It all comes down to Attitude…
Are you feeling a little down this January? Have you fallen back to reality with a bump after the escapism of Christmas? Don’t worry, with a little tweak of your outlook you can soon be feeling more positive and be on target to start 2013 as you mean to go on.
The disenchanted state that many people identify in January not only feels rubbish, but by ‘muddying the waters’ it can make it hard to move on if we entertain it for too long. As leading Coach Michael Neill said:
“Our day doesn’t determine our mood, rather our mood determines our day”
How very true this sentiment is. Can you think of a time when you woke up in a good mood and as you went through the day good things just seemed to happen? When being both fabulous and effective just came naturally to you? Compare that to a different day when you woke up feeling a little ‘off centre’ and as the day went on things just seemed to work against you? This is because the mood we are in at any one time determines our outlook, our outlook then determines the kind of experience we have and voila! Your day becomes whatever you think it is.
It’s easy to feel that we’re at the mercy of our moods but this is not entirely true. We can learn how to choose which mood or frame of mind we want to ‘put on’ in the morning (or in a particular situation) as easily as choosing what pair of shoes we want to wear, or what album we want to play. Practising how to manage or change the mood we are in gives us the capability to flip a potentially bad day into a really good one and who wouldn’t want to be able to do that!
“I think; therefore I am…”
We are what we think we are. We have the kind of experience that we think we are having. For instance if you have a lot of work on this January and think you cannot cope then you will feel you cannot cope and chances are, you won’t. Alternatively if you have a lot of work on but think you can cope or at the very least can find a way to cope, then chances are, you will.
Let’s apply a little visual analogy here…
Imagine a picture in your mind of a picturesque island with sandy beaches and luscious greenery, sitting in the middle of an ocean. This is Feel Good Island and it’s here that we stand when we are feeling generally good and positive about life. However, when we’re taken over by a negative outlook, we are no longer messing around in the sand but are suddenly thrown out to sea. As we bob around in the choppy current we try desperately to keep our head above water. In the distance Feel Good Island waits for us. As the sun bears down upon its’ golden sand we look on in awe and remember how good it feels to be there, how we feel like an entirely different person when we’re there. Whether we stay out at sea for days on end, or focus instead on finding our way back to Feel Good Island is up to us. Do we want to continue with a downbeat and unhelpful outlook on life (sink) or do we want to choose an optimistic and helpful outlook (swim), luckily it’s our choice.
A – B – C, as easy as 1, 2, 3…
The ABC model developed in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help us to learn how to adopt a more helpful Attitude, no matter what challenging situation we are in.
The model demonstrates how our Attitude (i.e. frame of mind, outlook, perception, beliefs, thoughts) governs our Behaviour which determines the Consequence we experience. This process of cause and effect impacts everything we do and is what causes two people to be able to experience the same situation in two very different ways.
Below are examples of how the attitude we choose in situations determines both the quality of life and outcome we can expect. Laura and Marie both run their own business and have done so for around 1 year now. All of a sudden work has begun to slow down and although they both face the same type of anxious situation, they take very different attitudes towards it. Watch what happens for these women as a result…
Negative ABC Cycle: Laura’s Self Made Cage
“Business is really quiet. I bet my competitors are doing a lot better than me. It’s hopeless, I’m obviously no good at this, I’m never going to make this business work. I’m failing.”
– Stops going to networking events where she has to talk about herself
– Avoids an opportunity to work for a family friend in case she messes it up
– Constantly procrastinates, never seems to get things done
– Isolates herself from her friends
– Doesn’t do the things she enjoys because she’s preoccupied with the threat of failure.
– Very few new business enquiries
– Her self-confidence is low, making it harder for her to promote her services when she needs to most
– Lack of productivity reaffirms to her that she isn’t good enough
– She lives in a constant state of anxiety which is draining her
– Little action means little progress
– She feels powerless and about ready to give up!
