Orchestrating Attitude: Getting the Best from Yourself and Others

Dr. Purushothaman
November 22, 2013

How do you measure success? Is it by financial security, career growth, community involvement, quality of relationships, spiritual centeredness or the legacy you leave? Whichever measure you choose, your attitude is the single most important factor in achieving success.

The topic of attitude can be conceptual and confusing. In fact, as we go through life we often hear phrases like: "keep your chin up," "look on the bright side" or "you need a winning attitude." Unfortunately, we seldom know how to convert these soft sayings into hard results.

This book translates the incomprehensible into the actionable. It is intended to provide you with inspiration and application so you can orchestrate your attitude..... and your success.

The great news is that even in the worst situations - a victim of a natural disaster, prisoner of war, target of abuse or when hit by a string of unfortunate circumstances - your attitude is something you can always control!

When we control our attitude we influence how our body responds and performs. Where our thoughts and attitudes go, our bodies follow. For example, blushing is a physical reaction to a mere thought. If we have this kind of reaction to a thought, is it such a leap of faith to believe that we can orchestrate our attitudes to affect our bodies in beneficial ways?

In fact, a positive attitude can buffer us against some adverse health effects and depression. Researchers who studied 839 patients over a 30-year period found a link between optimism and lower risk of early death. Specifically, optimism early in life predicts good health later in life.

Additionally, a landmark study shed light on the ultimate benefit of a positive attitude. In this particular study, participants who were more positive lived an average of 10 years longer than the other participants. Considering that smoking has been shown to reduce life expectancy by 5.5 years for men and 7 years for women, your attitude might be a health risk factor worth paying real attention to.

The choice of attitude is yours. Tomorrow you will become what you choose today.

Attitude: Concept or Concrete?

Have you ever thought about what makes you say things like: "that guy has a great attitude," or "boy, her attitude is really killing the team?" How do you know if someone's attitude is great or crummy? When most of us hear the word "attitude" we think of a fuzzy concept that somehow makes us happy, sad, content or frustrated.

It is difficult to measure and manage a concept. However, it's easier to manage and measure behavior. That's why I will use a broad definition of attitude: a relatively stable and enduring way to behave. This definition and the following explanation are designed to help you get your mind around the concept of attitude. If we can translate a concept like attitude into concrete behaviors, then we can more easily manage and measure - orchestrate - our attitudes.

How Do Attitudes Develop?

Our attitudes develop from repeatedly thinking, speaking and acting the same way, over and over, until it becomes a stable and enduring way we behave - a habit. Although we can hear and see our attitudes in the words and actions we choose, attitudes start developing with our thoughts.

Our minds are our ultimate personal computers! What we program into them determines how they will function. The most powerful computer ever made, programmed with the wrong software or with bad data, will never function to its capacity. For instance, just as we have viruses (bad data) in today's cyber world that cause computer malfunctions, our mental computers are also susceptible to the data we put into them. If we choose to load them with bad data, it will limit how effective or successful we will be.

Our attitude is our personal boomerang to the world - whatever we throw out will come back to us. Express enthusiasm and it comes back. Offer a smile and it is returned. Start to gossip and that's what we will hear. Get frustrated about a team member and that's what we will see. Help a colleague and we will find a helping hand. This boomerang effect holds true for our thoughts about money, relationships, self-worth, a performance goal, team building, a problem colleague or customer, a new project or career.

So, once we develop a habit of choosing a positive or negative attitude, that is exactly what we will send to and receive from the world.

Choice: Reaction or Response?

The power of choice is one of the greatest gifts we are given. In fact, it is so important that the privilege of choice is removed from prison inmates as a form of punishment. Although we make many choices every hour of the day, we rarely make neutral choices. Each choice has a positive or negative consequence for us at some level.

Our attitude toward life is the most important choice we make! Let's look at why such a simple choice - embracing a positive or negative attitude - is more challenging than it appears for many people. The bottom line is that we often forget that we have the power to choose. We relinquish it subconsciously, because we make thousands of decisions daily - about 95% of them are subconscious.

