“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” — Brian Tracy
About twenty years ago two boys joined a local martial arts academy. They were both the same age. Both had the same background and lived in the same community. Both had big dreams – and a burning desire to get their black belts.
One often skipped coming to class, gave little effort most of the time, and blamed his instructor when he didn’t advance in rank. He was defeated easily by every challenge and he had little to no parental support. So he quit on his dream. The other one trained regularly and consistently, listened to his instructor, worked through challenges and took responsibility for himself. His parents supported and guided him. They all relied on the expertise of the instructors. He earned his black belt and eventually went on to become an ATA Master. They both started out with same skills and talents. One succeeded, the other failed. What made the difference?
What Was the Critical Factor?
Attitude. A respected authority on leadership said, “…there is something more than competence that makes for accomplishment. I believe that catalyst can be defined by a single word – attitude. When our attitude is right, good results follow”.
Just as martial arts students with the right attitude advance more quickly toward their goals, employees with the right attitude earn more money. Students with the right attitude get better grades and have more friends in school. And so on. Your attitude speaks volumes about you and touches every area of your life. But what is attitude exactly?
An attitude is a state of mind. It’s how you see and react to life. Motivational speaker Sam Glenn puts it this way: “There are only two types of attitudes: negative and positive. One advances us, one defeats us. All that life ever does is gives you information. Everything that happens to you, everything you experience is just information. It’s through your attitude that you interpret this information. Attitude is a glass – or window – you look through to see the world”.
Let’s face it: we all get a dirty window sometimes; it’s tough to maintain the right attitude 100% of the time. So if your window needs a little cleaning, here are five key steps to help you boost your winning attitude!
Step 1.) Take Charge of Your Attitude
The first step in creating a healthy attitude is knowing that attitude is a choice. Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize how often we slip into negative attitudes. Sometimes we simply react to events and don’t take the time to respond. There is a difference. This is where our martial arts value of self-control enters the picture: good self-control helps you step back and choose your response to an event, rather than react in a knee-jerk way.
Here’s a simple example: Some years back, I was driving with a friend and fighting traffic to get across town. Suddenly, a car appeared out of nowhere, careened in front of us at a high speed, cutting us off and sped away.
What would your reaction have been? Frustration. Anger. Maybe rage. But not my friend. After a moment’s reflection, he said calmly, “Poor guy. Maybe he got a phone call that his mother is seriously ill. And he’s just trying to rush home to be with her”. Wow! That was powerful! My friend explained later: “We didn’t know why the other driver was speeding. So it would have been pointless to respond with anger.”
Remember: we can’t always control what happens to us. But we can control our reactions to events. My friend’s “shift” in thinking didn’t change what happened. But his chosen reaction revealed a healthy, positive and proactive attitude. He took charge of his response.
Taking charge of your own attitude is the first step in developing a winning attitude. Don’t let someone else choose it for you.
Step 2.) Surround Yourself With Other Positive People
This is critical. A famous explorer once said, “Tell me what company you keep and I’ll tell you what you are”. Or put the Chinese way, “Lie down with dogs and you’ll wake up with fleas”.
Let’s face it: some people just ooze negativity. They’re the ones who always look for the “hole in the bottom of the boat”. Whatever you say or do, their response is the same: negative. You’re pumped after winning second place at a tournament and they say “Only second place?” You tell them you’ve set your sights on being a black belt and they say, “That takes years – what’s the point?” You confide your goals to them and they always find some reason you CAN’T do something. I call these people “negators”. They’re dream stealers who can wear you down – but only if you let them.
Fact is, you can’t change these people. They’ve probably been negative so long, now it’s part of their nature. So my advice? Send ‘em packing. On your journey to personal greatness, you may have to distance yourself from people that hold you back. You can’t afford for their negative beliefs to creep into your head. My grandmother once said about choosing friends, “It’s hard to pull the bad ones up…usually, the bad ones pull you down”.
Your goal in becoming a top-tier martial artist is to build yourself into a leader. To do that, you must protect your attitude. That means choosing your friends carefully and surrounding yourself with positive, healthy people who support you, believe in you, and stand behind you 100%. And the good news is: There are plenty of them right here in our academy! You’re in good company.
Step 3.) Think In Terms of “Challenges”, Not Problems.
This is another way to develop a winning attitude: view a setback as a challenge, not as a problem. How does this simple shift in mindset help you? The answer is simple: It empowers you. That’s because you can DO something about a temporary challenge. Experts say when you see things as “problems”, you view them as more permanent. So – even if it’s the same situation, when you use the word “challenge”, you attack it differently. You rise up.
I know the difference is subtle, but it’s important. Here’s another example. I know of a very wealthy man who doesn’t allow his children to utter the statement “I can’t afford it”. He believes this is a negative attitude towards money. Instead, he has them say, “What can I do to afford what I want?” or “How can I afford this?”. You see, he has his kids focus on action and overcoming a challenge – not seeing their lack of money as a “problem”. Not only is this more proactive, but it forms the basis of a winning approach to life: a “can-do” attitude.
So the next time you’re tempted to say “problem”, substitute the word “challenge” in its place. When you do, you’ll discover this simple trick boosts your attitude a notch or two.
Step 4.) Focus on the Positive
Notice that I didn’t say “ignore the negative” or “close your eyes to facts”. I said focus on the positive. Here’s what I mean. The best-selling book “The Secret” reveals “the law of attraction”. According to the author, the law of attraction means that “thoughts become things”. Or put another way, “you become what you think about most” and “attract what you think about most”.
This means if you want positive results from your life, focus on the positive. If you want to be a black belt, picture yourself with that belt tied around your waist. Imagine yourself teaching others. See yourself as a school owner some day. If you want to be healthier, focus on health and wellness.
But the law of attraction works the other way, too: if you focus on setbacks and negativity, you attract more of those into your life. If you’re in debt, don’t focus on the credit card statements and all the emotion you have about that. Focus on saving and making more money.
Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup For the Soul, says, “Learn to become still and take your attention away from what you don’t want – and all the emotional charge around it – and place the attention on what you WISH to experience.” This, of course, takes patience, practice and self-control.
For example: If you had to postpone an event due to bad weather, don’t focus on the disappointment. Talk about something else: how you’re looking forward to the next tournament or family movie night. Start tuning in to good things around you and shut out the bad stuff. There’s a silver lining to everything. As the Chinese like to say, “when one door closes, another one opens”. Look for that opening door.
Step 5.) Strive for Excellence
Focusing on excellence means you bring your “A-game” to everything you do. You do your best at school. You do your best at home when it comes to chores and getting along with family members. When it comes to Karate for Kids, you do your best in every class you attend. You give 100% effort and power.
You lead by “example” with your positive attitude.
When you strive for excellence, it means you attack everything in life with the mindset of “I’m going to bring my very best to every situation”. When you adopt this mindset, a positive attitude – and positive results – naturally follow!
Your Monthly Call to Action
Your call to action this month is easy: Be aware of your attitude. Be conscious of your thoughts and how you react to things that happen. Do you keep negative attitudes in check? Do you see setbacks as challenges? No, we can’t stay positive 100% of the time. But we can be more aware of the attitude we bring to life.
—Senior Master William J. Babin