I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the mind is your ultimate battleground. It’s the space where the greatest and fiercest conflict resides. It’s where half of the things you thought were going to happen, never actually happened. It’s where your inner resistance buries you with negativity. And, when you allow these thoughts to dwell in your mind, they gradually succeed in robbing you of peace, joy, and ultimately your life. You think yourself right into nervous breakdowns and bouts of depression, time and again.
I know because I’ve been there.
Honestly, we’ve all been there at times.
But, what can we learn from our trials? A whole lot!
There’s so much about our lives—and our fate—we can’t control, it makes absolutely no sense to focus all our energy on these things and then neglect everything we CAN control. We can decide how we spend our time right now, what we choose to focus on, and whom we share our energy with. We can choose our words and the tone of voice in which we speak to ourselves and others. We can decide what we will engage in, read and study next. We can choose how we’re going to respond to challenging life situations when they arise, and whether we will see them as curses or opportunities for growth…
And most importantly, we can choose our attitude, which influences pretty much everything else.
Of course, none of us are immune to occasional mood swings. But that doesn’t mean we have to succumb to them. Whether your negative attitude is a common occurrence or just a sporadic phenomenon, it’s critical for your long-term happiness and success that you choose to recognize when your mind is in the gutter, and then consciously make adjustments.
Here are some hard things you need to hear and learn about your attitude (these are the most common attitude issues we’ve seen plaguing our newest course students over the years) and some tips to get you thinking straight again:
- Your attitude often reflects a certain level of self-centered self-victimization. – We all have the tendency to put ourselves at the center, and see everything—every event, conversation, circumstance, etc.—from the viewpoint of how it relates to us and only us. And this can have all kinds of adverse effects, from feeling hurt when other people are rude, to feeling sorry for ourselves when things don’t go as planned, to doubting ourselves when we aren’t perfect. Obviously, we are not really at the center of everything. That’s not how the universe works. It just sometimes seems that way to us. So, be sure to shift your focus when it makes sense. When you catch yourself feeling like a singled-out victim, think about other people you might help. Finding little ways to help others can snap you out of your self-centeredness, and then you’re not wallowing in self-pity anymore—you’re starting to think beyond yourself, for your own good.
- Your attitude is still greatly affected by old stories. – In the present moment, we all have some kind of pain: anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, regret, etc. Notice this pain within yourself, watch it closely and see that it’s caused by whatever story you have in your head about what happened in the past (either in the recent past or in the distant past). Your mind might insist that the pain you feel is caused by what happened (not by the story in your head about it), but what happened in the past is NOT happening right now. It’s over. It has passed. The pain, however, is still happening right now because of the story you’ve been subconsciously telling yourself about that past incident. It’s simply a process of your thinking. Do your best to see it for what it is.
- Your attitude often reflects your inner resistance to reality. – Most people make themselves unhappy simply by finding it impossible to accept life as it is presenting itself right now. Do your best to catch yourself. Be mindful. When you accept the reality of the moment, regardless of how painful, you allow yourself to grow and heal. Ultimately, happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them. Imagine all the wondrous things your mind might embrace if it weren’t wrapped so tightly around your struggles. Always look at what you have, instead of what you have lost. Because it’s not what the world takes away from you that counts, it’s what you do with what you have left.
- Your attitude gets caught up in fearing and hiding from change. – Sometimes, no matter how hard it is to admit, there are things in your life that aren’t meant to stay. Change may not be what you want, but it’s always exactly what’s happening. Earth does not stop spinning. And sometimes saying goodbye is the hardest thing you will ever have to do. Or, saying hello will make you more vulnerable and uncomfortable than you ever imagined possible. At any given moment, change can seem almost too much to bear. But, over the long run, change is ultimately the only thing that allows you to learn and grow and succeed and smile again. So, remind yourself that life gradually changes in each and every moment, and so can YOU, for the better.
- Your attitude is affected by your passivity and procrastination. – So many of us waste so much of our time and energy waiting for the ideal path to appear. But it never does. Because we forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting. We forget that we shouldn’t feel more confident before we take the next step—that taking the next step is what builds our confidence. And so, we hesitate, procrastinate, and ultimately succumb to the same old routines that have been driving us nuts for far too long. Truth be told, there are thousands of people who live their entire lives on the default settings, never realizing they can customize everything. Don’t be one of them! Don’t settle for the default settings in life. Find your loves, your talents, your passions, and embrace them. Don’t hide behind other people’s decisions. Don’t let others tell you what you want. Design YOUR journey every step of the way! The life you create from doing something that moves you is far better than the attitude you get from sitting around wishing you were doing it.
- Your attitude reflects your aversion to discomfort. – Many of us don’t want to be uncomfortable, so we run from discomfort constantly. The problem with this is that, by running from discomfort, we are constrained to partake in only the activities and opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relativity small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle. Let’s use diet and exercise as an example… First, you become unhealthy because eating healthy food and exercising feels uncomfortable, so you opt for comfort food and mindless TV watching instead. But then, being unhealthy is also uncomfortable, so you seek to distract yourself from the reality of your unhealthy body by eating more unhealthy food and watching more unhealthy entertainment and going to the mall to shop for things you don’t really want or need. And your discomfort and attitude both get worse.
