The Habit: Week-5 (Attitude is a Choice)

This week’s challenge is to identify one self-defeating attitude you have and fix it with a list designed to refocus your thoughts. It sounds to simple to possibly work, but it isn’t. By the end of this article, you will know why it works and more importantly how it works.

We all have an area of our life where we need to improve our attitude. We know that our attitude is affecting our decisions. Our lives are created by our decisions. It is often said that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it. Bad things happen to everyone, but what makes the difference is what we decide it means and what we decide to do about it. We can not ignore problems, but the best way to solve them is to focus on solutions; not the problem itself.

“Where focus goes energy flows.” – Tony Robins

 Bad things happen to everyone, but you don’t have to be a victim. Being a victim is a choice. Perhaps you have a terrible boss. You aren’t going to change him, but you can change how you react to him. Instead of focusing on him, you can focus on yourself. Are you letting him affect your attitude and work ethic? Those things are under your control. You can focus on the good aspects of your job. You can focus on developing your skills and expertise. You can focus on finding a better job.

Instead of getting upset or depressed about the situation, it is healthier to get angry. Anger will cause you to take action. Depression is crippling. When we choose to play the victim, we relinquish our control. We become helpless. We must focus on what we can control and do to take care of the problem. Blaming others robs us of our ability to solve the problem. When we blame someone else for our problem, instead of taking ownership, we must wait for someone to fix it for us. When we take ownership of our problems, we take ownership of the solutions that will fix the problem. If you hate your job, do something about it besides complaining. Get excited about finding a better job. Visualize telling your boss, “I quit!” after you have found a better job.

extreme ownership

In the book, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, the core concept is that you are responsible for everything.[i] That’s it! Ownership is a powerful concept to embrace. It is extremely empowering to acknowledge that we are responsible for everything good or bad in our life. When we take ownership, when we assume responsibility, we take control of our life. We are no longer a victim of circumstances. We no longer let ourselves off the hook with excuses. We realize that everything is within our control. We reclaim our power. Taking action is the cure to unhappiness. The catalyst for action is the removal of excuses.

We cannot control what happens, but we have total control over our decisions. Our attitude is a decision. We know a good attitude produces good results, a poor attitude produces poor results. For one person it could be working out, for another person, it could be their attitude toward work. Our attitudes affect everything. This week’s challenge is to identify one self-defeating attitude and improve it by creating a gratitude list and reading it twice a day.

By now, your inner cynic is saying this sounds like a fairytale. Please keep reading, and I’ll explain how you can improve your attitude with a simple list. When we form a bad attitude, it is because we have decided to focus on what is wrong instead of what is right. When we begin a relationship we tend to focus on what we like about the other person, then, over time, we take all those things for granted and focus on the things that annoy us about the person. If you want to rekindle your romance, make an effort to write down a list of traits you appreciate in your partner and reading it each day.

Our mind’s primitive programming is designed for our survival, not our happiness. Our programming makes us fault finders instead of merit finders. When we are lonely, we focus on finding someone to fill that need. Once we are with someone, we tend to focus on how they don’t fulfill us, vs. all the ways they do. Happiness requires that we control our thoughts. Happiness requires us to focus on what we already have instead of what we are lacking. Happy people don’t live charmed lives. They experience failures and tragedies, but they get past them by focusing on all that is good, instead of all that is bad. It really is that simple.

Long-term happiness flows from our daily routines. What we focus on each day. Wealthy people are no happier than the average person. The material things that wealth can purchase provide only momentary joy. Happiness is a conscious choice. Happy people appreciate the simple pleasures of daily life. Your happiness is dependent on what you focus on each day. If you focus on being grateful for what you have, instead of resentful for what you do not have, you will be happy. If you focus on all the blessings in your life, instead of all your misfortunes, you will be happy.

Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” – Abraham Lincoln

Our attitude toward anything is a product of our thoughts. If we focus on what we don’t like about our job, of course, we will have a terrible attitude. If instead, we focus on all the benefits we receive from our job, our attitude will improve. If we can find meaning in what we do, how it helps others and adds value, it will improve our attitude. This technique for improving our attitude isn’t complicated. It is really common sense, but unfortunately, we live in a world of negativity where people would rather complain and find fault. Complaining doesn’t require any effort, and it lets them off the hook. It isn’t their fault. It is someone else’s fault. Again the problem with this attitude is that they are relinquishing control. They must wait for someone else to solve their problem. They might be waiting forever for that to happen.

