4 Questions that Will Change Your Attitude (When You Can’t Change Anything Else)
Written by Marc Chernoff
A peaceful person is not a person who’s always in a good situation, but rather a person who always has a good attitude in every situation.
To a great extent, we create our fate every single day, and most of the ills we suffer from are directly traceable to our own (controllable) attitude. Life is packed full of uncontrollable events; in many situations the only thing we can control is the attitude we choose to respond with.
When you really take the time to think about it, everything happening around us is neutral and meaningless up until the point that we give it meaning. And the questions we ask ourselves drive the meaning we create and the attitude we have about everything.
Regardless of what you’re going though, it’s about choosing: Will I allow this to upset me? Will I choose to make this bad or good? Will I choose to stay or walk away? Will I choose to yell or whisper? Will I choose to react or take the time to respond?
When our course/coaching students come to us feeling down about a life situation they can’t control, we typically start by reinforcing the hard truth: sometimes changing your situation isn’t possible – or simply not possible soon enough. You can’t get to a new job in an instant. You can’t make someone else change against his or her will. And you certainly can’t erase the past. But…
You CAN always choose an attitude that moves you forward. And doing so will help you change things from the inside out, and ultimately allow you to grow beyond the struggles you can’t control.
Here are four powerful questions that will support you with a positive attitude adjustment when you need it most:
1. Who would you be, and what else would you see, if you erased the thought that’s worrying you?
Worry is the biggest enemy of the present moment. It does nothing but steal your joy and keep you very busy doing absolutely nothing at all. When you spend time worrying, you’re simply using your imagination to create moments you don’t want.
Realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace. Because inner peace does not depend on external conditions, it’s what remains when you’ve surrendered your ego and worries. Peace can be found within you at any place and at any time. It’s always there, patiently waiting for you to turn your attention toward it.
Peace of mind arrives the moment you come to peace with what’s on your mind. It happens when you let go of the need to be anywhere but where you are, physically and emotionally. This acceptance of the way things are creates the foundation for inner harmony. The need for something to be different in this moment is nothing more than a worry, and worries simply lead you in circles.
It’s always the right time to embrace the present – just the detached awareness and acceptance of right here, right now. Only then do you have the power to focus on your challenges and opportunities more mindfully – and that changes everything.
2. What could you be positive about right now, if you really wanted to?
Your greatest weapon against stress and negativity is your ability to choose one thought over another. Happiness escapes from those who refuse to see the good in what they have. When life gives you every reason to be negative, think positive.
Your thoughts do not end when you finish thinking them. They continue to echo through your life. Choose wisely and intentionally. Be outrageously and unreasonably positive. Be funny and creative and ridiculous and joyful all at the same time. Smile as often as possible. A smile actually changes the vibe of your body. It alters, physiologically, the chemistry of your being. It will make you feel better and do better.
As described in the bestselling book The Happiness Advantage, a recent scientific study showed that doctors who are put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis consistently experience significant boosts to their intellectual abilities than doctors in a neutral state, which allows them to make accurate diagnoses almost 20% faster. The same study then shifted to other vocations and found that optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by over 50%. Students primed to feel happy before taking math tests substantially outperform their neutral peers.
So it turns out that our minds are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative, or even neutral, but when they are positive.
3. How can you respond from a place of clarity and strength, rather than thoughtlessly reacting to this experience?
Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, pause, and consciously decide if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the present.
In order to gain conscious control of what goes on in your mind, you need to develop a keen awareness for this process. What helps is to hold still for a moment, take a deep breath and free your mind of all the chatter that’s going on inside and all around. This makes room for a change of state, for something new to enter.
From the awareness of your thoughts and emotions you grow capable of consciously redirecting your focus. It’s time to take it willingly away from something that drags you down, and zero it in on something that inspires you. Focus on the next logical, meaningful step. There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.
In almost every case, nothing is stopping you… nothing is holding you back but your own thoughts about yourself and “how life is.” Your perception creates your beliefs, your beliefs create your behaviors, and your behaviors produce your experience. That’s why you must sort through your thoughts carefully, and choose to respond only to those that will help you build the life you want, and the outlook you want to hold as you’re living it.
4. What can you let go of right now without losing a thing?
Honestly, there’s so much you can let go of in life without losing a thing. It’s called growth. Letting go of old ideals makes way for new opportunities. Letting go of what isn’t working makes way for what will. When the pain of holding on is worse than the pain of letting go, it’s time to let go and grow. In other words, start subtracting… the habits, routines and thoughts that are holding you back. You cannot discover new oceans unless you build up enough courage to lose sight of the old, familiar shoreline.
Forgiveness is a vital part of this process. Forgiveness doesn’t always lead to healed relationships and situations. Some relationships and situations aren’t meant to be. Forgive anyway, and let what’s meant to be, BE. Go ahead and set yourself free. When you hold resentment toward another entity, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and break free.
It’s time to stop expecting everything outside you to change, and instead focus on changing from within; do so and you may quickly find the peace of mind that has always eluded you
If you’re feeling up to it, I’d love to reflect on the first question with you:
Who would you be, and what else would you see, if you erased the thought that’s worrying you?
In other words, think carefully about a specific thought that’s been troubling your worried mind lately, and then visualize how your life would be different if you removed this thought:
How would it change your outlook on your present life situation?
Would you treat yourself and others differently?
How would you feel?
How would you behave?
What else would you able to accomplish?