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A New Set of Lenses

It was early in my career and I was sailing with colleagues on Galveston Bay. I was trying to determine our location from a buoy marking the ship channel and I couldn’t read the number, so I asked the skipper if he had binoculars aboard. At that point the skipper, and everyone else on the boat, suggested I get my eyes checked because they could all read the number clearly, without any ocular assistance. In hindsight, I realized I had needed glasses for a long time.

I have had prescription lenses for distance vision since that time, and while it’s a good idea to get regular eye exams, that’s not the point of this blog. The point is that the attitudes we carry through life are much like our eyes in terms of their influence on how we see things. Depending on your attitude, you might see jumping out of a plane as either exciting or terrifying. At a more day-to-day level, the same could be said for meeting new people. Is it exciting or is it terrifying? Does it energize you or does it leave your knees shaking?

What, Exactly, Is Attitude?

We probably have an idea of what is meant when someone is described as having a “good attitude” or a “bad attitude” but what, really, is attitude? I researched this as I prepared to write this piece and found it to be more faceted than expected. The most basic definition of attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about things. Being more optimistic or pessimistic is a clear dimension of attitude. This puts attitude in the realm of beliefs, depending on whether we believe things will turn out well or turn out poorly.

So beliefs play a part, but attitude also includes behaviors. We can approach things with an attitude of being more proactive or more reactive, either taking initiative or letting the cards fall as they will. This starts to draw habits into the attitude equation. For example, one person might map out their life and start taking steps to get where they want to go, while another person might see life as a series of things that happen to them, and to which they have to respond.

Finally, there is mindset. Mindset captures systems of both beliefs and behaviors. For example, someone with an abundance mindset would believe there is plenty to go around, resulting in greater generosity and lower stress, while someone with a scarcity mindset is afraid of running out, or having things taken from them. Their attitudes about money, food, and even love, will be flavored by their mindsets.

Is a Good Attitude Good?

It turns out that a good attitude is not just good, it’s great! Studies have linked a positive attitude to better health outcomes, longevity, greater success in the workplace, and lower levels of depression, to name a few. So, if your friends are all calling you Mr. Grumpy Pants, you might think about getting a new set of lenses.


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