have found the enemy .... and he is
We noted last time that attitude is tremendously
important in achieving positive behavior change. We can
know what to do and how to do it, but without the motivation
to act, nothing happens. We also noted that
unfortunately, much of our attitude is negative based on
unconscious conditioning over our life. In this article,
we look at ways to reverse the sign, change that "negative" to
Attitudes are habits of thought. And, like all
habits, they can be changed. But it's not
easy. Forming new habits may take days, weeks, months,
or even years. But it can be done.
So where do we start? First, understand that
attitudes, like all habits, give you some degree of internal
satisfaction. Second, analyze the habit as honestly as
possible to learn what kind of satisfaction it gives
you. Third, replace the old habit with a new more
effective habit that offers you greater satisfaction.
The mind does not work in a vacuum - you can't simply erase a
habit and leave an empty space.
For example, suppose you are always pressed for
time. You wake up in the morning with just enough time
to get to work. When you get to the office, yesterdays
unfinished work is piled deep on your desk. Instead of
starting on the pile right away, you have a cup of coffee
trying to decide what to do first. You just know you
will never get your desk clean again. You have a habit
of always being rushed.
If you are honest with yourself, you may discover that
you have an attitude of not feeling that you are in control of
your life. The harried schedule is simply a way to
prove you are right. And the need to be right
is a powerful human need. The harried lifestyle is not
the cause of your feeling out of control, it is a habit,
formed to give you the inner satisfaction of being right about
how you feel.
So what do you do about it? First, you
decide you want to change. It is a
decision, not a feeling. It is a deliberate
Second, develop a plan to achieve the change.
Write it down. For example, in the above case, you might
develop a written schedule for your morning routine - what
time to get up so that you have time for breakfast
and maybe even a second cup of coffee and time to read the
morning paper. Then, you might prepare a daily work
schedule. Prioritize your work. Do the most
important things first. Then, as you achieve success,
even for a part of your plan - say you are successful getting
up with time for breakfast for a week - reward
As you achieve success in even parts of your plan, the
benefits of the new habits will begin to outweigh the old
ones. The good feeling you get from even partial success
will outweigh the feelings you had about "proving" yourself
out of control. You'll begin to feel good about being
The process for developing new attitudes is the same
process that developed your existing attitudes - spaced
repetition. Your existing attitudes are a result of
hearing things over and over again. You develop new
attitudes the same way. Advertisers have been using
spaced repetition for years. Even though it may be
irritating to see the same TV commercial back to back,
the advertisers know what they are doing. We have to
hear a message 6 or more times before the message
"sticks". But new research says that we have to be
exposed to a message at least 3 times before we "hear"
it. So do the math. That means we have to be
exposed to the message 18 times or more before it
This is true for developing new attitudes. We have
to be exposed to "attitude adjustment" messages many times
before we experience habit change.
So what kind of messages should we be hearing?
Positive things! There are plenty of positive
motivational materials available - tapes, books, CDs,
DVDs. Look for every positive morsel you can find to
feed your positive self-image.
But realize that unless you consciously seek out and put
something positive into your mind each day, it won't be
done. Most, if not all, of what you will be exposed to
during the normal course of your day will be negative.
The news media ignores good news. It doesn't sell.
Here's another exercise to enhance your positive
image. It sounds simple and it is, but it works.
Make a list of positive statements about yourself and refer to
them daily. Here are a few examples:
- I am capable of being much better.
- I can control what I do.
- I have much to be thankful for.
- What I do is important.
- I am important.
- There are others who care for me and rejoice
in my success.
- There are those who believe in me.
All these statements are true no matter who you are.
If you are a person of faith, you can add to the list the
statement attributed to a little boy, "I'm ok 'cause God made
me and God don't make junk!"
Attitudes are habits. And they can be
changed. Don't let a negative attitude keep you from
being "all you can be".
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