs, books, and so forth. Specifically, we should devote at least five minutes each day to studying attitude and the things that will help improve it. Other ways to charge your attitude include spending time with uplifting people, relaxing in nature, listening to good music, reading, exercising, helping other people, volunteering with a worthy cause, or doing other activities that help lift your spirits and boost your mood.


4. Develop Optimism
Most often, however, the number one thing that holds us back is past experiences, or rather, our interpretation of past experiences. One of the challenges of life is to let life’s blessings (rather than its difficulties) tint the color of our personal perception glasses. Everyone will have difficult experiences. The difference between an optimist and pessimist, however, is that the optimist focuses on the good, whether occurring in the past, present, or future, while the pessimist fixates on the negative.
In order to develop optimism, it is sometimes necessary to jettison our personal baggage, the collection of personal experiences that caused us pain or may have damaged our sense of self-worth or confidence. This includes forgiving those that may have hurt us in order to move on with life. Instead of reflecting on past hardships, we should focus on those times in our lives when we were both happiest and most successful.


5. Develop Positive Expectations
“The last of human freedoms – the ability to chose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” ~Viktor E. Frankl
One of my favorite stories is of a man who gave his little boy, who was driving everyone nuts with his excessively sugary attitude, a pile of manure for his birthday. Expecting to walk in on his depressed son, the man was surprised when he sees his son excitedly digging through the manure. The man asked his son what he was doing. The boy replied with enthusiasm, “With all this manure, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!” Life is like that. You always have to look for the pony.
It is difficult to keep expectations high if life has dashed our hopes to pieces. But the truth is that we usually get what we expect. Thus, it is better to aim high and miss, then to aim low and hit the target. In high school, I was hoping to win the state championship for the mile and break my high school record for the event. I accomplished neither. But I did come in seventh place at states and was second fastest ever for my high school in the mile. Better to deal with the happy disappointment of an almost victory than the regret that occurs when we didn’t give it our best shot.
Positive expectations are so powerful because they become self-fulfilling prophecies. As an experiment, tell yourself each morning for a week that today is going to be a great day. Chances are that you will have more great days than bad days. Take it further. Tell yourself that something absolutely wonderful is going to happen to you. Chances are that it will happen. I did this once, and 15 minutes later my mortgage guy called and helped me re-finance into a better rate, saving me thousands of dollars.
As a side benefit, other people are attracted to highly positive people, so maybe that wonderful event might include meeting the man or woman of your dreams. Conversely, if you always expect that your relationships won’t work out, then perhaps that is at least part of the reason they have not.


6. Developing Self-Confidence
“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” ~Ralph Marston
Developing self-confidence is crucial to improving your attitude. I am willing to bet that you have never met a person with a fantastic attitude that did not belief in themself. You can develop self-confidence through both inside-out and outside-in approaches. With an inside-out approach, concentrate on positive thoughts and establishing self-supporting as opposed to self-limiting beliefs. With an outside-in approach, you merely have to act as if you already have self-confidence. Either way, it is helpful to focus on building confidence in the specific areas that you struggle. This might include public speaking, dancing, mingling at parties, being assertive, handling conflict constructively, or talking with those of the opposite gender. In addition, it also means “doing the thing you fear” such as mastering a specific skill at work or overcoming a dreaded subject or class at school.


7. Embrace Your Dreams
“They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
There are only three types of people when it comes to dreams: those who pursue their dreams, those who shrink them, and those that shirk them. Which are you? Give yourself permission to have big dreams, pursue them, and encourage the dreams of others. All great things first started as the result of someone having the courage to dream. Pursuing dreams is critical to maintaining a great attitude. After all, a bad attitude is usually the result of having given up on life and dreams. However, it is important to pursue your dreams in a thoughtful, deliberate way in order to increase your chance at succeeding.
When striving to bring your dreams into reality, keep in mind the following four Ps: picture, potential, possibility, and path. A dream is potential picture of an ideal future. The clearer your dream is, the greater the chance you will be able to bring it to fruition and make it real. In order to flesh out and clarify your dream, it is helpful to draw a picture or write a description of it.
Next, it is helpful to assess the potential value of your dream before you invest substantial time and energy into it. Pursuing a dream with full commitment can be all consuming so you should ensure that you (and hopefully other people) stand to benefit from your dream. For instance, if you dream of being an author, make sure you are writing about a topic or story that is very important to you and your intended audience. Some dreams are self-serving or have little potential and thus, aren’t worth much time. In contrast, other dreams like finding a cure to cancer obviously have great potential value and are worth the great effort needed to obtain them.
Possibility is also important to consider when evaluating your dream. While you shouldn’t get discouraged because no one has achieved your dream, you should at least ask the question, why haven’t they? Keep in mind that someone always has to be first. When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, it was common wisdom that it “couldn’t be done.” And he proved them wrong. But he was also an ideal candidate for fulfilling the dream because he had been training for years and was within striking distance of the target.
The final step in bringing your dream into reality is to discover the path to its fulfillment. Very often a dream that initially may seem impossible becomes possible once a path is discovered. The stronger your desire is, the more likely you will find a way. “If you really want something you can figure out how to make it happen” (Cher). You will find that as you walk towards your dream with positive expectancy, the way to fulfill the dream will gradually unfold to your view.


