Your attitude can take you forward, or your attitude can take you down. The choice is always yours!”
~ Catherine Pulsifer ~
What is your overall attitude toward life? How would others describe your attitude, and why would it matter to you? Is there any relation between attitude, happiness, and well-being? Can attitude predict if you will succeed or fail in meeting your goals? If so, why aren’t more people benefiting from it, and how can one harness or rule it to succeed? American psychologist William James has been credited with saying, “… the greatest revolution in my generation was the discovery that our inner attitude alters the aspect, the use, and even the meaning, of the outward conditions of life, for good or ill.”[i] That was back in the late 19th or early 20th Century. Is it accurate and applicable to this 21st Century? Join me, and let’s dive in to find out the answer to these and other related questions about attitude!
… the greatest revolution in my generation was the discovery that our inner attitude alters the aspect, the use, and even the meaning, of the outward conditions of life, for good or ill.
~ William James ~
This is the sixth article in a series on the elements or factors of meaning. The series answers, “What are meanings made of, and what role do they play in behavior?” In previous articles, I defined meaning and answered what meanings are made of (construct, for my psychology friends). Meanings are made of attributes, beliefs, values, feelings, attitudes, and aims. I also wrote articles on the first four. If you have not yet, I recommend reading them to gain the most significant benefit, starting with the definition of meaning.
Feelings Determine Attitudes
Co-author Daniel Persuitte and I defined attitude as “the learned, relatively stable tendency to respond to people, concepts, objects, and events in an evaluative way through a like/don’t like continuum.”[ii] So, for instance, we tend to move toward people, situations, and things we enjoy. On the other hand, we tend to move away or distance ourselves (physically and mentally) from unpleasant people, situations, and things. As such, attitude orients or disposes us to seek and avoid. But there is more.
Attitudes are deeply interwoven with feelings. In meaningful purpose psychology (logoteleology), feelings incite or cause attitudes. Hence, for instance, disgust leads to the attitude of avoidance, and love longs to be with a dear one.
Feelings determine attitudes.
Why does it matter that feelings stir attitudes? Understanding this phenomenon explains a lot about human behavior. For instance, when a company experiences excessive turnover, there will be a direct correlation between how employees feel about their workplace and their disposition or attitude to remain in the organization. People divorce and break relationships and contracts when feelings are so negative or unpleasant that the attitude is to move away (divorce, stop engaging, etc.) from the source of antagonism.
I asked earlier, “Is there any relation between attitude, happiness, and well-being?” You bet! That is why meaning and its components, such as attitude, are relevant and should be important to us.
Attitude Shapes, Forecasts, and Dictates Motivation
Logoteleologists pay particular attention to attitudes because they betray how committed the person will be toward a particular action, situation, context, or person. A direct correlation exists between attitude and the degree and type of motivation applied. For example, a couple deeply in love (feeling) will display an attitude of closeness and hence be highly and intrinsically motivated to spend time together. Another example mentioned is when employees, due to bad work experiences (feelings), adopt a negative attitude toward the organization and are motivated to leave the organization. Simply stated, the rise and fall of the attitude precedes or determines the rise and fall of human effort or motivation.
… the rise and fall of the attitude precedes or determines the rise and fall of human effort or motivation.
I asked, “Can attitude predict if you will succeed or fail in meeting your goals?” Our belief is in the affirmative. Successful people bring strong motivation, resiliency, and grit. Those who thrive in life have staying power precisely because they have an optimistic attitude that fuels a strong motivational force. Logoteleologists help people, teams, and organizations understand the meaning of their attitudes and their effect on motivation and ultimate goal achievement. Ignoring the meaning of attitude is like flying an airplane without an attitude indicator -- a person’s meaning gyroscope that reveals both pitch and bank against the horizon goal. Just as an airplane’s attitude indicator helps the pilot maintain the airplane’s orientation in space, a person’s attitude indicator helps them maintain their orientation towards their goals. The right attitude can enable the right behaviors, focus, and results, improving the likelihood of success in reaching one’s goals.
On the other hand, a negative attitude can cause a person to lose sight of their goals and become disoriented, just like a pilot without an attitude indicator can lose their orientation in space.
Attitudes Reveal Temperament
In Meaningful Purpose Psychology, attitudes reveal disposition and temperament. Consider disposition as the degree of willingness in a like/don't like continuum, which we previously covered. You have probably encountered vibrant, cheerful, energetic people who bring a 'can-do' disposition to situations. They tend to brighten the room with their open disposition and desire to share. You also must have encountered your share of gloomy Eeyore (the donkey character in the Winnie the Pooh series), who displays low energy, reluctance, and avoidance. Both examples demonstrate dispositional attitudes. Closely related to disposition, temperament also reveals a person's signature moods, auras, vibes, outlook, and mindset states. Attitude's disposition and temperament determine how we are inclined to evaluate situations and how we are inclined to respond.[i] As we will learn in a future article, the attitude needs the assistance of the meaning's values factor or element to form judgments.
For example, a person with an unintelligent value element can fall victim to biases. The corresponding attitude could lead the individual to avoid reality, facts, and truth.