If we know we have a poor attitude, we can fix it, but it requires effort. In the absence of light, there is darkness. In the absence of diligence, neglect will take its place. Our attitude profoundly affects our decisions and results, so perhaps we shouldn’t neglect them. Zig Ziglar tells a fantastic story of a woman he helped using the technique I am going to suggest to you and that I have used personally in my own life.

Zig described her condition as a severe case of “stinking thinking.” She said she hated her job and everyone she worked with. Ironically, when Zig told her she was probably going to lose her job because of her attitude, she immediately asked him for help. He asked her to create a list of reasons why she liked her job. Her first response was, “that is going to be easy, I don’t like anything about my job.” With a little coaxing, he was able to get her to create a list of 22 reasons why she liked her job. Then he told her to re-write her list at the end of the day, after everything else had been done, replacing the word “like” with “love.”

Each evening before going to bed, she was to re-read the list, in front of a mirror, with all the enthusiasm she could muster. Zig emphasized the importance of reading the list in front of a mirror because our eyes are the windows to our soul. You have to make a concerted effort to generate as much enthusiasm as possible. The psychological reason why reading the list works is called cognitive dissonance.

Most people know that attitude effects behavior, but the reverse is also true. You can change your attitude and character by changing your behavior. Did you know that forcing yourself to smile will improve your mood? At West Point, I was taught that false motivation was better than no motivation. I thought it was just a means of getting us to push ourselves harder during tough training, which it did, but I also discovered that it changed my attitude.

Pretend motivation, leads to genuine motivation. Our mind seeks alignment between our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. The psychological term that describes a disharmony between attitude and behavior is called cognitive dissonance. When there is a lack of harmony between our attitudes and behaviors we seek to reduce that cognitive dissonance. Our attitudes will shift to reduce this disharmony. If someone is forced to do something that isn’t in line with their beliefs, their beliefs will begin to change to reduce the conflict. Everyone knows that smoking is terrible for our health, but a smoker will reduce the conflict by convincing themselves that a longer life devoid of smoking isn’t worth living.

Now back to our story of the woman with the case of stinking thinking. Each morning she was to re-read the list and then take the list to work, so she could add to it as she realized other aspects of her job she appreciated. Adding to her list, replaced her habit of fault finding with the habit of merit finding. Breaking a bad habit is best done by replacing it with a good habit.

Three months later she tracked him down. She was excited to tell him she was doing wonderfully well. She said, ”You cannot believe how much those people down there have changed.” Of course, they hadn’t changed, or if they did, it was because of her improved attitude toward them. All change begins with us. The best way to change someone’s attitude and behavior towards us is to change our attitude and behavior toward them. I highly recommend you watch the video. Zig was a master storyteller. Best Motivational Speaking Attitude get rid of Stinking Thinking Zig Ziglar


When we read a list of reasons why we love something, we are really saying we are grateful for it. Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. We cannot be angry, sad, or miserable when we are grateful. Those negative emotions are incompatible with gratitude. It isn’t having what we want that makes us happy or have a good attitude toward life. If we are ungrateful for what we have, we will have a bad outlook on life. There are lots of miserable people living in mansions, and many extremely happy people living in poverty. Attitude and happiness are a choice.

Realize that if we have a bad attitude toward healthy eating, exercise, work, or our relationships, that is a choice we are making. Each day, each moment we are making a choice to either focus on the positive or the negative. We can choose to focus on what we have and what we stand to gain, or we can focus on what we are lacking and the sacrifices we must make. We can focus on peoples’ imperfections or their positive qualities. These are choices. As Zig put it, you can choose to be a “fault finder or a good finder.”

“You can choose to be a fault finder or a good finder” – Zig Ziglar

I hope you’ll choose to create a list that will improve your attitude with the life-changing power of gratitude. It isn’t difficult to do, but unfortunately, most people will let it slide. They might agree with what I have written, but they won’t take that first step and create the list. I suggest you be different. Don’t let that be you. Grab a piece of paper or write in your journal, at least 10 positive things that could shift your attitude. Please do it now.

bad attitude NC image by BK

Image by BK

It has been my experience that if we don’t take action when the idea is fresh, and our enthusiasm is high, we will never take action. Don’t let that be you. You deserve better. You deserve an extraordinary life. You deserve a happy life, not one limited by a self-defeating attitude. Most people neglect to exert control over their thoughts. Most people will let their thoughts flow in whatever direction they want, instead of making a conscious effort to control where they go. I challenge you to be better than most people.

Until next week, good luck, best wishes and best health!

Change your habits, change your life!

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[i] Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, St. Martin’s Press; First Edition (October 20, 2015)

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