Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for my parents, to shoot me a stern look and say, “You had better change your attitude!” The threat was clear: If I didn’t change my attitude, bigger trouble from them would follow. Willfully, I would effort to dry my tears, change my upset feelings, and find my way to a better attitude. In fear of their threat, with great effort, I sometimes even managed a smile.
The will to correct my attitude was usually hard to muster because I felt justified in being upset. I wanted my parents and the world to know the injustice that had befallen me. My pouting face, tears, and angry body movements were my social protest. I believed that by hanging on to my angry attitude, the world around me would see the error of its ways and change. Then, I would be re-centered and restored to myself.
It took years, maybe half my life to learn that re-centering and restoring myself inside of myself was my responsibility. The world was not going to change so that I can be happy. Any change that led to my happiness would have to take place inside of me. That’s when I realized the phrase, you had better change your attitude, was more than a parent’s threat. It was teaching me to take action and move to higher ground.
A bad attitude can be like quicksand, sucking you into a “sunken place.” It takes a lot of effort to pull yourself out of a downward spiraling attitude, especially, when you have no idea how to pull yourself up. Many people ride out a bad attitude like they do a cold - suffering through it until their bad attitude peters out, and suddenly they feel better. The problem with this process is that you are without personal control over how you feel. You, and the people around you, are at the whim of your bad attitude – waiting for it to dissipate and give you back to yourself. A better, more reliable process is to proactively move to higher ground.
You can deliberately choose to change your attitude by seeing your bad attitude habit coming and intercepting it BEFORE it catches momentum. This is easier said than done in the beginning. However, with practice, it becomes easier, much, much easier.
Here are the crucial steps in this process: One, remember that the tendency of the surviving self is to be in worry, doubt, or fear and feel upset, angry, or victimized. If you are feeling such feelings or blaming, judging, attacking, or protecting your ego, know that the surviving self is in charge. If you give it an inch it will take control. So, start your proactive approach to managing your attitude by being on the lookout for these sneaky ways that the surviving self operates.
Two, learn to see your bad attitude coming, and, as quickly as possible, interrupt it with thriving Self-thoughts and techniques. In the back of your mind, have the intention to interrupt your surviving-self tendency before it traps you in its force field. You learn to see it coming by becoming aware of the kinds of thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and triggers that historically instigate your bad attitude. When you feel these culprits ramping up inside of you, see them as a flashing caution light, warning to you be mindful. You might doubt that simply changing your thoughts or engaging a technique can magically change your attitude. However, it can. Overcoming your doubt will require that you endeavor to practice new thought strategies and techniques in spite of your doubt. The success of living a happier, more empowered life is not handed to us on a silver platter. Through practice, we must work for it. This is how we grow into new, more empowered states of being. Which brings me to a third and super important step: Adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset looks for the gift in every challenge and sees challenges as an opportunity to grow into a better iteration of your Self. The more you become your authentic Self, the more capable you are of living your most fulfilling life.
A growth mindset affirms that life is not happening to you, life is happening; it takes the perspective that all things ultimately work together for good. This perspective helps lessen stress. Instead of using your innately creative energy railing against what happens in life and taking it personally, you can channel your precious energy through the thriving Self. In the face of challenges, the thriving Self leads with curiosity. Get curious about how to best navigate your circumstances. Becoming curious activates a region of the brain that stimulates and strengthens thriving. To thrive one must be interested in growing. Literally, ask out loud, “How can I use this for good?” “How can this grow me into a better iteration of my Self?” These questions send the brain and the subconscious on an answer-finding mission. A good question will have the brain and subconscious up and working on your behalf to find the best answer, even while you sleep. When you learn to move to higher ground, you proactively use your circumstances instead of being used by them. You can choose to consciously step into your own private game of using the moment to become a better you - more emotionally free, confident, capable, creative, resilient, honest with your Self and others, etc. This is how you change your attitude and thrive in life and business!
Tina Lifford plays Aunt Vi on the critically acclaimed television show, Queen Sugar. The Little Book of Big Lies: A Journey Into Inner Fitness is her first book; released by Harper Collins, November 2019.