- Your attitude is often rooted in unrealistic ideals. – You aren’t perfect. It’s OK. Despite what you keep hearing inside your head, you can disappoint people and still be good enough. You can fail and still be smart, capable and talented. You can let people down and still be worthwhile and deserving of love and admiration. Everyone has disappointed someone they care about at some point. Everyone messes up, lets people down, and makes mistakes. Not because we’re all inadequate or incompetent, but because we’re all imperfect and human. Expecting anything different is setting yourself up for confusion and discontent.
- Your attitude easily defaults to self-contempt. – Next time you catch yourself wallowing in self-contempt, remind yourself that you were not born feeling this way. That at some point in the past some person or experience sent you the message that something is wrong with you, and you internalized this lie and accepted it as your truth. But that lie isn’t yours to carry, and those judgments aren’t about you. And in the same way you learned to think negatively of yourself, you can learn to think new, positive and self-loving thoughts. You can learn to challenge those false beliefs, strip away their power, and reclaim your self-respect. It won’t be easy, and it won’t transpire overnight, but it is possible. And it begins the moment you decide there has to be a better way to live, and that you deserve to discover it. Make that decision for yourself!
- Your attitude gets hung up on longstanding self-limiting beliefs. – Think about a self-limiting belief you have—an area of your life where you believe you are destined to remain stuck. It can be about any part of your life you hope to change—your weight, your career, your relationships—anything at all. What’s one thing you’ve essentially decided is a fact about your position on Earth? And then I want you to shift gears and think about ONE time, one fleeting moment, in which the opposite of that “fact” was true for you. I don’t care how tiny of a victory it was, or even if it was a partial victory. What’s one moment in time you can look back on and say, “Hey, that was totally unlike ‘me,’ but I did it!”? Once you identify the cracks in the wall of a self-limiting belief, you can start attacking it. You can start taking steps forward every day that go against it—positive daily rituals that create more tiny victories, more confidence, gradual momentum, bigger victories, even more confidence, and so on. (Note: Angel and I build positive daily rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy course.)
- Your attitude often reflects a lack of presence and self-awareness. – One of the hardest challenges we face in life is to simply live in our own skin. To just be right here, right now, regardless of where we are. Too often we use compulsive work, compulsive exercise, compulsive love affairs, and the like, to escape from ourselves and the realities of living. In fact, many of us will go to great lengths to avoid the feeling of being alone in an undistracted environment. Thus, we succumb to hanging-out with just about anyone to avoid the feeling of solitude. For being alone means dealing with our true feelings. Acknowledging this fact is the first step to healing it. Begin right now by just noticing with curiosity, and without judgment, all of the ways in which you avoid being in your own skin, right here, right now, in this present moment we call life.
- Your attitude has been bruised by inconsiderate people. – At some point, we’ve all been walked on, used and forgotten. We’ve let people take advantage of us, and we’ve accepted way less than we deserve. But we shouldn’t regret one moment of it, because in those moments we’ve learned a lot from our bad choices. We’ve learned who we can trust and who we can’t. We’ve learned the meaning of friendship. We’ve learned how to tell when people are lying and when they’re sincere. We’ve learned how to be ourselves, and appreciate the truly great people and things in our lives as they arrive. And even though there are some things we can never recover and people who will never be sorry, we now know better for next time. Remember this. None of the injustice you’ve experienced is evidence of some fundamental flaw on your part. None of it makes you unworthy. It all just means that some people aren’t very good at looking beyond their own egocentric bubble. But the fact that you are—that despite the darkness you feel, you have the ability to share your love and light with others—is an incredible strength.
- Your attitude is often submissive and waits for validation from others. – You won’t always be a priority to others, and that’s why you have to be a priority to yourself. Learn to respect yourself, take care of yourself, and become your own support system. Your needs matter. Start meeting them. Make your own happiness a priority. Don’t wait on others to choose you. Choose yourself, right now! Breathe in. You are enough. You have enough. You do enough. Breathe out… let go, and just live right now in the moment with a self-validating, self-loving attitude. (Note: Angel and I guide our readers though the process of self-validation in the Self-Love chapter of our brand new book.)
Closing Exercise — Attitude Reflection
If you’re feeling up to it, I’d love for you to openly reflect on your attitude:
- Which attitude issue mentioned above often gets the best of you?
- Who would you be, and what else might you see, if you shifted your attitude in that area of your life?
In other words, think carefully about that specific area of your life and what’s been troubling your mind, and then visualize how your life would be different if you made a positive shift in your attitude:
- How would it change your outlook on your present life situation?
- Would you treat yourself and others differently?
- How would you feel?
- How would you behave?
- What else might you be able to accomplish?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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