8. Develop a Plan
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” ~Gloria Steinem
We should always have a plan with at least two parts. The first part covers how we will maintain a great attitude, including all the things we will do on a regular basis to support a positive attitude. After all, our attitude has the potential to become one of our greatest assets if we will develop it. The second part covers everything else, i.e., what we are hoping to accomplish with your great attitude.
Planning is critical because it ensures that your dreams won’t falter in the execution phase. While no plan is perfect, a plan serves its purpose if it gets you moving in the right direction and helps you understand many, if not all, of the important steps that need to be taken. Plans always change and evolve as circumstances require, which is fine as long as the plan helps you get closer to the dream. Thomas Edison’s underscored the importance of planning when he said “[g]ood fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”


9. Take Action
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.” ~General George S. Patton
Have you ever met someone that was all talk and no action? Forever talking about certain ambitions
and dreams, but never acting? In order to keep a great attitude, it is helpful to achieve, at least some of the time, good results. But good results never come unless and until there is deliberate action on your part. Very often a person with a defeated attitude is also the same person who never does anything to improve their lot in life. If you want to improve your attitude, then develop the habit of self-discipline and start taking action every day, striving to achieve some small victories. These victories will help you keep your spirits up as you strive to achieve consistently greater things.


10. Stay Focused
Besides inaction, the next obstacle to overcome is a lack of focus. Some people are always running in 50 different directions. As a result, it is hard to accomplish much of value. Your attitude will improve if you focus on improving it, refusing to get distracted by less important things. A good attitude, when combined with focused action, creates a self-reinforcing upward spiral that eventually yields good results. A good attitude energizes you to act, focused action yields progress, and good results provide additional fuel for maintaining your attitude.


11. Be Persistent
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close to success they were before they gave up” ~ Thomas Watson
A persistent, resilient attitude helps you cope with difficulties. A good attitude makes the soul like steel, prepared to weather adversity for weeks, if not years. Very often, one will find that storms blow over nearly as quickly as they arise, so long as you remain unshaken. A positive attitude also makes adversity less emotionally painful as an optimist looks for and finds attitude-sustaining joy in small victories even during the longest, most difficult war.


12. Constant Learning
A positive attitude represents an ongoing love of life itself. It means you are still trying to accomplish great things, and are determined to enjoy the journey. Develop the habit of constantly learning and it will do wonders for your attitude. When you learn new things, it gives you a sense of joy and happiness over your newly-acquired knowledge. And if you learn the right things, you will find that you are getting more effective at your daily work, and that goals that were once out-of-reach have become achievable. Develop a thirst for knowledge that can never be satisfied and make sure to use the knowledge to benefit others.


13. Live your ideals
Everyone has a personal set of ideals that governs how they live their life and treat others (some set their standards unfortunately low). Ultimately, people either have to work to bring their conduct up to the level of their ideals, or rationalize their ideals down to the level of their conduct. Setting high personal standards of conduct and consistently living them helps you maintain a great attitude. Living your personal standards engenders self-respect and gives you courage to tackle difficult issues. In addition, others will look up to you for having high integrity, something that is uncommon these days.


14. Take a break
If you find that notwithstanding your best efforts your attitude is still sagging, then you may need some well-earned rest. Without rest, you will eventually become tired, wore out, and flat. In order to keep a great attitude, make sure to rest regularly each day, week, and year. Regular rest will recharge your mind, body, and spirit, which in turn boosts your attitude. After your break, you will be stronger and more eager than ever to get back to work.

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