Today’s post is the featured article from the July 2008 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1It sounds so cliché — the whole “attitude” thing. I suppose you could say a whole industry has been created just to stimulate your attitude — the motivational speaking business! I am frequently thrown into that bucket by being referred to as a motivational speaker. I would rather not be thrown into that bucket because the truth is I can’t motivate anyone. Inspire yes — motivate no. Motivation is driven by our motives. And I would suggest our motives are driven by our attitude. The problem is very few people really check their attitude. And even fewer really dissect their attitude. We tend to just let our attitude happen. I know I did — until recently, when I was asked to deliver a message solely about attitude. It got me thinking a lot about attitude — including my own.

I began to wonder how many people really stop and do an attitude-check. It might be an attitude about work, or a relationship, or about life in-general. You might remember when some bars and restaurants started putting a new twist on the name for their “happy hour.” They called it their “attitude-adjustment hour!” In the spirit of truth-in-advertising, they should have probably called it the attitude-numbing hour. These happy-hours simply adjusted the façade of our attitude. I’m not talking about our attitude façade — but rather the deeper roots of our attitude.

When was the last time you took yourself in for a real attitude check? I mean really checked under the hood of your mind, heart and soul and asked the question — what is the status of my attitude about _____! I have discovered there is something very empowering in doing so. And it might be one of the most important check-ups you can do for yourself. If you are really honest with yourself, you might just find that your attitude-check has the potential to adjust everything — not because it will change your circumstances, but because it will change how your respond.

Franklin D. Roosevelt is frequently remembered for his famous inaugural address quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FDR wasn’t settling for a little bit of positive thinking. No, he was going deep to the roots of attitude. Fear is a perspective. And perspective is an attitude.

Many people let their attitudes develop as a result of what they get or by how others treat them. Some let the frenzy of the media infect their attitude. Some let their attitude develop as a result of their comparison to others. I remember dishing-up ice cream for our kids when they were younger. They, of course, were always comparing the amount of ice cream in each other’s bowl. I am sure they can still hear my voice, in the midst of their comparison, saying — why are we comparing? Their comparison impacted their attitude and their attitude impacted how they experienced their dessert. This next week, I will attend the National Speakers Association’s Annual Conference in New York City. Imagine up to 2,000 professional speakers at one hotel. It is a little hyper at this conference — and there is a lot of comparison going on! Trust me, I know. I have done it! And comparison always gets me in trouble. Primarily because it infects my attitude!

Are we going to let our attitude happen to us, or are we going to be intentional in understanding and adjusting our attitude for the better?

I am not suggesting that changing our attitude, in and of itself, will change our circumstances. It won’t magically eliminate an overwhelming work situation, a challenging relationship, a difficult financial situation or some technology woe. But it will change how we respond to each of them. And that just might change everything.

Having spent the bulk of the first 18-years of my professional life in HR and Recruiting, I have always had a real appreciation for Southwest Airline’s motto in recruiting — hire for attitude then train for skills. You might not like having unassigned seats, but it is hard to deny the impact of the attitude of the majority of the Southwest Airlines employees on the culture of their airline. You can do exponentially more with a great attitude!

Webster’s dictionary defines attitude as a complex mental state involving beliefs, feelings, values and dispositions to act in certain ways. Attitude is derived from the word aptitude. Which makes sense — for when is the last time you did something really great with a bad attitude? Our attitudes affect our actions and our actions affect our experience. And, in turn, our experience can affect our attitude. In fact, our experience will determine our attitude if we don’t become intentional about taking the responsibility to determine our own attitude.

I don’t know about you, but when I get a bad attitude, it tends to lead me on a path of self-justification. I justify my thoughts, feelings and actions in my own mind — regardless of the nature of those thoughts, feelings and actions. It is not a healthy place to be. But when I make a habit of doing an honest attitude check, I usually gain a fresh (and always better) perspective.
I continue to remind myself that the only person I have control of is me! I can choose my attitude — and if I choose not to monitor my attitude then, by default, I will likely allow circumstances and others to control it for me.

It is not a question of whether we have an attitude. We all have an attitude. The question is — what is the latitude of our attitude? Is it high or low — good or bad — positive or negative? Be honest and challenge yourself!

Let’s go back to where we started this article — an attitude check sounds so cliché. Don’t be fooled. It may be the one most important thing you could do today. Maybe every day! This could very well be your wake-up call to do an attitude check in every arena of your life — work, family, friends, and community. I am convinced, if we all get in the habit of doing an attitude check, we would develop a better aptitude in every area of our life.

ACTION IDEA: Make a list of all the key arenas of your life. Then one by one do a gut-check as to your current attitude in each of those arenas. Spend some time thinking about what has the biggest impact on your attitude and where you let external rather than internal forces determine your attitude. Finally, zero-in on key arenas, situations or relationships where you currently have a bad attitude. Make a commitment to rethink, recharge and redirect the latitude of that attitude!