John N. Mitchell is widely quoted as having said, “Our attitude towards life determines life’s attitude towards us.” In other words, the power of our attitude is monumental and it is our attitude that determines how successful we will become in life. High performers have a unique ability to display a positive and dynamic attitude. They seem to enjoy life more than the average person and generally seem happier and more successful than most others. High performers know that attitude is essential to their success and a natural driving force in their lives.
Engulfed in a person’s attitude, we also find a subset of individual attitudes—or learned tendencies that we employ to evaluate things in a certain way. This may include evaluations of people, issues, objects or events. Such evaluations are often positive or negative.
In line with research, in her article “How Attitudes Form, Change and Shape Our Behaviour” (Cherry, 2013) Kendal Cherry suggests that there are three primary components that make up individual attitudes:
an emotional component: how an object, person, issue or event makes you feel;
a cognitive component: your thoughts and beliefs about a subject or situation; and
a behavioural component: how the attitude influences your behaviour.
To change one’s attitude successfully a change in mind-set is required. Successfully changing one’s mind-set is dependent on that person’s emotional, cognitive and behavioural attitudinal components (see above) and whether that person really wants to change. Concepts that will affect your attitude include: who you are and how you see yourself, the environment you are exposed to, your previous experiences (e.g. have you been exposed to traumatic situations), the people you associate yourself with and the choices you make in a life.
Attitude also interests us as headhunters because it has a significant effect on a person’s ability to be successful. No matter how skilful and competent you are, if your attitude is bad, chances are that people around you will only take notice of your bad attitude rather than your strong skills and competencies. The good news is, attitude can change faster and more dramatically than competencies and skills can.
High performers know how important attitude is in achieving high performance. If your surroundings are starting to comment on your attitude or you yourself take issue with your attitude, maybe it is time to take inventory of your attitude. Here are a few steps to getting your attitude back on a positive note.
1. Be the captain of your attitude
Before you can improve your attitude, you need to take full personal responsibility for it and commit to changing it. It is easy to blame others or assign single traumatic incidents to your failing attitude. However, remember it is you who has the power to transform your attitude—it is your call. Most people have a close family member or know of one who is suffering from a debilitating disease. When we see that person return to a meaningful life, we often assign the attitude of that person as key to his/her recovery or improved quality of life. He/she may still be seriously debilitated—that has not changed. However, the person has changed by taking responsibility and choosing an outlook—an attitude—of making the best of what he/she has. It is truly remarkable what some people can achieve when they are faced with monumental adversity.
2. Make an anamnesis of your current attitude
When a patient is sick, he/she goes to the doctor. The doctor will always start out by making an anamnesis. This involves the physician asking specific questions of the patient with the objective of obtaining information useful in formulating a diagnosis and providing medical care to the patient. To improve your attitude, it is crucial to first take a step back and make an anamnesis—i.e. seek information on what seems to be affecting your attitude negatively. Then, you must assess your findings and e.g. ask yourself: Why does this have such a great effect on my attitude?
3. Believe that you are capable of change and commit yourself to it
To make change happen, a person must make a personal commitment to the change process. In addition, we must have faith in our ability to make change happen. If you do not believe in yourself or believe that an improved attitude can change your life in a positive direction, you will never start, or give up quickly.
4. Change the underlying components of your attitude
As human beings, our attitude is rooted in our mental framework—often expressed through habitual behaviours that have formed our way of approaching life. If we want to change our attitude, we need to change the aforementioned emotional, cognitive and behavioural components of our underlying attitude.
Some people will have a tendency to come home from work tired and with a negative attitude. Perhaps because they are under a lot of pressure at work, they may have a habit of being dismissive towards their children and partner. Their behaviour may be somewhat aggressive and their fuse short. However, their kids and partner have nothing to do with what is causing the negative behaviour; nonetheless, they are strongly subjected to it. The key to taking control of your attitude is taking control of your thoughts because our feelings come from our thoughts and we can control our feelings by changing the way we think. Do it before your negative thoughts turn into negative habits that re-enforce themselves in a negative, destructive spiral of bad behaviour.
High performers who succeed develop an attitude of tenacity. They refuse to quit and will not allow failure to take them down. They cultivate this attitude, as they know it is key to long-term success and goal fulfilment.