As the story goes, a couple is concerned about the huge gap in attitudes between their two sons.
One lad is a confirmed pessimist, his sibling the decisive optimist. Wanting to advance the cynical child’s outlook and guard the other from disappointment by teaching him that things don’t always go as expected, the parents come up with a scheme.
On Christmas morning, each youngster awakens to find his own sizeable, wrapped present. The dour child opens his and discovers in it the ultimate building set. As if on que, his demeanor sours and he whines, “There are too many pieces, I’m know I’ll lose a whole bunch of them and then I’ll be sad. Why would you do that to me?”
The upbeat sibling, on the other hand, unwraps his only to find a dirty, rusty horseshoe atop wads of paper. Undeterred by what appears to be a mean, lousy gift, he eagerly starts digging through the papers excitedly proclaiming, “Wow! There’s got to a pony in here somewhere!”
Attitude, our outlook on the events that make up our lives, will either elevate or ruin us because it determines our actions and therefore the manner in which others react to us.
I normally don’t write “how-to” columns but a coaching client recently asked how she could become more upbeat, so I thought, “What the heck, might as well share it more widely.” Making our planet a bit more cheery, one reader at a time, here are four of the more common reasons one’s attitude can take a trip to the dumpster.
Reason #1: All-or-nothing thinking
This is easily recognized when the post-mistake inner voice is akin to, “Wow! I blew it. Well, as long as I blew it, I might as well really blow it! I can always start again tomorrow.” Whether the trigger was eating inappropriately, or feeling like the “whole day is ruined” because it began poorly; perfectionist thinking will level the best attitude. Watch for words such as “always,” “never,” or “should” in your inner voice. Life is not black and white and one mistake does not ruin everything – unless you let it.
Reason #2: Selective Viewing
Here, we focus on one part of the picture that is not 100 percent up to expectation. Remember as a child how you felt after accomplishing a goal, only for someone to immediately find the flaw? That inner child still reacts in the same fashion. Focus on the entirety of the picture instead of individual pixels to avoid this trap.
Reason #3: Over generalizing
On the other hand, (at the risk of a mixed metaphor) painting with too broad of a brush will stop the journey before leaving the driveway. Truisms such as “It’s impossible to lose weight while on vacation,” or “People my age don’t go to the gym” are definitely true — for the person who says that. Reality is some people do actually lose weight while travelling, and you’ll see many gray hairs at the gym. Understand that no generalization is always true (including this one).
Reason #4: Catastrophic thinking
Becoming paralyzed with fear about what possibly, maybe, could go wrong later keeps us stagnant. Instead of not dieting because you might put it back on later, or avoiding a relationship because it could end badly assures a life of sadness, stagnation, and solitude. Sure, it’s wise to be cautious and, yes, “stuff” happens. Yet, avoiding the good because of what might go awry later definitely creates “badattude.”
We are enrolled in “Life 101,” and as with any student, we make mistakes.
Nonetheless, what we say in response makes the difference between being mired in the muck of guilt and shame or enjoying a positive, productive, joyful attitude and the life and relationships that will certainly be its result.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a nationally known weight loss expert for baby boomers and the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com. If you would like more tips on how to get past what holds you back , he will be conducting a session on April 25 at the Adorni Center in Eureka. Register at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com/willpower101