Building a positive attitude

Building a positive attitude doesn't happen overnight - rather, it keeps increasing as you make a point of maintaining a positive attitude daily. It is something that you make happen by taking one little step at a time.

For me, building a positive attitude is coupled with becoming more self-aware. There's the step of noticing how you experience your own life, then deciding that you want better, then taking the actions conducive to that. There's a degree of self-reflection and awareness that goes with it.

This is an example from my own life. During the first years of living in London, I often found myself in a melancholic mood on those grey spring or autumn afternoons - where there sky is covered up, time seems to stop, and I felt as if life was partly dull and partly unsafe - having a menacing feeling that I couldn't quite get rid of. Fast forward to the time of writing, and those afternoons nowadays feel rather like a cosy space, an opportunity for enjoying learning on my favourite topics while sipping on a warm tasty tea and perhaps have a scented candle burning.

Tips for building a positive attitude

What building a positive attitude comes down to is choosing different actions in the here-and-now. When you break down a big intention into small parts and individual actions, then change is possible. I very much like the Japanese concept of kaizen, which is that of continuous improvement through small, methodical steps.

Here are a few tips and pointers to get you started on building a positive attitude:

Choose one particular area of focus

If you want to change your mood when you wake up, and also how you think about your work, and also become overall more patient and calm, you may find yourself easily overwhelmed when trying to make many different changes all the while continuing to have the normal pressures of daily life.

Instead, choose one particular area of focus. Make a commitment to building a positive attitude in that area for a certain period of time - whatever works for you - it could be 20 days straight, or loosely two months, or a more relaxed over the next summer.

Be realistic

Maybe you're a successful professional in their twenties and have the time and ability to rigorously and uninterruptedly focus on your chosen area every single day at 7pm for an hour. Maybe you're a single mom with two kids and you're on from the moment you wake up, and are lucky if you get to have 10min for yourself every other day at the end of the day.

Whatever your circumstances, choose to make change in a way that will work for you and is realistic; this will avoid frustration if you don't get to see progress if it doesn't happen as quickly as you wish. Check that you're not putting yourself in the impossible position to demand of yourself more than is actually possible. This is not a competition to get 'there' the quickest - it should be an enjoyable journey of something that you choose to do for yourself, simply because you want to.

Focus on specific actions

Change doesn't happen by you sitting there and wanting things to be different in the way you go about life, but actually continuing to take the same actions that you took yesterday. Change happens when you choose to go about something specific in a different way, consistently.

Let's say that usually you wake up cranky - lacking enthusiasm about life, feeling like life is a drag, unhappy in general for no particular reason; and you want to change that so you wake up feeling eager about the day and looking forward to experiencing your own life.

You would then look at specifically, what it is that you can change in your morning and/or night routine that would be conducive to that. So for example you choose to set your alarm for 10min before you're due to get up, so that you can spend those 10min listening to a meditation track, or to some favourite songs, or to an inspiring motivational short talk.

Then you do that - today, tomorrow, the following day, for a week, for a couple of months. Then one day you are a bit rushed to get up and don't take those actions, but realise that actually you're already feeling happier than you used to be. Now that's change.

Track your progress

Our perceptions and memories can be fallible, so a really good and encouraging way to know that you're actually making progress and building a positive attitude is to track it. Any simple notebook will do, with annotations to your liking - as in-depth or as light touch as you may wish.

For instance, following on the example of changing your mood on waking up, you could choose to track it in the morning and in the night, like this:

Weds June 8 - 10 min listening to Anthony Robbins TED talk. Super inspiring.

Thurs June 9 - 7 min stretching body in a few yoga positions. Not sure this makes a difference?

Fri June 10 - 10 min listening to my favourite uplifting songs - bring on the party!

Sat June 11 - headache, shouldn't have drunk that much last night, can't do this today

Sun June 12 - 10 min listening to a Louise Hay interview - it feels good to feel good!

Be flexible

So life sometimes does get in the way despite our best intentions (see the entry for Saturday, June 11). Be flexible and allow for the odd day when you just won't feel like taking a different action, or when you're too tired, or when even when you do take a different action it just seems pointless.

That's all fine and part of your experience of life. Don't be discouraged, simply let it be and move on - knowing that you'll pick it up again the following day; change will happen over time, and one day here or there won't be an impediment to your building a positive attitude.

"Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit." - Napoleon Hill

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