How to Kill Off a Negative Attitude


If you’ve been reading my articles on attitude, you know how critically important attitudes are. They affect every part of your life, making it better or worse. You have the power to achieve amazing things, but only if you have the right attitude. And you can have a powerful positive attitude!

Now it’s time to learn a few ways to eliminate any negative attitudes you might have.  A negative attitude will defeat you more quickly and more completely than any competitor you will ever have.  You simply cannot afford the luxury of a negative attitude.

The good news is you choose your attitudes. Every morning you get to choose– to rise and shine or rise and whine.

You are responsible for your attitude. No one “gave” you your attitude, and no one can “take” it away—except you. If you’ve got a negative attitude, somehow or other, you chose to rise and whine. But you can choose and you can work on creating a new, more positive attitude. It is your responsibility.

Here’s how you do it.

How to kill off a negative attitude:

First, identify your most common, most recurrent negative thoughts.

After all, a negative attitude is nothing more than a negative thought–thought over and over again. So listen to yourself for a day or two. Don’t try to change anything. Just observe which negative thoughts come to mind.

You may find yourself telling yourself things like, “I’m too old to do that anymore…I’m such a jerk…I’ll never get ahead…I just can’t lose any weight…or…I’m no good at selling.” You’ll probably end up with a list of five to ten phrases that you repeat over and over again.

Second, critique your negative thoughts.

Put each of your most common negative thoughts on a separate index card. Write out what’s good and bad about each of those thoughts. Jot down what you like and dislike about those thoughts.

Almost always, you’ll have a lot more dislikes on your card than anything else. In fact, you’ll probably find out there’s nothing good about your negative thoughts.

Then read your cards back to yourself whenever you find yourself dwelling on one of those old, debilitating negative thoughts. Your list of dislikes will help you discard your negative thoughts.

Third, stop your negative thoughts.

Refrain from thinking a particular goal might be impossible.  Don’t allow yourself to think, “That’ll never work.”

Every time a negative thought comes to mind, think the word “Stop!”  You may have to do it ten or twenty times, but it will eventually work.

If thinking “Stop” doesn’t work fast enough, or if the word “Stop” doesn’t last long enough, try saying “Stop” out loud.  That’s right, shout it out.  Say it firmly, authoritatively.Notice how well the technique works for you.

If you’re still struggling with a particular negative thought after a period of time, use the hand signals for “Stop.”  Just like a traffic cop puts up his hand to signal “Stop,” put up your hand to “Stop” a negative thought.  You can even say it and do it at the same time.

Try these three “stopping” exercises.  You’ll probably find that one of them works better for you than another.  That’s fine.  Keep on using it.  You will master the skill and eliminate the negative thought that leads to the negative attitude.

[Note: Of course, that’s just the beginning.  If you want to master these skills, I’d recommend my album.  You’ll get 6 CD’s focused on “Taking Charge: 6 Strategies to Achieve More Than Ever Before.”]

Fourth, refuse to verbalize the negative.You’ve got to break the vicious cycle.If you think negatively, you’ll speak negatively.

And if you speak negatively, you’ll act negatively.

For example, don’t talk about your “bad habits.” Drop the word “habit” from your vocabulary.  Or at least use the word sparingly.

There’s a strong connection between the words you use and the

behavior you exhibit.  When you talk about your bad habits, you may be empowering them.  You may be saying or implying that you just can’t help yourself or stop yourself from doing certain things.

Yes you can!!!  But the more you talk that way, the more entrenched your negative attitudes and bad habits become.  So be very cautious about verbalizing the negative.

Instead of saying, “It’s going to be a bad day,” say, “It’s going to be a wonderful day.”Instead of saying, “There’s no way I can pay these bills,” say, “I’ll find a way to get through this.”Instead of saying, “I’ll never be in shape,” say, “I can get in shape.”

By verbalizing the positive, you are conditioning your mind to be more positive.You are taking control of your thoughts rather than have them control you.  You are affirming that great line in William Ernest Henley’s poem, “Invictus.”  He wrote, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

Fifth, visualize the positive.

Whenever you find yourself thinking a negative thought, picture the opposite.  Picture the positive instead.  Create a new image to hold in your mind.