Positive ABC Cycle: Marie’s Self Made Freedom
“Business is really quiet. OK, this is an opportunity for me to review things and make things even better! I’m still learning and there are areas I can improve on, but at least I’m passionate. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day! I can make this work.”
– Signs up to 2 new courses to develop her skill set
– Creates a new Corporate service
– Decides to work in partnership with a business associate she met at a networking event
– Streamlines the business down to the most productive activity, works smarter not harder
– Makes time for herself by regularly exercising and socialising.
– Sharing experiences with her business associate reassures her that it’s natural to feel anxious at times in business
– Her recent additional service has secured 2 new Corporate clients
– Exercising and seeing friends has boosted her confidence
– Being proactive and taking action makes her feel empowered and keen to do more!
Can you see the strings working away in the background, pulling and pushing these 2 women towards very different outcomes? The good news is that once we are aware that we are playing out a Negative ABC cycle, that we can work on changing this domino effect to something that would be far more helpful to us.
Exercise: Fine Tuning the ABC in Your Life…
If you’d like to change an outcome you’re experiencing in your life right now then have a go at this exercise.
Working with 3 criteria as above, begin with the end in mind by starting at C (Consequence) and identify what ideal outcome you would like to have in this situation. Then work backwards to B (Behaviour) and define how you need to behave in order to achieve this Consequence. Finally moving on to A (Attitude) pinpoint how you need to view or approach this situation in order to create the type of Behaviour you need.
When you’ve finished read over each step from A-C and visualise yourself displaying this great attitude, behaving in this empowering way and getting the result that you want. This will allow your subconscious brain to experience you acting like this so that it is easy for this ‘state’ to be recreated in real life, just like a dress rehearsal. The ABC tool can be used to help you deal effectively with challenging situations, or to generally get more of the outcomes you want and less of the ones you don’t want in life. Give it a go!
Problems are just Opportunities in Disguise…
“If you have a problem, the actual problem is that you are looking at it as a problem. It could be something else, such as an opportunity. When it rains lemons, make lemonade!”
Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
You may be feeling low this January because of problems you are facing in your personal or professional life. Let Stephen’s wise words encourage you to take another look at these problems and see if they are in fact opportunities in disguise.
When we view something as a problem it makes us feel heavy with worry, pessimistic and powerless. However when we turn a problem on its head and look at it as though it is an opportunity, instantly we are lifted, feel more optimistic and more in control. Take the example of Laura and Marie above. Laura got tangled up in viewing the fact that her business was quiet as a ‘problem’. Marie on the other hand chose to view the fact that her business was quiet as an ‘opportunity’. And boy, what a difference their Attitude made to the outcome they created.
Exercise: Seek an Opportunity and ye shall Find!
If you are facing a problem and want to be able to move past it, challenge the current attitude you hold towards it. Rather than it working against you make it work for you and start squeezing those lemons into lemonade!
Step 1. Turn a piece of A4 paper landscape and draw a line in the middle from top to bottom so that it’s divided into a left hand side column and a right hand side column. At the top of the left column write Problem, on the top of the right column write Opportunity.
Step 2. In the Problem column list all of the problems or things on your mind, numbering them 1, 2, 3 as you go.
Step 3. Next, look at your list again and one by one brainstorm in the Opportunities column opposite why this item is in fact an opportunity for something great to happen!
Key questions you may wish to ask yourself are:
- What will this situation teach me?
- What does this situation give me an opportunity to do?
- How will I benefit from this situation?
- How will this situation help me achieve my goals?
- How will this situation help me to grow as an individual?
- What skills or qualities does this situation give me a chance to demonstrate?
- Why am I thankful for this challenge?
That just leaves me to wish you a very Happy New Year and all the very best for 2013. May you Master your Attitude so that it can serve you well in achieving your goals this year. I close with a poignant quote from author Charles R Swindoll which sums things up nicely for us…
“….We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you, you are in charge of your Attitude.”
Charles R Swindoll