I was having a great conversation with one of my friends this week, and he and I were talking about one of his employees who is troubling him greatly. You see, this fellow who works for my friend has been a great associate over the years. However, lately, he seems like he’s profoundly stuck in a rut. His attitude is negative, and he cannot seem to bring himself to react positively to opportunities and challenges that come up in the business like he used to. My friend is beside himself with worry about how this is going to get resolved. Frankly, his formerly outstanding associate has a pretty nasty attitude these days, and despite his many different attempts, he has been unable thus far to change it.
As we talked through the situation, I shared with my friend that this wasn’t his fault and that to some degree, initially, it wasn’t his associates fault either. I said this because the associate probably wasn’t aware that his attitude was incredibly negative until my friend the owner informed him that he had noticed his relentless negativity and that he would appreciate that he brighten up. At that moment, the cranky associate began to own the attitude 100%. Once we become self-aware, we must own up to the beliefs, values, paradigms and opinions that we carry into our lives. Once we become self-aware, we also must own our actions, behaviors, and choices as we deal with the events of our private and work lives. At the moment that we become aware that we have become “Debbie Downer,” we must own up to our intent, purpose, and will. We must decide to change our attitude for the better.
Each of us perceives the world differently, and sometimes the way we view the world is too cynical or sarcastic to allow us to react positively to events. When we convince ourselves that we are a pawn in the big game of life, or when we lay down the victim card, we often convince ourselves that this was not our choice. We say things like “It just happened to me. I didn’t choose this, honest!” When you hear that, doesn’t that have the hollow ring of nonsense to it? Of course it does. I have seen some inspirational people in my life who have been presented with some absolutely daunting circumstances (severe burns, terminal illness, loss of a child or a spouse, bankruptcy, etc.) who have chosen to remain happy and optimistic. Those people CHOOSE their attitude and choose to remain positive. The correlation between that choice and their ultimate positive outcomes seems strong to me.
I have also seen some folks who have been presented some similarly difficult circumstances, or even less daunting circumstances, who came to the conclusion that it was time to give up and turn over their fate to chance. Those people also CHOSE their attitude and their choice to be negative and without direction frequently led to disastrous outcomes. That correlation was very strong and seemed nearly certain.
I believe that the world will kick us in the teeth from time to time. That is a part of what makes life on this planet interesting and challenging. Yet, while the circumstances of your life may occasionally give you a thrashing, you possess the willpower to avoid letting your spirit be broken. You alone control what happens next. You must choose to control your will and make a positive choice. Nobody will do it for you. The cavalry is NOT coming to rescue you. Will YOU stand up and show the world just what you are made of when the chips are down? I’m not saying it is easy, but I certainly believe and have faith that it is possible! Don’t you?
So, how does one go about doing that? Here is my suggested approach:
- Take a moment to breathe and assess your situation. Take a moment to change your perspective from negative to positive.
- Recognize that you are powerful and CAN choose how you’re going to react.
- Steady yourself, and control your nerves and emotions, so that you can respond with your best.
- Remind yourself of how committed and persistent you are, and take positive action. Take things one step at a time, but move forward, NOW!
- Don’t let fear or failure dissuade you. Learn from every failure and remember that fear fades quickly if you stare it down and refuse to let it choose for you.
- Remember that the strength of your will can fuel your journey. Don’t give up. Ever!
So, my friend and I continued our conversation, and we decided that it would be best if he sat down with his associate and talked through his attitude again. My friend needs to remind this fellow that he has to use his will and choose a more positive attitude and to get beyond the obstacles that inevitably cross his path in life and work. My friend has to challenge his colleague to man up and to show the rest of his colleagues what he is made of and become a part of the solution again. When this fellow begins to remember that sometimes, the obstacles that are placed in our path are tests that allow us to strengthen ourselves. My friend needs to convince his co-worker that the ability to overcome the obstacles is his ticket to a positive future and that he would be wise to embrace the obstacle, rather than shrink from it, or complain about it. There are no situations where giving up is the best approach.
I hope this discussion helps you to realize that you can control your destiny, and can make a gigantic difference for you in your work, and in your life. There is an ancient parable that has helped me through many a challenge: “The obstacle in the path becomes the path…Within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” I hope this ancient parable helps you to choose your attitude and find the strength to shred your personal victim card.
Michael is an award-winning business coach and helps his clients to deliver ambitious results. If you’d like to learn more about Michael’s work with his clients, send an email to email@example.com.