If, for example, you have the bad habit of expecting failure rather than success, begin to imagine yourself as successful.  Great business leaders do it all the time.  They picture themselves walking around their new office in their new corporate headquarters as they’re working at a card table in the garage.

Or great free-throw shooters in the NBA picture the ball going through the basket.  PGA golfers picture the ball going straight down the fairway.  Your positive visualization will help kill off your negative attitude.  And your positive visualization will make you more successful.

Perhaps you have the bad habit of worrying.  In fact, your worry might even stop you from doing the good things you need to be doing.  That’s what was happening to one of my audience members — until he learned how to visualize.

He sent me an e-mail, saying, “A month ago I was employed by a large corporation.I had a good job with a steady income. Everything was going smoothly.  In fact, I have to admit I was becoming rather complacent.  Then the roof fell in.

“Because of the economy, my company was forced to lay me off. I panicked.I was overwhelmed by a negative attitude. How would I pay my bills or feed my family?  It was frightening. I worried and worried for days on end, too paralyzed to do anything.

“Then I remembered what you said about visualizing.I began to visualize myself as a successful business person.I pictured myself doing all the things I would need to do to be successful.

“From there I lined up interviews with every company I could find.I read the want ads.I followed up every lead.

“Two weeks later I found a better job than the one I’d lost.  I got a job with a better salary, more opportunity, and more challenge.

“Thank you for showing me how to kill off my bad habit of worrying and how to get on with life.”

Sixth, avoid those places where your negative attitude plays itself out.

Avoid those situations or conditions that reinforce your negative attitudes or bad habits.

For example, if you’re more likely to gossip when you sit and wait in the employee lounge, then stay out of the lounge if you’re trying to defeat the habit of gossip. Or if you crave a cigarette after a meal, busy yourself with some other activity. You’ll be surprised how much easier it will be to kill off your negative attitude.

Seventh, relax and re-energize.

Negative attitudes tend to make you tense or lethargic, one of two extremes. If you do the opposite, you will reeducate your mind and body to do something different than give a negative response.

If you find yourself under pressure, if your negative attitudes are out in full force, try some deep-breathing exercises when the tension hits you. As you exhale, let the tension flow out of your body.

If you’re feeling de-energized, imagine yourself full of energy. See yourself achieving the goals you want to achieve. Hold this image of yourself until the pull of the negative attitude has dissipated. Over time, you will find that the lethargy comes less often.

Finally, do the opposite of what your negative attitude is making you do.

Do it over and over and over again, and eventually you will replace your bad habit with a good habit.

It’s like the young man carrying a violin case on 57th Street in New York City. He asked an elderly gentleman, “Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” The elderly gentleman promptly replied, “Practice, practice, practice.”

That’s how one of my acquaintances defeated one of his bad habits. He had the bad habit of making unkind remarks about other people. And he naturally associated with people who behaved similarly.

One day he made an especially nasty remark to his wife concerning a business associate. His wife had all she could take of his meanness, and in no uncertain terms she told him what she thought about his harshness.

Fortunately, he took her lecture to heart and decided to get rid of his bad habit. He began doing the opposite of what he was used to doing. He sought out people with positive attitudes. He avoided conversations where others were being put down. Whenever he was tempted to say something mean, he would consciously stop himself. Instead, he would look for something kind he could say about the person.

It didn’t take long before people began to notice a change in him. His wife said, “It wasn’t easy for him. So many times he would start to say something and stop right in the middle of a sentence. But today, I can honestly say, I haven’t heard him make one nasty remark in six months. He’s made a habit to say something nice or say nothing at all. I’m really proud of him.”

Tomorrow morning brings another day. I challenge you to rise and shine. Once and for all throw out the “rise and whine.” You’ll be glad you did, and so will everyone else in your world.

About the Author

dr alan zimmermanDr. Alan Zimmerman‘s formal education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Political Science, a Master’s degree is in Speech-Communication and Sociology, and a Doctorate in the field of Interpersonal Communication and Psychology.

After 15 years of work as a university professor, he founded the Zimmerman Communi-Care Network, Inc. in 1985, a speaking, training, and consulting company with offices in two states and employees in two countries. As the president of that company, Dr. Zimmerman has delivered hundreds of presentations across the world and maintains a 92% repeat and referral business. For more about Dr. Zimmerman, please visit his website at