Attitude is a word with many meanings.
To a market researcher, it is a preference toward one brand or another. To a psychologist, it is the cause of a particular behavior. To a salesperson, it can often mean the difference between a call made or a call avoided.
The best definition of a positive attitude I have ever heard comes from a little-known story Zig Ziglar used to tell years ago. He had just come home from a series of seminars and was quite excited about the trip. When his wife picked him up at the airport, she brought their daughter Suzan and her friend along for the ride.
As Zig shared his excitement about the seminars with his wife, he overheard the following conversation from the back of the car:
"What does your daddy do?" asked Suzan’s friend.
Suzan, who was 10 years old at the time, answered, "Oh, that positive-thinking stuff."
"What is positive thinking?" Another pause.
"Oh,” Suzan responded, “you know, that's what makes you feel real good, even when you feel real bad."
This little story raises an interesting question: If 10-year-olds know that positive thinking can change the way we feel by improving our feelings and attitudes, why is it that so few adults use it?
1. Impact of attitude on performance
A number of studies suggest that attitude has a much more significant impact on job performance than most people suspect. More than 50 years ago, Harvard University pioneered one of the first studies on the influence of attitude on job security based on the experiences of 4,375 people who had lost their jobs because they failed to perform their duties to their employers' satisfaction. The study concluded that only one-third failed because of a lack of knowledge or skills, while a staggering two-thirds failed because of attitude problems alone.
Dr. Martin Seligman, a noted psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, is known as the father of positive psychology. He is the author of a worldwide best seller, entitled Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.
Dr. Seligman’s research indicates that attitude influences both job turnover and sales commission. Dr. Seligman studied the entire Pennsylvania region sales force of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company . The research report, originally published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, explains that the way in which agents explained their failures to make a sale made the difference between their becoming top sales achievers or their quitting the company.
"Individuals with a vulnerable explanatory style (i.e., the way a person explains an event and the particular slant he or she gives to the facts) will tend to explain the cause of their failure as more internal (“I'm a loser”), stable (“I will never do anything right”), and global (“I never will succeed”)," reported Seligman. "They will therefore blame themselves and expect failure to recur over a longer period of time and in more situations. Consequently, they will suffer more self-esteem deficits." In insurance sales, this translates into fewer sales attempts, less persistence and, ultimately, quitting altogether. The study concludes that those salespeople who had a more optimistic outlook sold 37 percent more insurance in their first year than did those with a pessimistic view.
During the last decade, a flurry of new reports indicates that positive attitudes not only add to a healthier income, but also lead to healthier lives.
2. Attitude and health
Dr. Christopher Peterson, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, found that a confirmed pessimist is twice as likely to experience minor illnesses - the flu or a sore throat, for instance - as an unabashed optimist. Dr. Peterson noted that pessimists tend to abuse their bodies more, smoke more, drink more, and get less sleep than optimists.
Another researcher, Dr. Winston Parris of Vanderbilt University, studied women undergoing minor surgery. Women with positive attitudes were less likely to experience minor postoperative pain, nausea, vomiting, and other complications requiring an overnight hospital stay.
Schering-Plough's Research Institute of Molecular Biology in Palo Alto, CA, reported that a team of scientists found a link between brain activity and the activity of lymphocytes (the white blood cells that defend against infection), suggesting that a good mental attitude can help the body fight off disease.
How can we develop new and better attitudes that lead to better health, higher income, more secure employment, higher career satisfaction, and a greater level of success? The answer is simple: one attitude at a time. It appears the more accurate we are in pinpointing our attitude needs, the easier it becomes for us to build more productive attitudes. Like a building begins with a foundation, the foundation for a new attitude is awareness.
The following attitude-awareness quiz has been developed to help you pinpoint your current attitude-building needs.
3. Attitude awareness quiz
Please check yes or no for each question and date your questionnaire. As you will see, every no represents an opportunity to change your attitude. Look up the solutions following the quiz and work on your attitude once a week. Repeat this attitude checkup every week until you can answer the 10 questions with an enthusiastic yes!
1. Is my current mood free from any negative experience from the past? Yes ( ) No ( )
2. Is my current mood hopeful and optimistic in anticipation of the future? Yes ( ) No ( )
3. Do I currently feel that I am in control of my life? Yes ( ) No ( )
4. Do I feel that the problems I am currently facing are really stimulating challenges? Yes ( ) No ( )
5. Do I feel free from self-abuse, such as overeating, drinking, or using drugs? Yes ( ) No ( )
6. Do I currently pursue a realistic and challenging goal? Yes ( ) No ( )
7. Am I committed to an ongoing exercise program? Yes ( ) No ( )
8. Are my family relationships a source of love, pride, and support? Yes ( ) No ( )
9. Do I consider myself a success? Yes ( ) No ( )
10. Are my thoughts stimulated by positive people, books, videos, and personal role models? Yes ( ) No ( )
11. Do I seek out challenges that are in line with my present potential? Yes ( ) No ( )
12. Do I automatically look for the positive in every situation? Yes ( ) No ( )
10-12 yes answers: Congratulations! Your positive attitude is helping you win.
6-9 yes answers: Several negative attitudes are inhibiting your performance. Begin your personal attitude-improvement program. Seek out positive people, find a mentor, read self-help books.
5 or fewer yes answers: Seek professional help.
Concluding thought: "As every cell in your body is constantly being made new, why not put new thoughts, new life, into your old cells and not drag along with you all the old skeletons of the past?" - Orison Swett Marden (1920)
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Attitude is a word with many meanings.
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