We can influence, often significantly, many aspects of our lives. We can influence our health by what we eat and drink, the amount of exercise we get, and whether we smoke. By acquiring appropriate knowledge and skills we can influence the type of work we do and where we do it. But we’ve all known health conscious individuals who have been inextricably struck down by a heart attack. Most people, at some time in their careers, will have to change jobs or locations even when they don’t want to.

             The only aspect of life over which we have complete control is our mental attitude. There is no question that the degree of happiness we enjoy, or despair that we have to endure, is dependent on the degree of control that we choose to exercise over our mental attitude. There are many who insist that a positive attitude will contribute to a longer life; it will certainly make life more enjoyable. The right mental attitude is as important in the workplace as it is in your home life.

             We’re not born with our attitudes, we develop them. If you don’t believe that being interested in things and being positive and happy is our natural state, observe children at play. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”. This holds particularly true for your work. If you’re not happy in your job you only have three choices: continue to be miserable; change your work; or change your attitude. No one should opt for continued misery. Even if you’ve decided to change jobs, you should start working right away on changing your attitude; otherwise you may simply end up being miserable in a different place.

             It’s been said that the three A’s of a career are ability, ambition and attitude. Ability earns you your pay cheque, ambition earns you your raises, and attitude determines the amount of both. Almost the same thought has been expressed this way: talent determines what you can do, motivation what you do do, and attitude what you will do. The common denominator, no matter how you cut it, is attitude.

             Things work out best for people who make the best of things. When your goal seems far away, think about a sculptor chipping at a piece of rock a hundred times without a crack showing. Then the next blow splits it. It wasn’t the 101st blow that did it, but the 101st and all the others. The sculptor didn’t expect the piece to fall off at the 51st blow, so he happily carried on to success.

             You may not be able to control circumstances or people, but you can control your attitude toward them. Circumstances can’t get you down unless you let them; and in the meantime you should be putting together a game plan and action steps to improve them. Similarly, people can’t make you disappointed, angry or sad unless you let them. Remember the sculptor: it’s expectations that cause frustrations.

             An excellent first step in improving your career mental attitude is to get rid of the negatives. A love of flowers will not make you a good gardener, you also have to hate weeds. Sit down and make a list of all the negatives that are causing you to have, if not a bad attitude, at least not a real positive one. Then objectively break down the list into two categories: those that are really a matter of your own attitude, and those that are facts of your life. For the first category, change your attitude. When it comes to the second category, start by reminding yourself that you don’t have to like facts in order to deal with them; but, if they’re weighing you down, you do have to deal with them. Instead of stewing about them, ask yourself, “How can I improve this situation?”; and then, with a positive attitude, take the necessary steps to do so. As they say in Atlantic Canada, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

             Attitudes are contagious. Don’t be a carrier of bad ones. You have a clear choice as to how you want those around you to think about you and react to you. Every time you conduct yourself in a positive manner you’re influencing those around you in a positive way. Every time you act in a negative way you’re exerting a negative influence; which often gets deflected right back at you, causing a never-ending cycle of bad attitudes in which no one wins. Easy tasks become hard when done reluctantly. No matter how tough things get, we’ll do better with a positive approach. Be pleasant until ten o’clock in the morning and the rest of the day will usually take care of itself.

             A really great attitude enhancer is to try to learn from everything that happens around you and from everybody with whom you come in contact. Become sincerely interested in other people, become curious about events, and learn to love the chance to compete.

             Never wait for someone else to make you happy; it may not happen.