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  • by Art Dykstra

From My Pad to Yours

A Positive Relationship to the Self: Attitude

When we talk about people’s attitudes, we are describing their disposition in life, their mind sets, and their likes and dislikes with respect to a point of focus. In other words, it’s how we think and feel about issues or situation. In many ways, attitude has a lot to do with our behavior and whether or not people want to be with us or not. Therefore, we generally need to work on who we are and our attitudes, more than on what we do. People may be hired for their technical expertise, but their impact will be determined by their attitude and relationships.

Over the years, I’ve observed some of the following effects of positive and negative attitudes.

  • Your attitude determines how you experience life and how others experience you.
  • People with positive attitudes live a more healthy and enjoyable life.
  • For the most part, attitudes are a matter of choice.
  • One of the first things we recognize in people is their attitude.  
  • Our attitudes help or hinder others.
  • Negative attitudes destroy harmony, teamwork and productivity.
  • Positive and negative attitudes “rub off” on others.
  • Enthusiasm is to attitude as breathing is to life. – Keith Harrell

Since attitude is so important to leadership, I would like to share two practical measures or tools for your consideration. I have labeled them Zicam for the Spirit and Take the Trash Out. These tools come from personal reflection and practice.

Zicam for the Spirit

I don’t have time to be sick so I’ve used Zicam for several years to prevent or fight off colds. And it has worked for me. As you know, prevention is the better part of wisdom. Fortunately, we can also take action to prevent the full onset of a bad attitude. Zicam for the Spirit (ZS) offers a reduction in the symptoms of a bad attitude and may even prevent it altogether.

So what are some things to keep in mind? First of all, we must be paying attention to our attitude. In fact, wise leaders pay attention to it all of the time. We can’t ignore the first few days when we’re “just having a bad day.” We must watch diligently for symptoms, such as irritability, discouragement, pessimism and withdrawal of friends.

For best results, ZS should be used at the first signs of a bad attitude and continued for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have subsided. Always remember that it is very important to start early treatment as a bad attitude is highly contagious.

By now you are asking yourself what the active ingredients in the medication are. ZS contains:

  • Goals that motivate you
  • Memories of positive experiences and actions
  • Doing things for others
  • Maintaining positive internal dialogue
  • Reading positive thoughts
  • Having and stating positive affirmations
  • Exercising your sense of humor.

It goes without saying that any doctor would also prescribe adequate sleep and exercise to enhance the effects of the medication. Needless to say, ZS is also a powerful antidote to depression and self-pity.

Take the Trash Out

This idea actually occurred to me during a period when I was struggling with some negative thoughts regarding things at Trinity. Since developing the idea, I have found others who have stated the same principle with one difference: they focused on themselves and my emphasis is on thoughts regarding others.

All of us have trash in our heads. Sometimes it is garbage about ourselves; and sometimes it is garbage about others. For me, it was garbage about others that was bogging me down. I was focusing on the weaknesses and failures of staff, Such thoughts soon lead to attitudes about a person and actions toward him/her rather than at a specific behavior. The thoughts must be removed, just like we take out the trash at home. The garbage can overflow, create odors of self-pity or annoyance, and occupy valuable space in our mental closets. We must dispose of it.

Lastly, I would note that taking the trash out is facilitated through forgiveness and expressions of gratitude. People inevitably do or say thoughtless, hurtful and/or harmful things on occasion. In these situations, we have a choice: we can hold onto our negative reactions or forgive, allowing the person an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and make better choices. In addition, expressing our gratitude to our employees for work well done or simple kindnesses constantly reminds us of what is truly important. We must focus on our employees’ best days, not the worst days.