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What is Attitude?

August 6, 2013

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This post describes what attitude is, how to create a change of attitude and how to achieve a positive attitude.

“Attitude” is one of the most frequently used words when describing the behaviour of people, whether in the workplace or beyond.

Having the “right attitude” is regarded as a prerequisite for most employment opportunities.

However when we are asked to describe what “attitude” is, many of us struggle.

I’ve spent most of my working life studying the subject of attitude. Firstly as an army officer learning how to lead people. Then as a covert operator in law-enforcement learning how to penetrate the trust of targets. Then as a trainer of covert operators learning how to gain attitudinal competence. Now as a mentor, coach and trainer of leaders in commerce and government, learning how to apply “attitudinal competence” to leadership, and personal and organisational excellence. I’ll describe attitudinal competence shortly.

To me “attitude” means our “thoughts and feelings” about anything and everything. Our thoughts and feelings have the biggest influence on our actions, regardless of whether we are aware of our thoughts and feelings at the time.

For example, if our thoughts and feelings about dogs are such that we are afraid of them, then when we see a dog running towards us, our actions are more likely to be based on that fear. We may prepare to either run or defend ourselves or even freeze!

If our attitude towards dogs is one of fear or mistrust, then it is unlikely that our actions will be based on confidence and enjoyment in the presence of a random dog running towards us!

Together our attitudes (thoughts and feelings) and our actions, become our behaviours.

Our behaviours are the biggest influence on what actually happens in our life. So taking the dog example if our attitude is fearful and our actions are in accordance with that fear, then our overall behaviour will be likewise and we’ll cause the dog to respond to our fearful behaviour. The most likely outcome will be that the dog will behave accordingly – we may even be bitten - again!

Imagine that you have learned the skill to make an attitude change, the skill to change attitudes at will, regardless of what is happening around you? This is what attitudinal competence gives you.

Attitudinal Competence is the ability to select your best attitude for right now, adapt it to changing situations and not be stuck with habitual attitudes.

For instance, again using the dog example, let’s say you still have a fear of dogs, caused by several unpleasant experiences when you were younger, but now you’ve learned attitudinal competence and that dog is running towards you.

Because you have attitudinal competence, you don’t react immediately. Instead you look around you, not just at the dog. You notice that the dog’s attitude appears to be happy and playful – you can tell by the way it is running, bouncing along. You look behind you and see that a man is waving to the dog. It looks like the dog’s owner.

You are between the dog and the dog’s owner and it looks like the dog is running to its owner. So you decide that it is OK just to stay where you are, be still and let the dog run past. You do exactly that and the dog runs past. You breathe a sigh of relief and pat yourself on the back for being attitudinally competent. Imagine if you’d decided to shoo the dog away? Getting aggressive and being between the dog and its owner could have led to you being bitten again!

This attitudinal competence is an important part of training now for many elite professions, including pilot training, medical practitioners, ESL teachers, and high risk/high performance operators in sport, commerce and the military.

Teaching, coaching and mentoring for attitudinal competence is what I now spend most of my working life doing. I’ve written the self-study workbook on the topic and it’s proving to be very popular with my clients from all sectors.

Here are the key ways to change your attitude.

Firstly don’t react to your first thoughts and feelings. Instead take a breath and look around you. Get the full picture of what’s going on.

Secondly, choose the best realistic meaning that you can give to what you are experiencing and act accordingly.

If you are experiencing feeling that you don’t like or want, such as anger, jealousy, fear or frustration, recognise they are being caused by what you are thinking and the meanings you are giving to what is happening. Breathe and choose a better realistic thought about what is happening. Now act accordingly.

It takes a little bit of practice and you’ll be able to get this easily.

To achieve a positive attitude, simply look at the situation again and choose what is realistically a better meaning that applies right now. Then look at the situation and ask “Will this matter in six months from now, or even just two weeks from now?”

Acquiring attitudinal competence will definitely change your life and give you back control of it. It has for me and my clients.

You can download the full self-study workbook “Master the Power of Your Attitudes” for only $12.00. Alternatively you can download the “How to Change Your Attitude” that will help you immediately for only $7.00.

It is my wish to spread Attitudinal Competence far and wide as I know that it influences us and our outcomes far more than anything else.

Please let me know how you go and I’m happy to help you wherever I can.

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