At the beginning of this article, I invited you to consider the question, "What is your overall attitude toward life?" Let me add: what is your aura and inspiration like? What keeps you on course? What derails you? How do you come across to others? The answers to these questions are highly relevant since they appeal to and reveal important things about you, including how likely you are to gather the inner force to will you to thrive and succeed on essential aspirations and goals. Remember, attitudes mean something. Paying attention to your disposition and temperament can reveal areas of strengths and where you can improve.
Attitudes mean something.
Negative attitudes can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s motivation and ultimate goal achievement. There are different types of negative attitudes, such as hostile, pessimistic, and cynical attitudes, that can be harmful to oneself and others. For instance, a hostile attitude can lead to anger and conflicts with others, while a pessimistic attitude can lead to a lack of motivation and a negative outlook on life.
A negative attitude can cause a person to lose sight of their goals and become disoriented, just like a pilot without an attitude indicator can lose their orientation in space.
It’s important to recognize negative attitudes and take steps to manage them. Logoteleologists help individuals, teams, and organizations understand the meaning of their attitudes and their effect on motivation and ultimate goal achievement. By cultivating a positive and optimistic attitude, individuals can improve their motivation, focus, and results, which can improve the likelihood of success in reaching their goals.
Here are some essential things to consider to benefit from a positive attitude.
Benefits of Positive Attitudes
1. Positive Influence on Behavior: Building a positive attitude can lead to proactive and constructive behaviors, fostering personal growth and achievement. What will you do to nurture a more willing disposition?
2. Resilience and Coping: A resilient attitude can act as a buffer against life's challenges, contributing to sensory and emotional well-being and adaptability. It can also keep you on course until you meet your goals. According to National Institute of Health (NIH) experts, "People who are emotionally well, experts say, have fewer negative emotions and can bounce back from difficulties faster."[ii] How can you build your resiliency to stay on the course?
3. Getting Along: Positive attitudes can enhance interpersonal relationships, fostering collaboration and a sense of community. A study found that "Well-being has been linked to success at professional, personal, and interpersonal levels, with those individuals high in well-being exhibiting greater productivity in the workplace, more effective learning, increased creativity, more prosocial behaviors, and positive relationships."[iii] How can you remain vigilant of your attitudes when interacting with others to self-regulate better?
4. Well-being: Research has found that a positive attitude can significantly impact one's well-being. According to a study published in the journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, well-being is defined as "the combination of feeling good and functioning well; the experience of positive emotions such as happiness and contentment as well as the development of one's potential, having some control over one's life, having a sense of purpose, and experiencing positive relationships." How will you improve your and others' well-being?
5. Improved Health: The study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that there is "a link between an upbeat mental state and improved health, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk for heart disease, healthier weight, better blood sugar levels, and longer life." How will you sharpen your overall health?
Ways to improve your attitude.
1. Monitor your feelings and what triggers them: Remember that feelings spur attitudes. Pay attention to what you feel – be it positive or negative -- notice patterns – your strengths and weaknesses. You will find the answers in your attributions, beliefs, and values. Leverage your strengths to overcome negative trends. Consider getting the appropriate assistance from a licensed practitioner to help you.
2. Surround yourself with positive people: Do an audit of your social group and grant priority to those individuals who bring the best in you and where you can bring the best in them. Avoid individuals who dwell in drama and instead make the choice to be happy.
3. Let Go and Move On: Learn not to hold on to anger and upsets against others or let them control your feelings and attitudes. The goal is to find and experience internal peace by freeing yourself and others from blame and guilt. Experience the blessing of peace of mind by letting go of negative feelings and attitudes.
4. Practice what is meaningful: Learn how to intentionally nurture positive and prosocial feelings such as compassion, empathy, and humility. Also, learn to avoid situations where your worst instincts might be triggered. Do not engage in controversial drama; instead, learn to remain calm, in control, and aligned with your positive and humane values. Attitudes can project authority, conviction, confidence, and self-control, which has a calming effect on those with negative attitudes. Strengthen your attitudes through meaningful meanings.
5. Seek professional help: If you are struggling with maintaining a positive attitude, consider seeking professional help.
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. ~ Winston Churchill ~
Shaping Destiny: The Power of Attitude
Can attitude shape your destiny? It does! Our current bent toward the demands of life and how we respond to them reveals the meaning we give to our existence and how much energy we invest in taking action to meet our goals. Our goal should be to nurture a positive attitude to do what is meaningful -- for our well-being and that of others. A positive attitude can lead to greater productivity, creativity, positive relationships, and improved health outcomes. Finally, we are called by life to claim and shape our destiny through the support of a meaningful attitude!
I wish you a wonderful journey shaping your destiny through the power of attitude.
Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose: Discovering Life's Answers. ™
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[i] The Greatest Discovery of My Generation Is That Human Beings Can Alter Their Lives By Altering Their Attitudes of Mind – Quote Investigator® Also, 1943 April 26, Hinton Daily News, Everyday Living: Life What We Make It? by Joseph Fort Newton, Quote Page 6, Column 6, Hinton, West Virginia. (Newspapers.com
[ii] Marrero, Luis A. and Daniel Persuitte. Meaningful Purpose: A Primer in Logoteleology. Bloomington: iUniverse, 2022. P16