Just think of the last time you were in deep thought about your plans for the evening while driving home from work. As you pull into your driveway you wonder to yourself, "How did I get home?" The car seemed to practically drive itself home. Driving is a relatively complex task, requiring many choices along the way - turn right, turn left, slow down, stop and change lanes. Still, driving home can be successfully performed almost subconsciously. So, consider the multitude of much smaller choices we make each day that we don't really think about: waking up, brushing our teeth, saying "good morning" to a colleague, eating our lunch, performing a repetitive job duty and so on. Subconscious actions are useful most of the time, but we must also consciously choose our attitude in order to control our results.

Our ability to choose is a gift, but it is also a huge responsibility. No matter what today's ‘it's not my fault' culture encourages, we are all ultimately responsible for our own choices. In fact, I like to write the word "responsibility" as response - ability. As humans, we have the unique ability to respond. It is a choice we make, although many times an instantaneous or subconscious choice.

Here's a scenario repeated daily. Family dinners are important at the Smith house. Jim and Jane Smith and their two children (Jonnie, age 3 and Janie, age 4) have just seated themselves at the table. Before the first bite of dinner is enjoyed, Jonnie spills his milk and it goes everywhere.

A reaction to this event: "Not again, Jonnie! Every time we eat, this happens. Think, son, think! Do you want to eat in your room from now on?"

A response to this event: "Uh Oh, Jonnie. Let's get a sponge and clean this up so you can eat your dinner."

When you react, you make a purely emotional and subconscious decision. Often, because of how your experiences and prior choices have programmed your subconscious mind, your reactions do not help you achieve the best results.

On the other hand, when you respond to a situation, you make a constructive and conscious decision. That's why there are Emergency Response Teams not Emergency Reaction Teams:

- When you simply react, your emotional instinct is in control, with little thought of the long-range consequences.

- When you respond, your brain is fully engaged and your self-awareness is high. You have the long-term consequences in mind.

We all experience plenty of negative situations and people. The key is to be prepared to consciously respond to these negative inputs. Choosing to respond instead of react helps us to positively orchestrate our attitudes....and our lives.

A Script for Orchestrating Attitude

There are three aspects of the script that work in concert: thoughts, words and actions. By orchestrating each aspect with conscious responses, we positively influence our beliefs, commitments and results.

Orchestrate your THOUGHTS to nfluence BELIEFS.....

Orchestrate your WORDS to influence your COMMITMENTS Orchestrate your ACTIONS to influence your RESULTS

The script plays out like this:

- Thoughts, the way we choose to interpret our world, directly influence our beliefs.

- Beliefs directly influence the words we choose to peak to others, and more importantly, to ourselves.

- Words reflect our commitments to ourselves and others.

- Commitments influence our choice of actions.

- Finally, our actions directly influence the results we achieve.

This script is self-reinforcing, for better or for worse. The results we achieve reinforce our thoughts and the same script is played out again. So, it all starts with our thoughts. Our thoughts today influence our results tomorrow.

The left side of the script is the side of choice. Each of us chooses our thoughts, words and actions either consciously or subconsciously. Therefore, we influence the right side of the script - the side of responsibility. We must take responsibility for our beliefs, commitments and results. We are each responsible for the choices we make and the results we ultimately achieve. The ultimate choice is ours - victim or victor?

To illustrate how this script plays out, let's say I am given a new project to lead. I am confident that the prospects for this project are positive. Therefore, I start thinking about how to ensure its success and how I can measure the benefits of the project deliverables. I also think about my talented project team, knowing they will need to go above and beyond to achieve success on this project. My kick-off e-mail contains words like "excited," "opportunity," "talented team," "creative solutions" and "positive impact." My team members speak and react in kind, "boomeranging" my winning attitude back to me. Meetings are crisp, roles are clearly defined and decisions are made collaboratively, yet quickly.

The expected challenges, even the seemingly big ones, are handled professionally and swiftly because the team knows that failure is not an option, and there are many pathways to success. My thoughts and words have already predisposed the team to acting in alignment with my expectation of success. And our eventual success predisposes me to the same thoughts, words and actions on the next project. This is when the powerful, self-reinforcing script will be played again.

Orchestrating attitude creates a beautiful human symphony. The result is a person of integrity who gets the best from himself and others!

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