Life. It happens. And as we progress through it, we have wonderful successes, some abysmal failures, and lots of stuff in between these two extremes that we define as okay, pretty good, not-so-good, or neutral.
Sometimes, when we go through a period of not-so-good with a few abysmal failures thrown in, we develop a pattern of negative thinking that becomes a habit. So, even when things are pretty good, or a success happens, our habit will not let us celebrate that good. What we have is a bad attitude – kind of a nasty illness, actually – that keeps us stuck in our negativity. That’s when we need an attitude adjustment.
If you think you might have contracted this illness and need an attitude adjustment, you can use the following 7 symptoms as a diagnosis, along with some suggestions for getting over it.
1. Everybody Around You has Become Irritating
Even little things are bothering you. A friend calls and asks a simple favor; a co-worker reminds you about a deadline coming up; your boss sends an email asking you to change or revise something; the person in the checkout line ahead of you is taking too long; the guy driving in front of you is going to slow; you ordered a burger with no pickles and got pickles; your partner/spouse forgot to put the cap back on the toothpaste. This is what you focusing on as you go through your days. If this sounds familiar, it is a symptom of a bad attitude.
When you find yourself irritated or offended, ask yourself one question: “Will this matter 5 years from now?” Even one year from now? Even one month from now? This type of question causes reflection. And reflection can often give us perspective. When we begin to look at things in a wider perspective, we will be able to see that these little things that others do that are irritating are pretty meaningless, and often there is a pretty simple attitude adjustment you can do.
If the favor a friend is asking is just too much to do right now, simply explain why you can’t honor that request right now. Pickles can be removed from the burger without spending time berating the server. You can put the cap back on the toothpaste and ask your partner to try to remember to do that. Tell your boss, you’ll make the changes and just do it – finishing the task gets it off your plate and out of your mind.
2. Other People’s Successes Bother You, Make You Jealous or Bitter
You find that you are not able to celebrate the successes that other people have. Instead, you somehow link someone else’s success to your not having success. This makes you jealous, bitter, and resentful. The truth is, no one else’s success can prevent your own.
Life is not a competition. Competition is reserved for contests and athletic events, and even then there are people who out-perform others. There will always be people who out-perform you, and you will always out-perform some others. That’s the way life works. But to deny someone else your praise and recognition when s/he has a success means you are becoming pretty self-centered and actually need an attitude adjustment.
Set your own goals and work toward them, rather than sit on the sidelines watching others go after theirs. You have unique skills and talents to offer. Take those skills and talents and turn them into challenging and out-of-the-box goals that you can achieve with effort.
When you focus on your own goals, you can see that the successes of others have nothing to do with what you are doing and accomplishing, so of course, you can celebrate them. Just as you want them to celebrate yours.
3. You Have Developed the “Yes, but” Mindset
When good things happen, you find yourself looking for what is missing, for how it could have been better. Here is a typical example. You have a large amount of credit card debt, and you have set a goal of getting it paid off.
So, you develop a plan for how you are going to work on one card at a time, get it paid off and then apply all of that monthly payment to the next card. It’s a good plan and it is working. You get the first account paid off.
Instead of praising yourself and celebrating the accomplishment, the first thing out of your mouth is, “Yes, but that’s only the first one. I have 5 more to go.” Wow. You are letting the remaining “negatives” of those “5 more to go” dominate your thinking and the present wonderful experience.
When something good happens, stop. Praise it, wallow in it, and feel good about it. Find something tangible to do to celebrate it. If you get one credit card account paid off, how can you reward yourself? Can you call your friends and set up a happy hour? Do you have enough in your checking account to buy those new shoes or that new golf club you have been coveting? (Don’t charge it).
Doing something to celebrate something good moves you into a more positive mindset and motivates you to bring more good your way.
4. You Ruminate
You’ve had a disagreement with a co-worker or an argument with a friend. Once it is over, you spend what’s left of your day and evening going through it all again in your mind, thinking about what you should have said, what you could have said, the hurt and/or anger you feel and the things you want to say to them next.
You re-hash and you re-hash until you are lying awake in bed still thinking about it. You might also be ruminating about the future – all of the things that could go wrong that you need to worry about now. If you constantly play out negative scenarios in your head and allow yourself to be nervous, anxious and stressed, you certainly need an attitude adjustment.
Get up out of bed. Go to your computer and write that person a letter. Of course, you will probably never send it, but write it anyway. Get all of your thoughts and feelings out and committed to a Word document. If your rumination is about the future, write down those worries.
Then write down what would be the worst-case scenario if any of these imagined negatives were to actually happen. Once you get everything out and in writing, you will be able to release the negative thoughts, get some sleep, and move forward. You’ve had our say; you’ve discovered that the worst-case scenarios will not kill you. It’s over.
5. Everyone Has It Better Than You
A friend has come into an inheritance; a co-worker got a new job with a big raise; your neighbor just bought a brand new car; you are divorcing while your best friend has found a soul mate and is getting married.
It’s so easy to get into the mindset that everyone else has it better if you have the “bad attitude” disease and need an attitude adjustment. In fact, this is a major symptom of it. No matter what we may have, we can always find others who have more or better. This consumes our thinking a lot.
Get thee to a homeless shelter or to a children’s cancer ward and volunteer. As you engage in these kinds of activities, your 5-year old car with 100,000 miles on it begins to look just fine. Your paycheck that pays your bills and lets you take a vacation looks pretty darn good.
That divorce? You have your health and the ability to move into new social circles and seek new relationships. You will develop gratitude for all that you have. Make a sign that says “Gratitude” and put it on your fridge. And every time you start to have a pity party, think of that child with cancer or that homeless mother with two kids.
6. You Have to Be Right No Matter What the Cost
We all have discussions, sometimes pretty heated, with those whose opinions and points of view are different from ours. And sometimes we can get into pretty silly arguments about petty things.
We might argue about when a song came out or who sang it; we may argue about who played the leading role in a movie; we may argue about bigger things like climate change. We refuse to give in and will spend time locating the facts so we can prove we were right and the other person wrong. And then we have to show those facts to that person and gloat that we were right.
The cost of this can be a friendship. And if we do it often enough, it can cost a relationship. No one wants to be around someone with an attitude like this.
Everyone’s opinions have value, even if they are not yours. If you have a need to always be right, it is a sign of some pretty major self-esteem issues and perhaps an attitude that others have no value to you. This is serious. And it is very isolating. One possible attitude adjustment is to stop engaging others in conversations on topics which you know you will never agree upon.
Find topics of conversation that are lighter and enhance your relationships with them. And stop going online to prove that a song was written or performed in a certain year by a certain artist. Who cares? Your need to be right only defines you as a self-righteous person that no one else wants to be around.
7. Your Closest Friends Are Commenting on Your Attitude
When 3 of your closest friends – and that may include your partner, begin to comment on your negativity, you need to listen. Three people all saying the same thing is a pretty good sign that something is wrong and you need an
attitude adjustment .
Go through the previous 6 symptoms and analyze your behaviors. If any of them fit, take the recommended fix.
So, how did you do? Do you have any symptoms? Have those closest to you made mention of any of these symptoms? Regularly assessing our behavior with respect to these 6 may just bring about the attitude adjustment we need.
Yes, life happens. But our attitude determines our responses and, ultimately, our happiness.
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