The Truth About Attitude

By Scott Westerman (Audio)

I preach positive attitude a lot. The truth is “positive” often has nothing to do with it. Getting what you want is almost always about tenacity.

Let’s review the hierarchy.

  • Cause and Effect: Everything happens for a reason. Act and there will be a reaction. Attitude is a cause. What happens because of attitude is an effect.
  • Our value to others is proportional to what we can do for them: The concept of selfless service is a myth. For a relationship to last it must be mutually beneficial.
  • What we want and what we need can be vastly different: We can convince ourselves that we want something or someone. There are a ton of unhappy, rich people. What we need is sustenance, physical, intellectual and emotional. People, places and things that fill that need draw us to them. Attitude is the mindset we develop to chase our desires.
  • Intention does not always lead to the desired outcome: The things you do for the right reasons can blow up in your face. A positive attitude does not always guarantee a positive response.
  • Repetition drives the law of attraction: People who have a clear picture of their goal and keep pressing toward it will probably achieve it. They develop a stoic attitude in the face of painful reality. They keep getting up every time they fall. They keep diving back into the race, no matter what.

Think of the “successful” people you know. There are likely some who you would not choose as friends or co-workers. Others rise to saintly levels. We feed off of their energy. They inspire us to model their behavior. But one person’s saint is another person’s sinner. We define achievement in our own terms. It’s complicated, because for some of us, how someone became a success is as important as what they have achieved. Each of us defines words like success, freedom, and happiness in our own terms. And sometimes, when we get there, it’s not at all what we expected.

The truth about attitude is this: People who achieve their goals clearly define why they want them. They assess the tools at their disposal to build the bridge to get them. They banish fear and don’t stop until they have achieved them. Being positive, kind, or generous are tools in that toolbox. They often help. But sometimes being a tenacious pain in the neck is more effective. The key is finding the right tools to deploy in the right place at the right time.

Most of us are happy to exist in an uncomfortable current reality, because we are unwilling to make the effort and take the risks associated with the process of change and growth. And there will always be counter-forces that want to stop you. Equally driven people, new discoveries, even acts of nature may conspire to kick you backwards. Most people give up at the first hint of conflict. How you react in these moments of truth will determine your true path.

One of our weaknesses as a culture is that we expect things to happen fast, with a minimum of inconvenience. Change occurs when something achieves critical mass; when attitudes align, spurring concentrated action. This takes time, sometimes years, sometimes generations. Patience, the wisdom to recalibrate course, and the fire in your belly to keep focused on the prize and keep moving toward it are the four foundations of attitude.

And what happens when attitude finally takes you to that goal? You’ll realize that the achievement is secondary. What gives life real meaning happened along the way.